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Jason and the Gorgon’s Blood (Before They Were Heroes) Paperback – 9 Sep 2011
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Before they were heroes...The second title in the fun and exciting series created by award-winning authors Jane Yolen and Robert J. Harris. Jason and the Gorgon's Blood is an adventure story from beginning to end, portraying the dramatic events that transform a boy into a legend.See all Product description
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Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
Right from the start we get to the heart of the conflict that runs through the book, two of Chiron's students are princes (Acastus and Admetus), Idas and his brother Lynceus (long sight) , Melampus of Pylos (reputation as a seer, naturally) set off arguing about who is in charge and with Acastus trying to shirk his part of the task, playing on his princely origins...what's clear is that each is a bit full of himself (except Jason, of course), thinks little of Jason, and that Acastus above all of them is scornful, spoiled, shallow, and arrogant beyond belief. Each of the boys has faults, but it's clear that this tale is meant to focus on the building conflict between Jason (true heir of Iolcus) and Acastus raised from birth as the Prince of same. The arguing boys are nearly done in by centaurs they encounter, but thankfully they become distracted and leave the boys relatively unharmed. The truth behind this initial contact is made clear when the group returns to Chiron's cave and find him bloody and beaten, near death.
These young men almost immediately set out on a journey to stop the centaur's evil plot to kill all the humans using Gorgon's blood that Chiron was safekeeping. Before leaving on the journey, Chiron tells Jason the truth about who he is, which turns out to be a central conflict as the story progresses. Jason leads this unruly band of adventurers over the mountains, encountering Hera's wrath, harpies, and an army of centaurs...but most importantly the very real human element conflict within themselves and with each other as each vies for the power and glory of leading (the struggle for "right" to lead and "ability" is nearly constant here) in the end, each finds growth as individuals by learning to use one another's strengths and working together toward a mutual goal of saving human kind from the wrath of the centaurs.
Overall, this is a fast-paced, romping good adventure, worthy of being the predecessor of the Argonauts where these boys must rely on skill, cunning and the favor of the Gods to achieve success in their task. The drama is heart-felt and poignant (in places) and the dangers believable, I give it an A+...there is humor and drama in the conflict between Jason and Acastus...but also growth and respect in the end...certainly, both of these boys walk away from the adventure with a new respect for themselves and each other...but the same can also be said of all the adventurers in this tale. The die is cast for the adventures yet to come (with brief appearance of Argo in a humorous look at his future) and we enjoy a brief look at what might have been for Jason and his youthful adventures. I for one certainly hope that Yolen & Harris write more for the Young Heroes series, truly enjoyable!
Jason and a bunch of other boys are apprenticed to the wise old centaur Chiron. One day a bit of misbehavior gets them all sent on an errand, only to return to find that Chiron has been beaten almost to death -- and two mysterious jars have been stolen from him. He reveals to Jason that the jars hold the Gorgon's blood; one can cure anything, even raise the dead, and the other is a potent poison. He also reveals that Jason is the rightful heir to the city of Iolcus, which fellow apprentice Acastus is prince of.
Now a horde of nasty centaurs have stolen them, and it's up to Jason and his fellow apprentices to find the jars before Iolcus is destroyed. But the boys don't know enough about the dangers ahead of them: harpies, angry goddesses... and Acastus himself, secretly plotting to kill Jason. Jason has to somehow whip the boys into a cooperative team, before the army of centaurs can use the Gorgon's blood for themselves.
The Young Heroes series is an interesting idea in itself -- Greek heroes and heroines shown as uncertain teens. And Jason's gradual journey is a solid, pulse-pounding one, hinting at his future adventures with the Argonauts. It has the basics of the other books -- god cameos, monsters, hints of the adult lives of the heroes -- but somehow it's a bit smoother this time around.
Yolen and Harris's writing is detailed and fast-moving. There are a few nuggets of humor thrown in, but overall the tone tends to be grim. And of course, Greek mythology buffs will be delighted by the cameos by such characters as harpies, Chiron the centaur, Argos the shipwright and Alcestis (who makes an appearance in some myths about Hercules).
The relationship between Acastus and Jason is excellent. Jason is struggling both to keep himself alive and to be a leader, knowing that Acastus wants him dead. Acastus, on the other hand, grows from being a brat prince to being a conflicted young man who respects Jason. That theme of gradual friendship under fire is freshly written.
"Jason and the Gorgon's Blood" is an intense, intriguing look at the early life of one of the greatest Greek heroes of legend. An excellent read.