For many readers now, the latest series based on the original Percy Jackson and the Olympian series has fallen short of expectations. Rick Riordan’s latest foray into The Heroes of Olympus series, The Mark of Athena, might mean a return back to the vastly entertaining original series starring Percy Jackson.
Unfortunately, first Riordan needs to get rid of all the excess baggage surrounding Percy. Namely, head honcho of the Romans, Jason, and his much-unneeded drama llama.
The Mark of Athena starts off with the Greek contingent flying off to meet the Romans at their demigod camp near San Francisco with Percy, Annabeth, Leo, Hazel, Jason, Piper and Frank (and the satyr chaperone, Coach Gleeson Hedge). Annabeth is nervous, since before most wars had started with the Greek and Roman demigods going to war (which, minor quibble here, is completely against the claim made in the original series, when children of the “Big Three” — Zeus, Poseidon and Hades — all were great leaders who caused war amongst each other). However, she is more nervous as it is shown that she has received a visit from Athena herself, who happens also to be Annabeth’s mother. Athena tells her to follow the Mark of Athena and avenge her, which confuses Annabeth to no end. However, she is forced to put the thought aside as the Argo II — Leo’s redesigned ship — hovers over the Roman demigod camp and they are met by an angry and confused contingent of Romans. Reyna, who with Jason is co-leader of the Romans, manages to keep everything from going badly as the Romans hear out the Greeks plans, and that their common enemy is Gaea herself. However, after Leo goes back to the Argo II, the ship begins to launch an attack upon Romans and Greeks alike, driving a permanent wedge between the two camps. The six other demigods make it back to the ship, where they find a confused Leo, who claims he did not attack the Romans on purpose, but that something made him do it.
Confused but on the run from the vengeful Romans (led by Octavius, slayer of teddy bears — one of the more funnier characters Riordan has ever come up with), the seven demigods meet Dionysus/Bacchus on the road across the country in the middle of Kansas. He tells them that they should seek out Phorcys, an ancient sea god from before the time of the Olympians, who is currently residing in Atlanta. They wonder why an ancient sea god is in Atlanta, which isn’t really near the ocean (about 200 miles away, give or take) but the demigods continue anyways. Meanwhile, Annabeth discovers just what the Mark of Athena leads to — the lost statue Athena Pathenos, which had been stolen by the Romans during Greece’s decline and is a major cause to the conflict between Greeks and Romans.
Clever twists and turns abound throughout this book, which leads me to believe that the author is back on track with the same voice that led to the original wonderment which the reader felt in the Percy Jackson novels. The pacing is fairly decent this time, though the book drags whenever the reader is on Leo’s POV, which is odd because Leo makes the average demigod seem calm. Maybe it’s due to the character’s excitement being so high that the author felt that he needed to convey more details around him? I’m not certain, but it does take a little bit away from Leo as a whole. Frank, on the other hand, would probably have been a more interesting character.
The plot is solid, though I did question the spirits which caused a lot of problems for the gang as they went on their quest. It was a mildly convenient plot tool for them to be around, though it sorta made sense. It was an easy out for the author, however, so I won’t begrudge him that. Still, part of me wanted a bit more of a challenge when it camer to character motivation.
Better than the previous installments of the series, though not quite to par with the original five books.