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Book Report: The Last Olympian

Your Humble Blogger had eventually read the second-to-last in the Percy Jackson series (Battle of the Labyrinth), and for some reason was just not very keen on reading the last one. I’m not sure why. Perhaps I was waiting for it to come out in paperback. Which took a while. In the meantime, my Perfect Non-Reader had become a fan of the series (refused to see the movie, though—she has had Bad Experiences with movies made from favorite books) and her grandmother gave her The Last Olympian in hardback. Then she read it a hundred and fifty times in a row, so I left her to it.

Eventually, though, I pried it out of her hands and read it. Well, more accurately, I picked it up out of the chair she left it in—again—and decided to read it before she figured out where it was. I enjoyed it enough—Rick Riordan throws in plenty of action and a smidge of character development and quite a bit of reference to the Greek Mythology he is starting from.

I haven’t felt the slightest interesting in rereading the series from scratch, which is my usual response to finishing a five-book series that I quite like. I don’t know if that’s because I’m just not that into Percy Jackson, or because there is another related (Roman) series, as well as an unrelated but evidently similar (Egyptian) series, or because I would have to find where my Perfect Non-Reader left all my copies.

Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,


I read the whole series out loud with my family and we have now started the Roman series. It's fun in a high-calorie, low-fiber literature sort of way. The writing is meh, and relies heavily on action-suspense, teenage-angst, and the suspension of the law of physics whenever magic (and the author) require it. My pet peeve is that he rewrites classical mythology; there are several passages where the back story is NOT strictly Homer or even Edith Hamilton. His writing is nothing special and yet it is engaging in the same way that an open box of Oreo cookies is engaging.

Are all fantasy YA books like this?

I would say that Mr. Riordan's stuff is above-average, which is not unconnected to its popularity. It does quite a few things well, and is fast-paced enough to allow people to get past the things that are meh. And, also important, the things that are meh are only meh, and not claw-your-eyes-out awful. And there are half-a-dozen ways in which Mr. Riordan specifically invites groups that are not likely to read in to his stories, which is a help to them, and he doesn't do it in a way that I find terribly off-putting.

But yes, there are a lot (a lot) of fantasy YA that is engaging in the same way that an open box of Oreo cookies is engaging. There are books with pretensions, and there are failures, but lots and lots and lots of it is at that open cookie box level.

Which is fine with me: I can very happily have a literary diet that is heavy on cookies. I do have a goodly amount of protein (he says, flattering himself) and while there are some detrimental effects, literary chazzerai isn't as bad for you as those Oreos are.


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