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review 2015-05-02 22:17
#CBR7 Book 51: The Lost Hero by Rick Riordan
The Lost Hero - Rick Riordan,Joshua Swanson

Jason has amnesia. He wakes up on a school bus on the way to the Grand Canyon with what appears to be his very confused girlfriend (Piper) and a bemused, slightly disbelieving best friend (Leo) who both seem very surprised that he can't remember spending the last few months together at the "Wilderness School", a boarding school for juvenile delinquents. Not that the field trip to the Canyon makes things better. One of the other school kids sprouts wings, and tries to kill Jason and his friends. The coach turns out to be some sort of half-goat-man and to top it all off, Jason appears to be able to fly, as he discovers when he has to hurtle down into the Grand Canyon to save, Piper, his supposed girlfriend. 


By the end of their VERY eventful day, Piper, Leo and Jason find themselves in upstate New York at Camp Half-Blood being told that they are demi-gods and the reason that Piper and Leo can remember a whole semester with Jason is because the magical mist that clouds the minds of mere mortals from the existence of the supernatural basically rewrote their memories when Jason appeared out of nowhere. In short order, Leo Valdez, whose been an orphan since his mother died in a mysterious fire in her mechanical workshop, discovers that he's a son of Hephaestus, the Greek god of fire, whilst Piper McLean, a tomboy if ever there was one, discover that her long lost mother is Aphrodite, Greek goddess of love, and that the cabin she belongs seems to consist mainly of Barbie and Ken-doll-alikes. Jason's parentage takes longer to be revealed, but a lot of people get very flustered by his arrival at Camp Half-Blood and this is clearly connected with his sudden amnesia.


Camp Half-Blood's most famous demi-god, Percy Jackson, is missing without a trace, and his girlfriend Annabeth is not happy. When there is a prophecy revealing that Hera, wife to Zeus and queen of the Greek pantheon has been kidnapped and that she needs to be rescued before the Winter Solstice or all hell will pretty much break loose (someone is opening the doors to Tartarus, the Greek underworld), it seems impossible that the two events are not connected and that Jason's amnesia and sudden appearance on the school bus with Piper and Leo is not coincidental either. Piper and Leo get called to go on the quest with Jason, whose father is revealed to be none other than Zeus himself. 


Leo realises from a vision of Hera that she's been appearing to him since he was a child, and that his half-blood heritage is the reason his mother died. Piper goes along on the quest, even though she believes herself doomed to betray her friends, as she's keeping a secret from them. Her father, a famous movie star, has been kidnapped as well, and is being held hostage. If Piper doesn't trick Leo and Jason to their deaths, her father will be killed instead. 


While Jason's friendship with Piper and Leo may have been a mist-conjured illusion, as they fight a number of mythological challenges on their way to complete their quest, they learn to trust each other and work as a team very fast indeed. Will they manage to save Hera before it's too late? Will Jason recover his memories and figure out why to him it seems more appropriate to refer to the gods by their Roman names?


Oh Rick Riordan, not content with one series of books where you utilise absolutely everything relating to Greek myth, followed by one where you do the same with the Egyptian pantheon, now apparently you're introducing the Roman pantheon, while deviously explaining why it's close to, but not quite the same as the Greek. There's a formula here, and it may not work for everyone, but I find that it does for me. More like the Kane Chronicles with the alternating POVs than Percy Jackson's first person narration, this book switches between Jason, Piper and Leo, usually giving them a couple of chapters in a row before switching to one of the others. It allows us to get to know all three characters better.


Because of his amnesia, Jason is absolutely the character that's the hardest to get a handle on. We don't really know who he is, any more than he does. He's clearly had rigorous training his entire life though, and seems very skilled with a number of weapons. Being the son of Zeus, or Jupiter, he seems to have the ability both to fly and call down lightning. This comes in handy when fighting vengeful mythological giants determined to incite some sort of massive-scale conflict with the Greek pantheon. It becomes clear that his amnesia is caused by Hera stealing his memories and she claims to have a very good reason for it. He's also most likely grown up in a place not dissimilar to Camp Half-Blood, if a lot harsher on its recruits. 


