From the Heroes of Olympus series , Vol. 1

“Not again!” yells one of the three protagonists at one point in Rick Riordan’s first installment of his second five-book series that fuses Classical mythology with everyday teen angst. Readers may be forgiven if they’ve been feeling déjà vu from page one of this overlong and underedited retread.

The three protagonists in question are Leo Valdez, son of a mechanic and the god Hephaestus, Piper McLean, daughter of a Cherokee movie star and the goddess Aphrodite, and Jason, son of Jupiter—come again? Yes, Riordan mixes it up between the Romans and the Greeks, playing further on his central, winning conceit that the gods have moved west over the centuries with the center of civilization. Jason has a serious identity crisis. In addition to speaking Latin instead of Greek and bearing the Imperial “SPQR” tattoo, he really has no idea who he is. Readers will know where he is, though. In not-short-enough order, Jason, Piper and Leo end up at Camp Half-Blood, learn, more or less, their identities and the quest begins. This exposition takes more than 100 pages to unspool with formulaic predictability. There are high points. Incidental details that bring the gods into the story often shine, as they have before. Argus, the camp’s head of security, is distressed at the imprisonment of his creator, Hera, and weeps from all his eyes, causing him to “[wipe] the tears from his elbow.” Boreas (who has taken up residence in Québec City, spawning a pretty great cover image) displays a classically godlike disregard for humans: “We are to crush your little mortal faces.” Between these moments, however, are far too many pages of stretched-out action, telling not showing and awkward dialogue. Riordan has set himself an ambitious schedule of two books per year, alternating between The Kane Family Chronicles in the spring and The Heroes of Olympus in the fall, and the compressed timetable shows in an overall flabbiness of construction. The Greek-vs.-Roman tension tantalizes, but only after the lengthy denouement does it begin to take real shape, making this feel more like very long exposition than a complete novel. Throughout, both key secondary characters and the author play the irritating we-know-more-than-you-do game readers will remember from Percy Jackson, but here, rather than ratcheting up the suspense, it serves to emphasize the sense of a foregone conclusion. In a line of clunky, all-too-typical dialogue, Chiron tells Jason, “The last chapter approaches, just as it did before.” Die-hard fans will probably be happy with this for a time, but unless Riordan tightens things up considerably by number five, they may find themselves hoping that it does not end with a third Great Prophecy.


Pub Date: Oct. 12, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-4231-1339-3

Page Count: 570

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Jan. 6, 2011

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Is this the end? Well, no…the series will stagger on through at least one more scheduled sequel.


From the Captain Underpants series , Vol. 9

Sure signs that the creative wells are running dry at last, the Captain’s ninth, overstuffed outing both recycles a villain (see Book 4) and offers trendy anti-bullying wish fulfillment.

Not that there aren’t pranks and envelope-pushing quips aplenty. To start, in an alternate ending to the previous episode, Principal Krupp ends up in prison (“…a lot like being a student at Jerome Horwitz Elementary School, except that the prison had better funding”). There, he witnesses fellow inmate Tippy Tinkletrousers (aka Professor Poopypants) escape in a giant Robo-Suit (later reduced to time-traveling trousers). The villain sets off after George and Harold, who are in juvie (“not much different from our old school…except that they have library books here.”). Cut to five years previous, in a prequel to the whole series. George and Harold link up in kindergarten to reduce a quartet of vicious bullies to giggling insanity with a relentless series of pranks involving shaving cream, spiders, effeminate spoof text messages and friendship bracelets. Pilkey tucks both topical jokes and bathroom humor into the cartoon art, and ups the narrative’s lexical ante with terms like “pharmaceuticals” and “theatrical flair.” Unfortunately, the bullies’ sad fates force Krupp to resign, so he’s not around to save the Earth from being destroyed later on by Talking Toilets and other invaders…

Is this the end? Well, no…the series will stagger on through at least one more scheduled sequel. (Fantasy. 10-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 28, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-545-17534-0

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: June 20, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2012

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Sophie is caught between a powerful witch and wizard who are terrorizing the magical land of Ingary. Living a humdrum life as a hatter till the malicious Witch of the Waste casts a spell turning her into an old woman, Sophie seeks refuge as cleaning woman to Wizard Howl (although he's rumored to eat the hearts of young girls) in his castle, which moves at will about the countryside. Actually, Howl is a brash young man whose only vice is womanizing. He is a gifted wizard but the despair of his inept apprentice and of Calcifer, a humorously petulant fire demon, because of such human faults as messiness and spending too long in the bath. As in her memorable Archer's Goon, Jones has a plethora of characters who are seldom what they seem and an intricate plot which may dazzle with its complexity or delight by the hilarious common-sense consequences of its preposterous premises. Sophie is a dauntless heroine; when she regains her youth and wins Howl, the odds are this is only the beginning of a tempestuous romance. Great fun.

Pub Date: April 14, 1986

ISBN: 0061478784

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Greenwillow Books

Review Posted Online: April 30, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1986

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