Sunday, November 17, 2013

The House of Hades - Rick Riordan's Best Yet!!

"At the conclusion of The Mark of Athena, Annabeth and Percy tumble into a pit leading straight to the Underworld. The other five demigods have to put aside their grief and follow Percy’s instructions to find the mortal side of the Doors of Death. If they can fight their way through the Gaea’s forces, and Percy and Annabeth can survive the House of Hades, then the Seven will be able to seal the Doors both sides and prevent the giants from raising Gaea. But, Leo wonders, if the Doors are sealed, how will Percy and Annabeth be able to escape?
They have no choice. If the demigods don’t succeed, Gaea’s armies will never die. They have no time. In about a month, the Romans will march on Camp Half-Blood. The stakes are higher than ever in this adventure that dives into the depths of Tartarus"

The House of Hades is by far one of the most gripping tales Riordan has written in his Percy Jackson world not to mention the darkest book in the series. It is full of terrible monsters, nail-biting fights, and horrific psychological thrills. Not only do our heroes have to face beasts that they've already defeated once before, but they must face their own true fears — something that can be just as incapacitating as a physical wound.

While we already know our main characters well, having met some of them nine books ago now, sometimes they still manage to surprise us. For fans who find Annabeth and Percy’s relationship endearing, this book will serve to strengthen their affection of the couple, who somehow find a way to love each other even through the darkest depths of Tartarus. Going into it, I expected it to be fully narrated by the Romans with Percy and Annabeth taking turns, so I was really surprised (and thrilled) to see that Leo and Piper also had the chance to narrate.

As for the other characters that we may think we know, it’s interesting to see another side to them. Assumptions will be broken and some will find themselves walking down a completely different path than they might have expected. Each person is written with care as secrets are revealed and friendships continue to blossom.

Firstly, thank Mr. Riordan for finally turning Frank into someone worth voting for. I've always felt like Frank and Hazel have been really underdeveloped, so I really enjoyed seeing them brought more fully into the series' story. I never thought I'd see the day, but I was actually freaking out at the epicness of Frank Zhang's battle skills at the end there. He definitely doesn't feel wimpy now, which is a relief. As for Hazel.... She had an interesting story and I enjoyed it. I think it's a smart move on Riordan's part to connect her skills to someone other than Pluto/Hades.

Without a shadow of a doubt, I do not hesitate to say that Leo had the most enjoyable storyline. My biggest disappointment was definitely the lack of Jason and Piper. Narrative wise, Jason had two turns and Piper only had one, never mind the fact that Annabeth and Percy (two already-developed characters and a fully-developed couple) had like half the book. All I have to say is that they had better have more narrative in the last book than Percy and Annabeth.

Jason was hardly even mentioned until two hundred pages in. We were finally seeing what people like Hazel and Nico thought of Jason and I've been excited for that but he hardly had a part at all. As for Piper, she was treated as a minor character, pretty darn close to how Reyna was handled in this book. Not cool. I'm slightly frustrated with the lack of development and inclusion for Jason and Piper. But if the fifth book is going to have less Percy and Annabeth and more Jason and Piper, then I guess that's okay.

The biggest issue I had with this book was Percy and Annabeth's storyline. I'll be honest, I down right dreaded it sometimes. I know this sounds strange (it does to me) but I found Tartarus to actually be the dullest parts of the book. But instead of blaming this on my dislike for Annabeth, I actually have a real logical reason.

Percy and Annabeth are both already fully-developed characters. It seemed liked I was reading their part of the story only because it was part of the over all plot. Someone had to close the Doors of Death in Tartarus. But there wasn't really any character or story development with them. Everyone else in this book (even Coach Hedge) had more development than Percy and Annabeth, whose developemt I'd wager was pretty close to zero. I know people love them as a couple, and believe me, I want them to stay that way, but they've had a whole series. I just don't really see anything left to discover for either character.

I'm glad that we were able to see bits and pieces of what was going on with the Roman and Greek camps - definitely interesting. I actually, kind of wish the final battle could take place back where both camps could participate. And, oh man, Octavian just... I like Frank's suggestion. Catapult him, Reyna. DO IT! I really don't want to see either camp destroyed by each other or Giants.

There were moments when I felt like the characters were unnecessarily oblivious though. Hint, Nico's statement about the Athena Parthenos at the end there in connection with the fact that Giants can't be destroyed without the combined effort of a demigod and a god. I read said statement and was like, oh duh! So, yes, I did mentally say duh sometimes but not too often.

As for Piper's guesses about the Prophecy, I'm not really buying into the someone's going to die statements. I honestly don't think any of the main characters will die on us. These prophecies never work out the way we expect or are led to believe, so I'm not that concerned with someone we love dying (that includes Jason and Piper, people). But the other statements might have some real substance.

