“So, a crash course for the amnesiac,” Leo said in a helpful tone that made Jason think this was not going to be helpful. “We go to the ‘Wildnerness School’” –Leo made air quotes with his fingers. “Which means we’re ‘bad kids.’ Your family, or the court, or whoever, decided you were too much trouble, so they shipped you off to this lovely prison–sorry, ‘boarding school’–in Armpit, Nevada, where you learn valuable nature skills like running ten miles a day through the cacti and weaving daisies into hats! And for a special treat we go on ‘educational’ field trips with Coach Hedge, who keeps order with a baseball bat. Is it all coming back to you now?”
“No.” Jason glanced apprehensively at the other kids: maybe twenty guys, half that many girls. None of them looked like hardened criminals, but he wondered what they’d all done to get sentenced to a school for delinquents, and he wondered why he belonged with them. (7-8)
Jason wakes up on a bus that’s winding its way to the Grand Canyon on a school field trip. Problem is, that’s one of many things that he doesn’t remember. His friends Piper and Leo fill in him, but all three quickly learn that even they don’t know everything, as wind spirits attack their group and they are rescued from demigods Annabeth and Butch who take them to Camp Half-Blood. It turns out that Jason and his friends have a quest laid out ahead of them; to find and rescue Hera, the queen of the Greek Gods. Along the way, they might find clues to help the search for a missing camper. First though, they have to learn to trust each other, even as they realize that each person has secrets that might jeopardize their mission.
Rick Riordan has done it again. A fast-paced adventure thrill ride that weaves Greek and Roman mythology together into one cohesive story. The cross-country quest involves a flying metal dragon, a high-security house, fiery inferno, and a “stolen” helicopter ride (although Piper might object to that description). As a Michigan person my whole life, I did take a little offense at Leo’s assumption that a closed car plant automatically meant they were in Detroit, since Detroit has a lot of other things to offer. The other annoying thing was that the final twist took a REALLY long time to come to light, and I’d figured it out WAY before the characters finally figured it out. Maybe it’s just me, I don’t know, but their cluelessness got on my nerves, the way they kept reiterating all the pieces but couldn’t put them together.
All three of the main characters have a difficult pasts that slowly come to light. Leo seems to have suffered the most difficulties out of the three, although it surfaces that Piper was a problem child. Another commonality is that it seems like all three of the main characters have a special ability that sets them apart from others like them, although I’m kind of surprised Jason is seen as the “leader” of the trio since he seems to have the least knowledge about what to do and has the least skills. Riordan spells out the character’s motivations in clear detail, which might annoy some readers and might delight others to be so clearly inside the characters heads. That’s a big difference with these books, is the fact that the point of view shifts consistently, sometimes painting events in multiple lights in order to understand everything that’s happening. This also allows the action to continue even when someone is asleep, frozen, or knocked unconscious, which happens quite frequently. However, it does cut down on the surprises, because readers know ahead of everyone else each character’s secret. The trio reminded me a lot of the Harry Potter, with Piper being Hermoine, Jason being Harry, and Leo being Ron.
Joshua Swanson does an excellent job narrating, distinguishing the raspy, cocky, and wise-cracking sarcasm of Leo (which he NAILED in my opinion) from the more sincere tones of Piper and the honest but clueless Jason. His bad guys also have otherworldly voices, ranging from guttural, terse questions like “Smash now?” to seductively persuasive. I found myself laughing out loud at some parts, and his timing was spot on. Fans will not be disappointed, and considering I haven’t finished the Percy Jackson series and wasn’t lost, I think new fans can enter the series without missing much.