Could they be more different?

Bit of catch up time as there is a few reviews I have not got around to posting. So here we go

The Last Olympian by Rick Riordan (audiobook)
Percy is fighting for the survival of everything and everyone in the penultimate finale in the series (or is it?).
I have listened to all five books and it has been an interesting experience. The stories are well crafted and well thought out. You can read (or listen) to each story as a standalone and not feel that you missed anything. For fans of the series the ending is somewhat satisfying and that is what counts.

I would like to go on about the book but to be honest at the end of it, I was like ‘yep it’s over, isn’t that nice.’ That is pretty sad that after five books I just felt meh about the whole thing. I think for me the whole problem was that Percy became too perfect, the earlier books he had vulnerabilities, made mistakes and in this book his invulnerability made him too wooden for me. I was more interested in the characters of Annabeth, Clarice, Nico and to lesser extent Rachel Elizabeth Dare (why is she always referred by her full name?).

While there is a prophecy that guides Percy in his quest I do not think I was ever given a really good reason as to why Olympus should be saved, except for that fact that Kronos is evil. Yet that evil is somewhat blunted as Kronos has half-bloods employed in his service and the whole utter annihilation of the gods and their offspring kind of does not work in that context.

The other thing with the ending is there is no real resolution. I have tried not to compare to the Potter series but Rowling crafted an ending that said to us the reader that this is over, they have triumphed and are now rewarded with ‘normal’ lives. You are given a glimpse of that world into the future. The open ending that Riordan provides where parts are wrapped up (Percy and Annabeth dating) and parts are left open ended (maybe another prophecy) was somewhat disappointing.  Let’s face it for most of us the big questions would be will Percy triumph and will Percy get the girl? With those answered did we need another prophecy?
Then there is the audiobook quality. I have been scathing about the performance of Jesse Bernstein in previous reviews and this one will be no exception. Some of the choices of voice characterisation really were appalling. I mean the voicing of Persephone, what was he thinking? It was probably the voicing that left me cold with the book as it was difficult to be engaged when Tyson sounded like a moron and Percy still sounded like an 11 year old. There was a lack of pacing, one minute Percy is speaking a hundred miles hour as danger surrounds him and the next someone is talking to him, slowly, real slow and it just brings all the tension out of the story.

It sounds like I really disliked the books. I did not. They are really wonderful series, very well crafted and Riordan has a world rich in imagination. 

The Return of the Solider – Rebecca West

This is a short novel and deals with a difficult theme, that of a soldier, Chris, who has returned from the war and is suffering post traumatic disorder. The story is told by his cousin Jenny as she relates to us Chris’s past life and his new imagined life.

The novel starts with death as Jenny and Chris’s wife Kitty are sitting in the nursery pining over the death of Kitty's first child Oliver. It is from this dark beginning that the novel moves into darker themes. Kitty is not portrayed with much kindness; she comes across as uncaring and at times quite bitchy. For Kitty though it is about social conventions, she continues the stiff English upper lip despite the impact it will have on her personally. Jenny is so enamoured with Chris that at times I thought she was the wife or had a secret crush on him. At the start of the story, Jenny is as stuck up as Kitty and both look down on the other woman, Margaret. Margaret is Chris’s former love and it is that simple time that he pines for.  Before war, before the death of his child, Chris wants to return to when life was uncomplicated and the future held promise.

This is an interesting story but I did struggle with elements of it.  West’s attempts just fail short for me in trying to explore themes of a soldier returning from war. Yet when you realise that this book was written in 1918 it is a bold effort.