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Battle of the Books

Round 2 Match 2: The Last Olympian vs The Lost Conspiracy

The Last Olympian
by Rick Riordan
Hyperion Press
The Lost Conspiracy
by Frances Hardinge

Judged by Angela Johnson

Okay, I have to admit I didn’t have a stellar beginning with all of this. Sometimes I actually wonder how I get myself into these predicaments. I don’t of course mean the fun predicament of reading books and picking my favorite. I mean my ongoing predicament in not reading enough divergent literature genres. I do have problems getting comfortable with dystopic literature. Yes, I’m one of those. I usually only read contemporary fiction.

Well I try—I swear, to read the urban fantasies my niece leaves on the couch. I try to get into the sci-fi and adventure books kids tell me I should be reading. I used to read more non-fiction . . . I’m stubborn (yeah right) and find it difficult to get out of my book rut. So at the start I held my breath and imagined I wouldn’t have to put my toes in too deep off my usual reading pool. I’m not proud of it, mind you. I’m not adventurous by nature, or did you already guess that?

But I must say The Last Olympian was an easy thrill ride. There was not one time that I was confused by plot or anything that came before in the previous books (which I’d never read). I giggled and laughed out loud while rudely reading it instead of talking to my house guests. I loved Percy and his hero as teen– knowing winged creatures indeed will appear out of nowhere and you just have to deal with it because it is your destiny. Or is it? I cheered because those mythological Gods weren’t really myths in Percy’s reality. I was ecstatic that I remembered so much from my Greek Mythology class and was almost breathless from the action; though I needed a bit of a break from it sometimes. Rick Riordan has done an amazing job of balancing contemporary teen as a heroic adventurer demi-god who you could actually believe in—and have fun doing it.

I will definitely read the first four books.

Conversely, when I began reading The Lost Conspiracy I realized I was in trouble. I was lost—seriously lost. I had to work at this book. There were so many layers of myth and history pertaining to the Lace. For some reason—I couldn’t keep the names straight. I’d forget the relationships and my mind would wander—just like a Lost. Not unusual (It took me a year to read the first Harry Potter book.) Of course I was worried, I promised to do this—there are brackets to be maintained.

Miraculously— one morning at around 3:00 a.m. after the Lace village had been destroyed and Hathin was dragging her helpless sister toward the unknown– I was there with her; bone tired,bruised, scared witless for someone I loved but heading into the unknown anyway. Hathin became the classic hero to me because she would not necessarily be the classic hero of everyone’s imagination.

She couldn’t stomach violence, even though her people were revengers. She sublimated most of her life to her sister Arilou to the point that she was almost invisible to some; but when the time came to leave her sister to someone else’s ministrations—she was angrily hurt. Hathin had to find her place in the world and she didn’t even realize she was doing just that.

The Lost Conspiracy tells the history of an unjust world where Indigenous people are wiped out, shadow governments loom, cultural injustices, the lunacy of only revering the past even if it annihilates the present and future. But Frances Hardinge also peppers her narrative with humor. (Tomki repeatedly singing obnoxious songs outside of bars hoping someone will come out and hit him so he can revenge them and hang out with the woman he loves.) And I must say the anamorphic like volcanos are quite amazing. I don’t believe I’ve ever read a book where a volcano had as much personality as a human.

The Last Olympian was fun. It was an easy read that I thoroughly enjoyed. But ultimately, I chose The Lost Conspiracy because it dragged me along, reluctantly at first, then captured me.

Angela Johnson

The Winner of Round 2 Match 2 Is…

The Battle of the Fantasy Books moves into the second round!  I should probably chide Angela for choosing the challenging book over the popular one, but . . . um, I actually agree.  THE LAST OLYMPIAN was the most popular book of the year at my school, more popular even than CATCHING FIRE and WHEN YOU REACH ME.  THE LOST CONSPIRACY, on the other hand, was my own personal favorite.  Both Helen and Angela found themselves lost in the beginning of THE LOST CONSPIRACY, but I had a completely different experience.  I took to this book like a fish to water and was hooked from the very first sentence, both by the cleverness of the fantasy concepts and the awesomeness of the sentence level writing—It was a burnished, cloudless day with a tug-of-war wind, a fine day for flying.  And so Raglan Skein left his body neatly laid out on his bed, its breath as slow as sea swell, and took to the sky.

— Commentator Jonathan Hunt


  1. The Lost Conspiracy is a very difficult book to get into. But once you do, it’s so much more rewarding. You pick the right one, Angela! Besides, I have a strong feeling The Last Olympian will be back from the grave.

  2. Angela, you wound me. I am Lost and not in a good way…I am re-reading this one and having a hard time getting back into it. But, I’m finding it’s a good one to re-read because the writing is detailed and you can discover new things. I am also re-discovering passages I’d marked. Hmm, well, I still hope TLO comes back from the grave but I must say, the more I think it about it,the more I understand the choice here…

  3. Best. Decision. Ever. And considering how poorly I predict these things, a huge relief too.

  4. Just a minor point–don’t know if I agree w/ Angela or not, since I haven’t read this one yet (but am going to soon!!!)–but I guess I’m wishing the judges could be a little more coy about which book is going to win when they’re describing which book they chose. Does a judge have to start w/ a description of the losing book every time? It makes it kind of obvious. Can we have a little more tension in the judges’ statements, especially in those cases when the decision is the most difficult?

