Sunday, October 21, 2012

The Mark of Athena by Rick Riordan

Riordan has a definite pattern to his books. The pacing is fast, the gods are humorous and unusual, the quest is tense, female characters are strong, and the plot twists are unpredictable. Most of this book has that except the pacing is slow in the beginning, the humor is cranked down a notch, and we don't meet an interesting god until page 68. The themes and internal changes in the characters are not as great as in other books. Still, it is rip-roaring fun.

Annabeth, Jason, Piper, and Leo along with Coach Hedge land their flying ship Argo II at Camp Jupiter where they are united with Percy, Hazel, and Frank. The Romans are suspicious of them at first but welcoming when they are assured the foursome come in peace. Plus, Jason's on the ship. Their praetor and hero returns to camp. Plans go awry when the ship's guns are launched on the unsuspecting Romans as Gaea puts her scheme in place to capture and kill two demigods.  The seven demigods team together on a quest to retrieve the Mark of Athena and stop Gaea.

The girls get more voice in this book. We get to hear Piper and Annabeth's thoughts. I didn't find them as interesting in the beginning as the end. In the beginning Annabeth has Percy on the brain like a percolating cup of coffee. I found it more interesting when she has to strike out by herself and use her wits to defeat a monster versus using superpowers. I wanted her to think more about how she really didn't have a special power. She does some. I just wanted more. It seems to work better when there are three voices versus four. Four seems to spread thin the internal dialogue of the characters.

The theme of teamwork and thinking positively were presented in unique ways. When Percy and Jason discover they are stronger working together and they meet gods who don't work together, they decide they don't want to be that way, and set aside their egos. Piper and the cornucopia is a terrific plot twist. Positive thoughts made the cornucopia produce food and feasts accordingly. She uses it to cleanse evilness from nymphs with the combined efforts of Percy and Jason. The message of teamwork is powerful.

The beginning has the reader in the minds of Annabeth, Piper, Leo, and Percy. All who seem to be thinking about boy-girl issues. She loves me. She loves me not. She loves me. She loves me not. Actually, they were more on the "she loves me," but it got boring. Too many characters had the same thoughts and started to sound alike. This seemed to replace the normal  rampant humor that blazes through the books from page 1. Wise-cracking Leo doesn't get out of the starting gate until around page 70 and Coach Gleeson is competing with too many characters to get any page time.

I really think there were too many characters hogging the pages and it took away the usual depth I've come to expect from Riordan's books. I also think the book could have used some editing (like this book review). But with the rate Riordan is cranking out books, I'm sure the pressure to publish on time was great. I read that 3.5 million copies were being printed. Wow! Riordan's obviously doing something right. Students will love this one, (even if this unromantic curmudgeon would have sliced and diced the romantic parts and pared down the voices - what do I know)!

3 out of 5 Smileys
No Reading Level but seems high with different plot lines and multiple character.

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