Piper McLean was at the Wilderness School because she asked a car dealer for a BMW and he agreed. She's always had the power to get people to give her things and persuade them into doing what she wants, and discovers at Camp Half-Blood that this is called "charm speaking", a gift from her mother. Unfortunately, once the people who've given stuff away wake up from their compulsion and contact the police, Piper would end up in trouble. Piper has Native American heritage on her dad's side, although her father seems to try to distance himself completely from it. She desperately wants to be home schooled, so she can spend time with her famous dad, but he mostly seems far too busy for her. Nonetheless, she's desperate to save him, even though doing so may put her friends in terrible danger instead.


Leo Valdez was diagnosed with ADHD at an early age and has always had a knack for fixing things. Fiddling and constructing things when he's nervous, even before he discovered that he was a demi-god, he knew he wasn't like other kids. Jason not only appears to be completely fire-proof (the clothes he wears as well, conveniently), but can actually summon fire if he concentrates. Hera, who he thinks of as a sort of demented grandma, kept appearing to him as he was growing up, making portentous comments about his future, but he always just thought she was a nut. Now he discovers that not only is he the son of a god, but that there's clearly some sort of grand destiny in store for him. 


The first book in a series of five, it's clear that these books are going to reunite readers with some of their favourite demi-gods from the Percy Jackson books (because I have no doubt that while he's missing in this book, he'll turn up before too long), while introducing a bunch of new demi-god teens to root for, some of whom appear to have parents from the Roman pantheon as well. It seems that the Roman gods are more warlike, serious and business-like than their raucous Greek aspects. I like a good YA adventure, and will probably blaze through the rest of these over the summer.

Source: kingmagu.blogspot.no/2015/05/cbr7-book-51-lost-hero-by-rick-riordan.html
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review SPOILER ALERT! 2014-07-31 17:54
Review: Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge
Cruel Beauty - Rosamund Hodge

Inventive, beautiful, bizarre, romantic, deep and occasionally mind-bending; certainly not the average YA fairy tale retelling, with some solid, if wild, world building, and characters with genuine flaws.


Here are the facts: The Romana-Graecian Empire fell to the barbarian hordes, and the emperor's youngest son, Claudius, retreated to the formerly martially occupied province out the outskirts of the empire, Arcadia, or as the local pagans call it, Anglia (our England). It is said that Hermes himself taught Claudius the Hermetic arts (but we all know that nothing is as it seems in legends, don't we?) and his line survived and thrived in the jewel of a kingdom he'd built until the last prince was conquered and killed by the Gentle Lord, and Arcadia was Sundered from the world, placed in a dome with a parchment sky and ruled by shadow-like demons. The Gentle Lord strikes bargains with those who approach him, which always have dire and ironic consequences, and for nine hundred years, the people of Arcadia have lived in fear and horror in their shadowed world.


Before Nyx Triskelion was born, her father made a bargain with the Gentle Lord, for healthy children, naturally with a catch: Leonidas Triskelion would have to surrender one of his twin daughters on her seventeenth birthday to be the Gentle Lord's wife. For two hundred years, the rebel organization of Hermetic scholars called the Resurgandi have looked for a way to beat the Gentle Lord: and in Nyx, they believe they've found their best hope. She's trained for nearly half of her life in the Hermetic arts in hopes that, when she's given over to the Gentle Lord, she'll be able to find the four "Hearts" of his house, water, fire, air, earth, dismantle them and undo the Sundering.


Her training also has the unfortunate side effect of making her father distant, her sister coddled and cossetted, and Nyx a very bitter and angry young woman. She knows she's going to her certain death, with only the promise that she'll be avenging her mother's death to bolster her. When she is symbolically married to the Gentle Lord, she's taken to his tower (which turns out to be an ever expanding, seemingly endless, dimension defying manor house with rooms filled with meadows and water and lavish bedrooms, libraries, shrines, and everything else that could, and couldn't be imagined. She also finds out that the Gentle Lord isn't exactly what she thought he was, and that his shadow and servant, Shade, might be the key to every goal she is seeking to accomplish.


