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The Son of Neptune by Rick Riordan

The Son of Neptune
Heroes of Olympus, Book 2
Rick Riordan
Hyperion Book CH
Date: October 4, 2011
544 pages
ISBN-10: 1423140591
ISBN-13: 978-1423140597
Lexile : 850L based on an analysis of a small text sample

The Son of Neptune is the second book in the Heroes of Olympus series by Rick Riordan, the author of the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series.  Book One was about Jason, another demigod hero like Percy, and it had several of the same characters found in the Percy Jackson series.  In fact, Percy’s life and Jason’s life have become switched, after a fashion.  In Book Two, we learn about what Percy’s been doing and the dangers he’s been facing. Like the other books in both series, this is an action adventure story whose characters are demigods, mythical monsters, and the gods of Olympus.

Positive Content:

Percy, Hazel, and Frank, the demigods who are the main characters in this story, are brave, caring, loyal, and creative people.  They are easy to like.  Mr. Riordan switches between the three characters, telling the story from their points of view, and in this way, we can know so much more about each character and learn to care what happens to them. 

Rick Riordan is on to a good thing; he has recycled the stories of the Greek and Roman gods and goddesses and all the myriad heroes of the legends, placed them in the modern world, and made them accessible to teenagers.   The books are written at a Lexile that makes them readable by a wide range of students.

Mr. Riordan loves to include silly stuff just to keep the story light, such as: the true story behind Amazon and the Amazons, the cussing horse, the health food store goddess, the monsters who are mistaken for Bigfoot, and the blue giants who inhabit Alaska.  Never mind the big pile of schist that saves Hazel’s life!  Schist is a kind of rock.

By the way, don’t let this be the first book in either series that you read.  Go back to the beginning of the line!  You won’t understand the importance of many details if you try to skip any of the books.  Find the first book, The Lightning Thief, and read them in order of publication date.

Content to Consider:  (Spoilers!)

Violence: FREQUENT, NOT GRAPHIC

  • Violence in this book includes: bullying, harassment, hand-to-hand combat, and fighting with blades, swords, knives, poison, acid, fire balls, and magic.  Regardless, the violence is not graphic and most is implied.  The demigods are often fighting for their lives and they must protect themselves because demigods are mortal.
  • There are many encounters with monsters of various kinds: gorgons, gryphons, basilisks, harpies, grain spirits, shades, centaurs, giants, and the like.  Most of these encounters mean fights to the death.  None of the deaths are particularly gruesome because when monsters “die” they mostly dissolve into dust to rise another day.
  • Guards shoot the gorgons, one “dies” instantly, but the other survives a direct hit and an encounter with a truck to continue her pursuit – rather like Wiley Coyote in the old cartoons.
  • War games happen all the time at camp, preparing the demigods for their monster-fighting roles.  There are also chariot and gladiator competitions. When in Rome…you know.
  • Gwen is impaled with a pilum (a javelin).  Miraculously, she is healed when it is pulled out of her chest.  This was probably the most disturbing death/resurrection in the book.

Crude, Vulgar, or Profane Language: MILD

  • There are many put-downs for those in the Fifth Cohort and for Percy who is Greek.
  • “Thank the gods” or “Oh gods” are expressions that are used several times.

Sexual Content: MILD

  • Sexual relations between the gods and goddesses and their human mates is implied by the births of their children.  In one instance, Frank wonders why a god would “date” his mother.
  • There are girlfriends and boyfriends and an occasional kiss.

Drug/Alcohol: OCCASIONAL

  • One of the gorgons has laced some snacks with her blood which would cause death if ingested.
  • Dakota, son of Bacchus, is addicted to red Kool-aid, which is a problem because he has ADHD, and his addiction makes his symptoms worse.
  • A man dies from drinking poison.

Negative Content:

  • Percy has “borrowed” several vehicles, including a police cruiser. It is implied that they were damaged or destroyed before he could return them to their owners.
  • There is deep prejudice on the part of the Romans toward the Greeks and vice versa.
  • Octavian, the augur, is blackmailing Hazel because he knows her secret.
  • Frank’s grandmother is very negative, especially when speaking to and of her grandson. She calls him an “ox” a few times.  In the end, it is obvious that she does care for him.

Spiritual Content:

  • This series is based on the existence of the Greek and Roman gods and goddesses.
  • Percy is told that the Little Tiber River will wash away his mark of Achilles because it is a Greek blessing.
  • Water obeys Percy’s will since he is the Son of Neptune / Poseidon.
  • The kids in Camp Jupiter kneel as soon as they recognize Juno and Mars.
  • They must consult with the auguries (omens) before they decide what to do with Percy.
  • Many inhabitants of Camp Jupiter are ghosts who turn out to be house gods (like mascots).
  • Lupa is the guardian spirit of Ancient Rome.
  • Not only are demigods the children of gods/goddesses and humans, but demigods can have children and grandchildren, some of whom possess supernatural abilities.
  • Percy talks to his father as he makes an offering, as a sort of prayer.
  • Instead of reading the entrails of small animals, Octavian mutilates stuffed animals (like teddy bears).  Mr. Riordan, thanks for that little concession!
  • Hazel is living under a curse, as is Frank.
  • Frank’s grandmother says that the destinies of men can often be predicted, and sometimes delayed through taking precautions.
  • The primary quest in the book is to rescue the god of Death, the lieutenant of Pluto/Hades who is the god of the Underworld. Throughout the story, Death is called by his Greek name, Thanatos.
  • The afterlife is described as an assignment to one of three places: the Fields of Punishment, the Fields of Asphodel (where spirits exist in an eternal, endless trance), or Elysium, the Isles of the Blest.  Assignment is determined by the three Fates.  It is possible to see the other places from wherever you wind up, but you can’t cross over.
  • The gods and goddesses are presented in the tradition way; as limited, flawed beings who are immortal.  In this story, Alaska is a place that is “beyond the help of the gods”.  Go figure.

My Personal Opinions:

Rick Riordan is on to a good thing; he has recycled the stories of the Greek and Roman gods and goddesses and all the myriad heroes of the legends, placed them in the modern world, and made them accessible to teenagers.   The books are written at a Lexile that makes them readable by a wide range of students.

For younger readers, their adults should definitely read along or read aloud to provide help with comprehension…

Adults can and do enjoy the books, too.  For younger readers, their adults should definitely read along or read aloud to provide help with comprehension; even though fifth graders might be able to read and understand the words, they will lack the background knowledge to “get” some of the material.  These books are very fun to read aloud because of the quick pacing and the humorous tone that is pretty consistent throughout.

Students with ADHD or Dyslexia will identify with the demigods; they are afflicted with both, but instead of being a weakness, these are markers of their demigod status and keys to their survival. As a teacher and as the parent of a child with learning differences, I appreciate this positive spin for these students who really struggle with reading and school.

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About the Author

Kathrese McKee started life as a Systems Engineer at EDS, spent time in real estate, taught middle grade Reading and ESL in Texas, and settled down to blog and write speculative fiction for Young Adults.

As a teacher, she fell in love with books written for Teens and Young Adults. Her favorite books are “coming of age” stories about young people on the difficult road of self-discovery.

Comments

  1. Hey! Great thoughts!! Is there any way to comparatively place the books with a “family friendliness” rating. That way it’s easy to organize by the rating! Great job! I love the informative thoughts and as a parent how I will know exactly what to prepare for with my child!

    • We are all so used to the star rating system, and I really agonized over the decision of whether and how to rate the books included in this blog. Eventually, I chose NOT to rate the books, but to just give the facts and let parents, teachers, and other readers make their own decisions. There is one small exception to that decision – the RECOMMENDED notation. If I write that a book is RECOMMENDED, then it is my OPINION that the book will pass the litmus test of most parents. So far, the only book I’ve RECOMMENDED is The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley; you’ll notice that it is a Newberry Honor Book recipient. That doesn’t mean that I will automatically recommend every book that’s won some award or another. As time goes by, I may create a page just to honor the RECOMMENDED titles. Thanks for your feedback. Happy reading!

  2. I like being able to see the spiritual content and drug/alcohol content. It really helps when searching for a book, since I have limits to what I read (being in middle school). It’s fun to read the articles, i enjoy reading and listening about what other people have to say about books I like. Is there a way to rate the article posted? Because that would be cool. 🙂

    • Dear Kathryn,

      I’m glad that you can use the information about the books, and it’s encouraging to hear from a student who cares about the content of the books she reads. I promise to think about the post rating idea. Happy reading!

  3. I love the deconstruction you’ve done! I agree with everything you wrote 🙂 This is currently my favourite series, and have even been given the opportunity to use it in my Yr12 English assessment. This deconstruction as such has really helped me in compiling the assignment, so thank you!

  4. upbttcoconut says:

    your breakdown on the language and things like that are really dumb the things you stated aren’t even in that category like for instance “the gorgon slipped blood into the snacks” yeah that has nothing to do with alcohol or drugs you need to get facts correct I’ve read the book i know whats in it theres absolutely nothing wrong or eveil or sexual about this book

    • First of all, thanks for reading my book report. I agree that Son of Neptune is a great book. However, people read my reports for the facts. Please reread chapter 1. Stheno offers Percy her special Cheese ‘n’ Wiener snacks (only $2.99!) and tells Percy, “I added some gorgon’s blood to these, so your death will be quick and painless.” Like, making his death quick and painless will make it any better that he’s DEAD! So, since she offered him a poison, it was a toss-up whether to put that under Drug/Alcohol or under Violence (she was trying to murder him, after all.)

      Second, please note that I grouped this in Teen Fiction as well as YA Fiction. When I include a book in Teen Fiction, that means I think most parents and teachers would agree that the book is suitable for younger readers. These reports obviously won’t please everyone. If you think the breakdown is “dumb”, please content yourself with the reviews on Amazon.com. But, if you read my book reports, you will get the facts.

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