    Again, just a minor thing. I just like not knowing which book won by the end of the 2nd or 3rd paragraph (and sometimes sooner).

  5. Unlike Kris I scroll to the end to see who wins BEFORE I read the reasons. (Yes, I sometimes read the last page of a novel first, so sue me!)

    I haven’t read either of these books, but Angela has now convinced that I need to give both of them a chance.

  6. I also scroll to the end and then go back (no patience) though I do not read the last page of a novel first. I actually sometimes cover the right-hand page of a book with my hand while reading the left if the scene is tense, to prevent my excited eye from jumping over and reading ahead.

  7. Miriam, that is so funny (your right hand protecting you from your excited eye)!
    I definitely look to see which book won before I read the commentary.
    So–yay, Angela! It’s reassuring to see that another judge also found that The Lost Conspiracy expects effort and deep engagement on the part of the reader, and then rewards it. (I also love those first two sentences that Jonathan quotes.)
    This is getting fun. I feel like we’re all in a room talking together–I’m having a hard time limiting the conversation to these sixteen books. (Angela, have you read Once Was Lost? Miss Rumphius, it’s almost April again–how are you celebrating National Poetry Month?)
    And, Fuse #8: YES! Team LoCo forges on!

  8. Gary Schmidt did not, alas poor Marcelo, talk his loosing book first.

    I also struggle with Fantasies where the reader is dropped right into a fully realized world. I approach these readings with the understanding that it will require the learning of new geography, historical context, social norms, proper nouns, not to mention absorbing supernatural abilities and the author-imposed rules that accompany them. Being a bit Dyslexic I am used to the feeling of frustration of not always getting things the first time through. With TLC, I knew going in, that this book would be a commitment. Like our judge it took a good hundred pages for me to feel fully engaged with Hathin’s world. But once there, my heart was firmly invested in the Lace campaign.
    LoCo go forth and conquer.

  9. Now for something silly. Have you noticed that the winners are completely symmetrical in the Brackets chart? It went Left Left for the first two matches, and in the match where those two battled, the Left title won.

    The next two matches went Right Right — and in their meeting, the title on the Right won.

    In round one, then it went Right Right Left Left. So if the pattern continues, the winners will be A Season of Gifts vs. The Storm in the Barn. Hmm. It could happen.

    I told you it was silly!

  10. Battle Commander says:

    Sondy, I noticed this too. How far it will go I cannot say!

  11. Even though I sadly missed a bunch of these books last year, I’m really digging the judges’ discussion points. I think M.T. wins the prize with yesterday’s write-up… seriously, that was some brilliance. And I was not a huge fan of Octavian Nothing, mind you. (Sorry, Mr. Anderson)

    I’m almost enjoying this more than that OTHER March Madness. The upsets have been so exhilarating! I see Lost Conspiracy as a Northern Iowa/Butler type, pulling off the stunner against the Kansas/Syracuse heavyweight (Last Olympian). How will LoCo fare against Charles and Emma (a West Virginia if ever there was one)? Should be fun!

    Last but not least, (WARNING: shamelessly starstruck babbling set to commence) Helen! Not only are you and your books truly stellar, but you worked with my mom in Northwest Schools for their Mentor program! As a Grabill native, it is pretty exciting to see a really awesome author coming from my neck of the woods. Go TinCaps!

  12. Like Kris, I made the same realization, that most talk about the losing books first!

    I definitely agree with this winner. While I was a rabid PJO fan from the beginning, I never felt like the writing was stellar (my apologies to Mr. Riordan, if he’s reading this!) even as the plot was very good.

    The Lost Conspiracy, on the other hand, was totally riveting, and great on its own; I’m glad to see a fantastic stand-alone book do so well, they seem to be a dying breed. And the writing… the idea behind it… the similarities to some injustices in our world even today… excellent choice, Judge Johnson!

  13. awww, hi Sam. Hi, Sam’s mom, and her great students. TinCaps. For real.

  14. So if Helen Frost and Angela Johnson both pick The Lost Conspiracy, even after less than promising starts, I’m guessing (and hoping) that Megan Whalen Turner, who’s pretty big on the “layers of myth and history” and books that you have to work at herself, will send it right through to the finals (where it belongs). Or not, since most of my guesses so far have been wrong.

  15. I started reading the Lost Conspiracy when I read the initial list of books. I thought it was a conspiracy — I was completely lost and confused. Then it made the first round. Ugh. That it made the second round forced me to continue reading the book that I brought with me half way cross the country to PLA. So I continued reading on the plane home and am glad I did. That it took me 250 pages could very well be a reflection of the reader not the book. Thanks for bringing this book to my attention.

  16. The Lost Conspiracy sat on my TBR shelf for several weeks before I shook my head regretfully and returned it to the library. And here’s me, a dedicated fantasy reader! I couldn’t see myself spending 550 pages of reading on one book, at least not during the school year… but I am slowly drawn back to it. Looking forward to it this summer.


  1. […] Then again, this book is so well-done, it might have won me over anyway.  It certainly won over Judge Angela Johnson in Round 2, who admits to mostly reading contemporary fiction and that reading the first Harry Potter book […]

  2. […] Books. This one has won two matches so far. (Lips Touch Three Times vs. The Lost Conspiracy. The Last Olympian vs. The Lost Conspiracy) The judges were Helen Frost and Angela Johnson. I’m about halfway through and I must admit I […]

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