And this is essentially just in the first eighty pages! Of course, there are plenty of twists and turns, and though I was spoiled for a major, major plot point, the novel still managed to surprise me, and to boggle the mind with its complexity.


Nyx is an interesting heroine. She not particularly likable, not in the traditional sense: she's angry, and though she has the need to be loved, it's not a maudlin desire; she doesn't pine. As a matter of fact, it seems to make her rage more potent, and her bitterness more fierce. She is irreparably damaged, and, at first, is taken with the gentility, dignity, sincerity and chivalry of the enslaved Shade. She spars with Ignifex (the Gentle Lord) verbally, and these exchanges are some of the best I've read between two characters. With true animosity, and always a sense of amusement, they bicker, he's comebacks always eliciting a giggle from me.


I resisted falling in love with Ignifex for as long as I could. I'm not a villains type of girl. But he wore me down. And his compatibility with Nyx becomes clearer and clearer, as her chemistry with Shade peters out, the pressure he's putting on her becoming a weight. It's her anger that he's attracted to, and her brutal honesty (as he notes, she may lie, but she never lies to herself) and it turns into a genuinely touching romance. I was also delighted to see a YA novel deal frankly with sex, both the nature of her fear as she became a married woman (and how society fuels that), and her satisfying sexual relationship with Ignifex, once they fall in love.


The story is a mash-up, of sorts; I've seen a lot of these lately, fairy tale mash-ups, and while Alethea Kontis' Enchanted is probably still my favorite, the effortless way this blends Beauty and the Beast (and, more to the point, the Greek myth of Psyche and Eros, which Beauty and the Beast is said to be a variation of), Rumpelstiltskin, Bluebeard and hints of others is truly breathtaking at times. The pacing in spot on (for a book this complex, a true feat!) and the prose genuinely beautiful, evocative in its description, but never going overboard into the purple. Hodge is definitely one to watch, and I await her sophomore effort, Crimson Bound--a variation on Little Red Riding Hood taking place in the same world--with excitement.


It's true, Ignifex's masters, the Kindly Ones, do leave clues to follow, as does the author; I think a reread would be extremely satisfying, to catch all of these little things, as I remembered a few of them in retrospect, but I think I'd be surprised at how many clues she sprinkled throughout. And I loved that the solution to everything was what Nyx had learned about making bargains, about how no matter how righteous or pious or selfless they believe they are, the bargainers always believe that they truly deserve the prize, and so the bargain that she purposes is simply that she take the punishment, that that in of itself would be the reward, because she'd be with her true love. A simple solution, but elegant, and poignant. The reset on the world also seems necessary when we've seen that almost all of the characters have damaged themselves, or have been damaged, far beyond repair. Nothing feels like a cop-out.


“You deserve all that and more. It made me happy to see you suffer. I would do it all over again if I could." I realized I was shaking as the words tumbled out of me. "I would do it again and again. Every night I would torment you and laugh. Do you understand? You are never safe with me." I drew a shuddering breath, trying to will away the sting of tears.

He opened his eyes and stared up at me as if I were the door out of Arcadia and back to the true sky. "That's what makes you my favorite."

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review 2013-12-13 07:44
Greek Mythology with a Victorian Flavour
Bulfinch's Greek and Roman Mythology: The Age of Fable - Thomas Bulfinch

~~Moved from GR~~


The Age of Fable

by Thomas Bullfinch


No matter what other versions of the Greek myths you've read, there's a certain quaint charm to Bullfinch's take on the stories. Written in the 1850s, the book opens with a forward in which Bullfinch attempts to argue the value of mythology. He notes that without some background in mythology, the allusions of the famous poets will simply whizz over a reader's head, and also adds that despite its pagan beginnings, mythology contains pure and valuable moral lessons. He then proceeds to retell some of the most famous Greek stories, noting and laboriously explaining various later poetical allusions to each tale from writers such as Milton, Keats, Shakespeare, and more.

