A Rick Riordan book can be summerized as a diverse lesson in mythology without the feeling you’re learning. Most of the time it’s as thrilling (if not more) and laidback as watching a movie. Only with more diverse casting than Hollywood is known for. It shouldn’t be a surprise that I went into this book expecting just that. But it didn’t deliver on all fronts.
The diverse aspect is delightful. It may even surpass some of his other books because this time he features a deaf character that uses sign language and a very heroic and noble moslim woman. Write what you know, they say. I ask you to ignore that advice like Riordan does. All you need is a lot of research and the gift to not stuff your whole book with all the information you’ve gathered. As a writer myself I look to Rick for inspiration for this. Whether it’s the myths, the modern references or a character’s background you get the feeling he knows what he’s talking about. But it’s never about the knowledge he gathered, rather using it as a tool to bring his characters to life. Even in a book that deals with a lot of afterlives, he managed to do it once again. I love his take on all characters: diverse heroes, villians and especially the Norse gods (with an honorable mention for Loki).
However I can’t ignore the fact this book took me more than a month to read. At first I thought this was due to the sheer weight of the edition I’m reading. It’s so big that it hurt my wrists reading it in the first few chapters. But as I continued I still wasn’t as stoked as I usually am with his book.
It’s not as exciting or thrilling like the fastpaced adventures of Percy Jackson, Heroes of Olympus and Apollo. When things finally get rolling and the adventure starts it all reads like a caricature, a summary of jokes. The heroes have some bonding, but I wasn’t feeling it. When the book tells me the three best friends welcome another to their group it doesn’t feel as organic as Rick usually pulls off. Only near the end I finally accepted their friendship as a group.
The meetings with gods or slaying of enemies all happen so fast. Despite this the book still feels slow. I think this is due to the start where Rick Riordan takes a lot of time to set up the story. I’m not even sure this is his fault, because even though norse mythology clearly shaped many fantasy stories, the public doesn’t know much about it. So you will have to explain many things about the gods and the afterlife. As with any book he doesn’t spell it out, which is a good thing. But it does take the thrill out of the first half. When he finally decides to speed up the pace I feel like I’m always running behind, trying to catch up to it all but being so caught off guard by it that I never really do.
But as much as you know you can expect Rick Riordan to deliver a diverse myth packed as an adventure novel, it’s also common knowledge that the first book in one of his series is never the best. I have high hopes for the next book.