Title: The Son of Neptune
Author: Rick Riordan
Narrator: Joshua Swanson
ISBN: 9780307916815 (book on CD)
Pages: 521 pages
Publisher/Date: Disney Hyperion Books, c2011.
Discs/CDs: 11 CDs, 13 hours 30 minutes

The snake-haired ladies were starting to annoy Percy.
They should have died three days ago when he dropped a crate of bowling balls on them at the Napa Bargain Mart. They should have died two days ago when he ran over them with a police car in Martinez. They definitely should have died this morning when he cut off their heads in Tilden Park.
No matter how many times Percy killed them and watched them crumble to powder, they just kept re-forming like large evil dust bunnies. He couldn’t even seem to outrun them.(3)

Percy finds himself in California, running away from snake-haired ladies with no memory of who he is or why he’s being chased. While saving an old lady, he stumbles across Camp Jupiter, a camp for half-mortal, half-Roman deity children, and is instantly called upon to rescue Thanatos, the God of Death, from the clutches of the giants. If they don’t complete their task in the next three days, the camp will be overrun by monsters who can’t be killed. Accompanied by Hazel, who has her own troubles with Death, and Frank, an unclaimed demigod who might have more powers than he imagined, they’ll travel to the icy waters of Alaska in search of Thanatos. But pursuing them are unkillable monsters who seem to know more than any of the three about what they are up against, and no one is sure who Thanatos will side with in the end.

Another well done audiobook from the Heroes of Olympus series. Joshua Swanson distinguishes the characters from one another nicely, and the pacing benefits from Rick Riordan’s habit of working cliff hangers into the chapter endings. Although more advanced readers might grow tired of having the character’s feelings spelled out for them, it’s refreshing to have such detailed character analysis, even if it’s repetitive. The fast paced action and kid humor excuses any over emphasis, such as when a battle is centered around a pile of schist, which is a type of rock. (Remember the Hoover Dam sequence from earlier in the series? Yes, it’s that type of thing.)

Based on Frank’s background, which I won’t reveal here, it will be interesting to see how things pan out. (I sense glimpses of Riordan’s next series, when he’s done with the two he’s got going now.) Hazel has her own interesting back story, but we don’t get to see very much of it in Son of Neptune, just whatever glimpses appear through the flashbacks she suffers from. Ella is the comic relief for this title, a bookworm of a harpy whose photographic memory comes in handy on more than one occasion and talks in disjointed sentences, referring to herself in the third person and overstating the obvious. I also can really appreciate what must have gone into giving the gods and goddesses their own unique Roman personalities, which readers witness through Ares being portrayed as Mars. Since Greeks and Romans valued different qualities and traits, readers of both series will notice the differences, although some things unavoidably stay the same.

What is refreshing about this series is that readers don’t have to be familiar with the previous Percy Jackson series. Although Percy does run across people he’s met previously (namely Nico di Angelo), because he has had his memory wiped he’s just as clueless as uninformed readers as to why someone might be acting strange around him or seem familiar. In fact, readers who familiar with the series obviously have the edge over Percy and will probably enjoy the ability to gloat. In the long run though, this quest is just the beginning, as Gaia is waking and as I think Percy mentions at one point, she is not the friendly Mother Earth that gets portrayed today.