The Immortal Fire (Cronus Chronicles), by Anne Ursu (June 2009, Simon and Schuster, 528 pp).
Twice before Charlotte and her cousin Zee have thwarted the evil supreme-diety-wanna-be Philonecron--once in the gloomy realm of Hades, and once on the high seas, on Posiden's private yacht. But Philonecron is back--and now he has Posiden's almighty Trident to back up his quest for Olympion domination. He just needs one last thing...
Undaunted by the havoc wrecked by the mythological creatures unleashed by Posiden's fall from power and Philonecron's machinations (like the chimera that sets fire to their school and carries Charlotte off to its den), the two mortal children head to Greece, to Mount Olympus itself, where they must face Zeus in all his glory (such as it is) and power (considerable), to stop Philonecron once and for all....
In the past two months, I've read all three of the books in the Chronus Chronicles*, and find them very entertaining--exuberantly over the top, but always a few steps away from utter farce. The Greek gods, for instance, are not treated kindly (Apollo is let off lightly, simply making a cameo appearance on roller skates. Others are not so lucky). Ursu has taken all the characer flaws that were in the original myths (lots of material to work with here) and run with them; at times this felt stretched a bit thin, but the real-lifeness of Charlotte and Zee, by way of contrast, refreshed the story.
The Immortal Fire suceeds in being a very entertaining book, but it is not subtle about it--Ursu is an archly present narrator. In some books, I don't like this, but here it works well to highlight the absurdity of the plot premise-- mortal children take down Greek gods--and the ridiculousness of the divinities, who are powerful overlords of creation simply because they have power.
I liked Charlotte and Zee quite a bit, and found it refreshing that they were not Chosen Ones, with a Great Destiny and Magical Gifts etc. (although the Fates may have been pulling strings behind the scenes). They have no arcane powers, and although they have some intelligence, they mostly get by on determination and loyalty.
This series might be the answer for those who are grieving for Percy Jackson and want more of the Greek gods. Or just a good read for any somewhat older middle school kid looking for humor and adventure. The page count might appear daunting, but this is a book with generous font size and line spacing, and so is a faster read than it might seem at first.
Here's my favorite quote:
"Will the mortal who freed the sacrificial cows please report to floor thirty? Mortal to floor thirty, please."
*Book 1 of The Chronus Chronicles is The Shadow Thieves, book 2 is The Siren Song.
Note of for those interested in diversity: Zee is half black, which the cover shows.
ARC received from the publisher.