The final book of the Percy Jackson series, The Last Olympian, strangely reminds me of an Avengers movie—a major battle, most of the important characters in one place, lots of danger and a fast-paced plot. But instead of superheroes, purple aliens with gold gloves, and so-called figures from Norse mythology, we have the ever-sarcastic Percy Jackson and his delightful group of friends battling the Titans of Greek mythology.
Several major elements of this plot borrow from The Iliad, which I love seeing. The first time I read The Last Olympian, I’d never read anything of Homer, so I missed a lot of the references and inspiration. However, this time, I noticed: Riordan takes some of most meaningful beats in that plot and uses them here in excellent ways. Achilles’ story is present in several characters’ arcs, and the battle is of a similar scope and importance to the siege at Troy—just for a less petty reason and with more mismatched armies.
Percy and Annabeth, our main characters, face near-impossible odds, but are also at their best. Percy must lead the demigods of Camp Half-Blood to battle in New York to protect the defenseless Mount Olympus. As part of this effort, Percy risks bathing in the River Styx, then forming a strategy to protect the mortals—and Western Civilization as a whole. And his journey through this book is satisfying; he makes difficult decisions, and in the end makes a mature, intelligent choice about acceptance and inclusion. This in particular is especially important, I think, for children to see.
Meanwhile, Annabeth has important character development here, too. While Percy tries to embody a leadership role, Annabeth struggles with her past connection to Luke, now their greatest enemy. This backstory has haunted her for years, but now becomes especially significant. Riordan handles her conflicted emotions with aplomb; her subplot is one of the most moving of this entire series. And on the other side of that, Luke’s character is wonderfully illuminated and developed. He’s compelling and complex, and I’m glad to see more of him here.
The pace of this book is pretty breakneck—it’s almost entirely comprised on battles. However, Riordan wisely has a few slower sections, which he uses to strengthen bonds and provide important revelations about the pasts of certain characters. There was not a single moment when I felt the pacing was wrong; I was fully engaged the entire time.
In the end, The Last Olympian is a fantastic end to this series. It’s exciting, intense, dramatic, and rewarding. The arcs established and developed in the first four books are resolved here. In general, I love this series: the characters, the writing, the humor, the story.
Overall rating: 8.5/10