The Last Olympian (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, #5) by Rick Riordan
"The Last Olympian" is the final book in the "Percy Jackson and the Olympians" series, and I feel that the series ended at the perfect point. The series went on long enough that it was fully fleshed out, but ended soon enough that I didn't get the feeling that Riordan was padding it or, with one relatively minor exception, had to spend extra pages writing himself out of a corner.
"The Last Olympian" opens a week before Percy's sixteenth birthday. Sally Jackson and Paul Blofis have gotten married, and the family is visiting Long Island. Percy has spent a lot of time with Rachel this summer, needing the escape from mythology (and that whole "end of the world" thing) that she provides. Paul has loaned Percy his Prius to drive up the beach. As Percy and Rachel park on an overlook, Rachel suggests that Percy should kiss her. He is rescued from this situation by a mission -- he and Beckendorf have to go blow up the Princess Andromeda.
We find out that there is a spy among the campers, and so Luke and the others aboard the Princess Andromeda knew that Percy and Beckendorf were coming. Beckendorf sacrifices his own life to blow up the ship and Percy returns to camp alone. While at camp, Percy finally hears the full Great Prophecy. He also gets a message from Tyson that Poseidon is fighting a separate war against the older forces of the sea and cannot be spared from that war to help the rest of the Olympians. Additionally, Percy finds out that Hephaestus was correct and the explosion under Mount St. Helens that Percy caused in "The Battle of the Labyrinth" did begin the process of waking Typhon up. The Titan is crossing the United States from Seattle on his way to Manhattan. The Mist causes mortals to see Typhon as a freak storm system.
As an aside, I reread this scene not too long after Superstorm Sandy hit New York. That was just a little eerie, all things considered. But Western Civilization did not fall, so either it wasn't Typhon, or the gods defeated him. Either way, it was kind of a relief.
Nico takes Percy to see Luke's mother, May Castellan, where, in one of the saddest scenes of the book, we find that May is seriously mentally ill, but that she has no one to help her. She goes back and forth between visions of the future and being trapped, mentally, in the past. This discovery goes a long way towards making sense out of Luke's anger. She tells the boys that she remembers giving Luke her blessing for some reason the last time she saw him. This cements in Nico's mind that he was right and that Luke's body was prepared to host Kronos by being dipped in the Styx.
After a run-in with Hades, who trades the name of Nico and Bianca's mother for a chance to talk to Percy (in this instance "talking" translates to locking Percy in a dungeon in hopes that Nico will end up being the child of the prophecy in another three years), Nico takes Percy for a dip in the Styx. He tells Percy that it is not a literal requirement for someone to hold onto a part of Percy's body. Any connection between a spot on his body and the world will do. Percy chooses a very small area of his back that will be covered by armor and he finds himself tying it to his thoughts of Annabeth.
Most of the action in this book takes place on Manhattan during the final days before Percy's birthday. The Ares campers are angry with other campers and refuse to help with the war. The remaining campers go to Manhattan. Since Kronos wants to destroy Olympus, he will bring the war there. When they arrive on Manhattan, they find that the entire island is asleep. Percy, Annabeth, and Grover visit Olympus and Percy convinces his dad to fight alongside the other Olympians.
The one weakness in this book, which I alluded to above, is the amount of exposition. We get quite a lot of backstory on other characters in this book. I can see why we needed to know the things that we find out, and, of course, the first-person approach that Riordan uses makes it kind of difficult for us to get this exposition any other way, but lumping it all together here may not have been the most effective approach.
On top of Riordan's usual strengths of plotting, action, and character development, one of the pluses of this book is that we finally get to know two of my own personal favorite goddesses. One is cast as a meddling mother-in-law, which was kind of a disappointment, but the other totally owned this book and that made me a very, very happy reader.