A few weeks ago I finished the series that is Heroes of Olympus, a spin off of the popular Percy Jackson and the Olympians series. Cue the disorganized notes (on the book alone, and on the series overall):
First impression (of the ending)
He could’ve done more with it. I wish it ended more artfully and gracefully. A huge franchise like that should end on something that is breathtaking. Didn’t punch me in the gut like “For once, I didn’t look back” did in Percy Jackson. My reaction to the last few words were “Oh, it’s over.” Because it felt quite fanfiction-y. As in, a lot of the final things felt like fanservice. I understand the intent, of course: he has very faithful and hopeful fans, most of which are on the young side, so I think he wanted to make them as satisfied as possible.
Silver-linings in the fanfiction-y ending
- Piper and Jason [Spoilers ahead]
When I say “more artfully and gracefully,” what I’m really saying is that I wish that the series ended as beautifully as Piper and Jason’s story ended. This is the only part of the novel that actually brought tears to my eyes. It’s fucking happy, but the emotion sprung from the pure magnificence of the scene.
Their last moments on a roof, watching stars and sharing a kiss, is reflective of a false memory that Hera planted in their minds that was described in the very first book of the series. (Maybe I’ll even make a separate post about the excellence of the nuanced symmetry). Even without the clever symmetry, their tender gestures and words alone may have moved me to tears. Such a nuanced and full-circle ending reaffirms my opinion that this ship is my favorite of the entire series (Yes, I daresay even more than Percabeth. Those two had their limelight in the first series).
A fanfiction-y ending is indicated by very specific, happily-ever-after solutions for each of the characters. Like, at the end of a movie when the camera freezes on a character and text appears describing what happens in their future. Some people prefer very specific endings, but I think that specificity should be used in moderation. Riordan pretty much spells out everyone’s fate, except for two lovely exceptions:
- Leo Valdez
What I loved is that the success of Leo’s plan is ambiguous. [Spoilers]: He reaches Ogygia to rescue Calypso, but the amount of time since his resurrection is unclear. Either way, his ending is happy, but the perfection of plan’s execution is left up to the reader.
- Reyna Amirez-Arellano
Reyna. God, REYNA! You deserve the beautifully ambiguous and mature ending that you got, girl. An ending that basically screamed, “You’re a strong independent woman who needs no man, but you’ll eventually find companionship despite your history of snubs. You will.” Even after the series is over, I will always root for you.
Romance in Heroes of Olympus
God knows that I adore and fawn over each ship individually, but nonetheless I am disappointed by Rick Riordan’s predictable formula for relationships throughout the series. Literally all the characters (with the exception of Reyna) conveniently find a boyfriend/girlfriend (or, in Nico’s case, someone who will obviously become that).
First of all, it’s a little weird if a world-saving, apocalypse-averting team looks more like a bunch of couples than a cohesive team. Second of all, as if a happily-ever-after formula is only complete with a significant other! As if the journey is only worthwhile if you defeat Gaea and have a honey to make out with, too. Patterns like these annoy me in all entertainment medias (i.e. Game of Thrones). This is why Reyna’s ending is so refreshing to me.
Percy Jackson vs. Heroes of Olympus
I do think that Rick Riordan had a stronger grip on his first-person narrative of Percy Jackson and the Olympians series–he had a real mastery over the voice of Percy, which was fresh and funny and deft. I think that overall, the Percy Jackson series was better written.
I do like Heroes of Olympus more, however, for its overarching themes and concepts. Acknowledging that his Percy Jackson readers had grown up, Riordan intentionally included some more dark moments (Tartarus was downright disturbing. The character backgrounds are darker as well. Broken families, death, and child abandonment are closely examined, under a starker light). The internal conflicts are more detailed and deep, as well.
By the end of Heroes of Olympus, the amount of characters became unmanageable. Obviously the only way to remedy this is a TV series adaptation. TV is the true perfect medium for Heroes of Olympus (action scenes, shifting character focus, individual plot arcs, flashbacks!).
But don’t get me wrong: I love all the characters to death; they are what really made me fall in love with the series. Each one is so relatable and realistic. The diversity (in personality and goals, not just sexuality and ethnicity) that Percy Jackson lacked should be cherished. I would be genuinely surprised if another Young Adult series pursued diversity and characterization with such eagerness and success.