House of Hades could not come any more highly recommended for fans of the Percy Jackson world, and we’re sure that everyone — myself included — will be impatiently biding our time until the fifth and final book, The Blood of Olympus, is released next year.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Shiva Trilogy - Oath of The Vayuputras : A Less than Fitting Conclusion

"Shiva is gathering his forces. He reaches the Naga capital, Panchavati, and Evil is finally revealed. The Neelkanth prepares for a holy war against his true enemy, a man whose name instils dread in the fiercest warriors.  
India convulses under the onslaught of a series of brutal battles. It’s a war for the very soul of the nation. Many will die. But Shiva must not fail, no matter what the cost. In his desperation, he reaches out to the ones who have never offered any help to him: the Vayuputras.
Will he succeed? And what will be the real cost of battling Evil? To India? And to Shiva’s soul?"

After ‘The Immortals of Meluha’ and ‘The Secret of the Nagas’, book lovers across the country have eagerly awaited Amish Tripathi’s ‘The Oath of The Vayuputras’. On reading the two books, many questions have been formulated in our minds. Decisions are yet to be taken and some paths are yet to be trotted upon. Amish Tripathi has promised to tie a knot to all loose ends in this book that completes the trilogy. Does he deliver as he says?

The Neelkanth is in search of the evil bothering the nation. In his quest, he joins hands with the Meluhans, the Swadeepans and the Nagas. These three races, which are known for their rivalry and enmity, put all differences aside and accept the different ways of life. The uptight and ‘true to their word’ Suryavanshis, and the passionate and follow their free will’ Chandravanshis mingle with each other and exchange their ideas to strengthen Shiva’s troop. The out casted Nagas also get accepted as mere humans who are good in intentions but left bitter by their own flaws. The Vasudevs lead Shiva in the quest of true evil, an evil that shocks everyone.

An evil which has always been there among them, unrecognized. An evil which has divided the races and caused hostility among people from the same mother land. It stirs chaos among families and loyalties are questioned. Love comes in between the goal, causing more complications and making it simpler. Some courageous characters fight still the last drop of blood, to protect their people and eradicate evil. Some give in to their cowardly vices and betray their cause. As a well-planned and organized war goes wrong, Shiva is left with just one option – The Vayuputras.

Amish Tripathi writes for the mind and the soul. While the philosophies stir the minds, the emotions touch the soul. He has portrayed different relations between characters well. Though Daksha wants to destroy Shiva, his protectiveness for his daughter Sati stops him from attacking the group. Bhagirath is constantly worried about his sister, Anandmayi and ensures that no harm falls upon her. Parvateshwar’s respect for Shiva is reciprocated well, though they choose different sides. Ganesh places trust on his younger brother, Karthik, to lead a fight.

Tripathi is an ace when it comes to description. The picturistic words used to describe intricate designs and architecture shows that he not only cares about the details, but savours it. The dialogues used are so powerful and thought incepting. He has given a scientific angle to many symbols and practices, which has some truth to it. Mythological elements are present in a different light. The parallelism drawn to the stories we have grown listening to is fascinating. One example I find very astonishing is how he explains about the plague in Branga, which could be related to a concentration of cancer cases in Bengal in a modern day world.

First of all, let's give credit where it's due. Amish has successfully created a great universe of Ancient India and has tied it quite nicely with all of our mythology. From that perspective, the buildup of the last two books, as far as the story goes, was also quite good. 

But, in the end, that's where the brilliance of the trilogy ends. 

I hate it when a book or a movie ends badly. I don't mean tragically, or in a way that is different than I expected. I simply mean a bad ending. Where you get a sense that the author did not really know how to conclude so he or she just wrapped it up somehow. In this book, you get a sense that the author always knew what the epilogue was going to be, and that is not bad. But the conclusion is what should have been thought out better. Far better. What happens more or less negates everything else that the book was leading up to. And plus the whole climax hinged on the stupidity of one single character. When that happens, you know that the ending is forced.
The other big problem I had with the book is that Shiva really doesn't do much in this book at all. He is simply roaming around India and is a part of only one battle where the enemies were anyways vastly outnumbered. So the premise of the trilogy - a mortal human becoming a God for the people due to his deeds - is in the end just lip service.

Besides these two big problems, there were several smaller problems throughout the book. Karthik, who was born in the second book is a brilliant strategist, warrior and leader in this book. It's very difficult to follow the time that has passed in the book. A f
ew people are randomly righteous, moral, idiotic, brilliant at the switch of the author's buttons. The author gets too fixated trying to explain engineering and scientific marvels. The title is totally redundant - the so-called oath of vayuputras plays a very small role in the book. Several events in the book are forced. Especially things that drive war events. Language of the book is really terrible. English itself is fine. But contemporary colloquial English did nothing to set the mood of the period.

So, all in all, not that great a trilogy. The details were too much; a little air of mystery could have been maintained. A story like this deserved a better ending than it got. I am not discouraging anyone from reading the book; you should read it anyway, especially if you have been bombarded with bed time stories on Shiva, Devi and Ganpati.