Ever since someone pointed out to me that the similarities between the Percy Jackson books and the Harry Potter books go beyond* the simple boy-turns-eleven-and-discovers-a-secret-family-history-that-results-in-him-going-off-to-a-special-place-every-year-and-also-he's-possibly-the-child-of-prophecy-that-may-or-may-not-save-the-world storyline, I've had a hard time not comparing the two.
So I found it interesting that, like the last Harry Potter book, The Last Olympian began with a divergence. We didn't get the usual Percy-has-some-sort-of-battle-on-the-last-day-of-school-and-then-makes-his-way-to-camp opening—Percy gets word that the battle has begun, and that's that. And, like JKR did with the deaths that occurred at the beginning of HPVII, Rick Riordan showed that he meant business*** with the death of a half-blood** before page thirty.
This is, after all, the last Percy Jackson book—the book in which Percy finally hears the whole prophecy, and the book in which the prophecy will finally come to pass. Or will it?
Overall, I had mixed feelings. I was happy to get more of Luke's history, to find that Rachel was more important than expected, and to see Percy's mother and stepfather in action. I was happy to see Grover come into his own, and I always have had a soft spot for Clarisse.
As the challenges Percy & Co. face are much more serious, I wasn't surprised that the tone was much darker than in the earlier installments, but I was glad to see that there was still a good amount of humor—Apollo's curse on the Ares cabin was especially good—and I still enjoy Percy's voice (though I don't really feel that he's matured much in five years):
I remembered the story. Orpheus wasn't supposed to look behind him when he was leading his wife back to the world, but of course he did. It was one of those typical "and-so-the-died/the-end" stories that always made us demigods feel warm and fuzzy.
So that all worked. But it wasn't until page 295 that the book really grabbed me.
Until that point, I felt like I was treading water, waiting the story out. After that point, I was fully invested, interested and eager to see where the story would go. Because something surprised me there. Up until then, nothing else in the book had. And so I finished the book, felt satisfied with the end of the series (HOWEVER.****), and I'm looking forward to the next Camp Half-Blood series.
*It's mostly just that the Harry, Ron, Hermione personalities are very similar to the Percy, Grover, Annabeth personalities. Though Grover's role in everything has changed significantly, and the Percy/Annabeth relationship is different. In the first couple of books, though, the parallels were quite strong.
***At the same time, I felt that his choice of character was similar to Rowling's choice of Cedric Diggory—a nice-guy secondary character whose death wouldn't wreck a fan's day, but whose death would hit the other characters—especially our hero—hard. It felt... calculated. Which detracted, for me—it made me stop thinking about the characters as people and start paying attention to the man behind the curtain.
****Now, though, looking back, I find that surprise on page 296 less satisfying. Like the death early on, the identity of the spy felt so calculated—like the character was chosen specifically so that everything could be wrapped up with a nice big ribbon (and a double funeral) at the end. It didn't sit right with me. And the more I think about it, the more dissatisfied I am.