There's something rather precious about the Victorian writer's obvious discomfort with certain aspects of the myths. For one thing, Bullfinch has to work quite hard to extract his moral lessons; no matter how much you bowdlerize them, the major aesop of most Greek myths is, let's be honest, that you'd better "put out" whenever requested or someone is going to turn you into a tree. I also rather admire the complex feats of literary doublespeak that Bullfinch employs when handling the stories involving same-sex love; he does his best to either portray such relationships as (very) close "friendships" or simply obfuscates the pronouns. I had to laugh at his version of Sappho, as he tells the entire story without once revealing the gender of her lover.

I also found his emphasis rather interesting. The book is supposed to be a collection of myths and fables from around the world, yet almost the book focuses on Greek mythology (or, I suppose, Roman myths, as Bullfinch uses all the Roman names. Personally, I found that rather irritating as I had to keep translating them in my head.) After 35 chapters of Greek mythology, Bullfinch decides on a brief world tour--one chapter on Egyptian mythology, one chapter on "Eastern" mythology, three chapters on Norse mythology, and one chapter for the Celts. This actually can be seen as emblematic of the era; during Bullfinch's time, the Romans were venerated as having created a Utopian society that was lost to the dark ages, and--at least, according to the British--regained by Victoria's imperialistic regime. The fascination with Romans is then something of a self-congratulatory belief that the Victorian world recreated the splendour of the ancients.

Overall, Bullfinch's book exemplifies the Victorian attempt to both venerate and sterilize ancient folklore. Although perhaps not precisely true to their originals, I think Bullfinch's stories have a charm all their own.

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review 2013-07-08 19:43
Review: Antigoddess by Kendare Blake
Antigoddess - Kendare Blake

Antigoddess is unlike anything I've read before. A fresh, creative, and engaging take on mythological gods and goddesses in the modern world, this third novel from Kendare Blake is sure to both wow current fans and earn her many more.

It's normal and completely expected to see novels and films that feature mythology, gods, and goddesses set in places and time periods that fit the stories and legends on which they are assumed to have taken place. Blake departs from this expected and well-established pattern, instead putting the gods and goddesses of myth into the modern world. A world in which they clearly do not fit in and where their meddling and use of humans garners very different reactions than during the historical periods in which they flourished. In one passage, Hera wreaks destruction on Chicago. The attack is speculated to be terrorist related; there isn't even the smallest mention of the wrath of a goddess as a potential cause of leveled buildings and multiple deaths.

I've always had an interest in mythology, but, at the same time, gods and goddesses have always seemed rather one-dimensional. They were motivated by simple desires and their personalities were very straight forward. They didn't have the complexity of, for example, human heroes featured in their stories. In Antigoddess, Blake gives these characters more malleable shapes and complex personalities, in a way, humanizing them. They are still very much set apart from humans, having living countless years and experiencing the invincibility of eternal life, but Blake creates a situation in which they are brought down from the throne of godliness. Suddenly, these timeless beings are forced to face the possibility of an end... of death. Death not only humanizes them, it makes them feel small... vulnerable... emotional... accountable. Through this unique premise, Blake's novel says something very important about the nature of humanity.

Even a reader who knows very little about mythology will enjoy and be able to understand the importance of the gods and goddesses featured in Antigoddess. Blake weaves a significant amount of detail, leading the reader to bits of information and background deatil without becoming overwhelming or falling into the habit of dropping large amounts of overwhelming information on the reader.

I highly recommend this first installment in The Goddess War series. With Antigoddess, Blake sets the scene for the series to reach epic proportions and I can't wait to see where she takes readers next.

Source: thehidingspot.blogspot.com/2013/07/review-antigoddess-by-kendare-blake.html
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