The Titan's Curse

The Titan's Curse is the third installment in the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series, written by Rick Riordan for mythology enthusiasts wishing to tempt children into sharing their passion. If you're interested in book three, that means that it's more than likely that you've read the first two... and let's face it. You're probably like me. If you don't absolutely despise a series, you're going to keep reading, if only to figure out where everything winds up. Do not fear: Percy Jackson and the Olympians continues to be a delight and certainly doesn't feel like a chore as you continue through the books. If you (or your kids... because I guess this is supposed to be for young adults, right?) are even slightly interested in mythology, then Riordan will be right up your alley.

Even more than The Sea of Monsters, this book dives right in to the story without much summary... to the point where it actually felt rather abrupt and I wasn't sure if I had missed something, as there was no familiar re-entry that usually kicks off a series installment. Annabeth (daughter of Athena), Thalia (the daughter of Zeus that was brought back to life at the end of the second book), and Percy have set out to meet Grover the satyr at a military school, where he's found two powerful demigods and needs the help of his friends to bring them back to Camp Half-Blood. Bianca and Nico are a brother-sister pair in a military school and getting them out won't be easy, as the vice principal is a manticore in disguise. In the rescue attempt, things go wrong and Annabeth is lost with the enemy. She's not dead, as originally feared, but she disappears and you just know that whatever else is going on, it will be Percy's mission to retrieve his lost friend who he might be more than a little sweet on.

The main villain in this book (aside from the manticore) is "the General" who has a great deal invested in bringing Kronos back to power. It takes a good part of the book to reveal exactly who "the General" might be, but those who are up on their Greek mythology should be able to guess. At the manticore & the General's command are zombie skeleton warriors, so be prepared for lots of action in this book. We also meet a few new gods, including a very attractive Apollo and the goddess of the hunt, Artemis, who disconcertingly appears as a young girl. Along with Artemis, there are her Hunters -- young women (who need not be half-bloods to join) who swear off men and stay young forever, immortal until they fall in battle or break their oath. Zoe Nightshade is Artemis's lieutenant, clearly a mythological figure of some kind, but that revelation takes a while. Much to her younger brother's displeasure, Bianca accepts Artemis's offer to join her Hunters, feeling as though she needs to take a path that is just her own. When Artemis decides she needs to go solo to track a new and powerful monster (that will play a key role upcoming events), everyone else heads back to camp. Once there, the Oracle has a prophesy so compelling that it leaves its attic to deliver it: five must go on a quest to save Artemis before the Winter Solstice, but one will be lost and another will die by a father's hand. Even though Percy isn't on the initial list of questers, there's no way that our hero pass up this opportunity, particularly when he knows that Annabeth will be somewhere close by. The quest takes the heroes to San Francisco, with several stops in between, and lots of questions are still unanswered by the end of the book. Riordan relies a bit on a deus ex machina in this one, but we'll let it slide. This is the darkest book yet, though, with truly frightening villains and actual bloodshed/death.

For me, The Titan's Curse didn't seem to have the parts of Riordan's storytelling that I enjoy most -- namely, the complicated nature of the gods and the implications of being involved in an immortal world for mortal heroes. We do have some intense situations here where individuals must make some very tough choices. At one point towards the end, in a battle, Riordan depicts one hero's resolve to kill another person. Lots of issues with parents still abound (these are teenagers, after all) and so the part of the prophesy that talks about a hero dying by a father's hand is quite interesting. Unfortunately, Percy doesn't seem to really spend a lot of time thinking on this one (well, we know it probably isn't Percy, seeing as there are several books left), but it still would have been an interesting bit of confusion for Percy if he were to have considered circumstances where his own demise would be brought about by Poseidon. Otherwise, Riordan's humor is quite liberally used in this book (Apollo spouts terrible haikus, Percy's pegasus Blackjack is rather casual in his conversation, and so on), as even Riordan knows that this is quite a transition book as we prepare for bigger things. It was disappointing to not have Annabeth along for most of the ride, but allowing the heroes to experience real pain and the force of immortal struggles bearing down on their shoulders... well, it shows that Riordan isn't simply trying to create another hero series, but rather, he's fully committed to his world and the implications of Greek mythology in it.

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