Previous Installment: The Mark of Athena
NOTE: Summary contains major spoilers for The Mark of Athena!
At the conclusion of The Mark of Athena, Annabeth and Percy tumble into a pit leading straight to the Underworld. The other five demigods have to put aside their grief and follow Percy’s instructions to find the mortal side of the Doors of Death. If they can fight their way through the Gaea’s forces, and Percy and Annabeth can survive the House of Hades, then the Seven will be able to seal the Doors both sides and prevent the giants from raising Gaea. But, Leo wonders, if the Doors are sealed, how will Percy and Annabeth be able to escape?
They have no choice. If the demigods don’t succeed, Gaea’s armies will never die. They have no time. In about a month, the Romans will march on Camp Half-Blood. The stakes are higher than ever in this adventure that dives into the depths of Tartarus.
I’ve been sitting on this review for over a week now, trying to formulate my thoughts and get them to come out in this review in a coherent way. I’m not sure how well I’ve actually succeeded, so just want to give fair warning. When it comes to Rick Riordan’s books – particularly those involving Percy Jackson – I basically turn into a blubbering mess because I wind up absolutely adoring every single thing about the story he’s crafted. The House of Hades is no exception to this, and in some ways, blew my expectations completely out of the water. I was amazed at just how fantastic this fourth installment of the Heroes of Olympus series was, and the gibbering mess it left me in upon its completion. Be forewarned that, just like with The Mark of Athena, I have NOTHING bad to say about this book. In fact, my fangirling for the author and this series is going to shine through loud and clear. I hope you will forgive me that, and allow me to just blissfully blather on about it!
I want to commend Mr. Riordan for masterfully balancing seven different points of view in this book. Initially I was dreading Piper and Jason’s points of view because I have issues with both – Jason came across previously as a bit dull, particularly when compared to Percy’s wit and snark, and Piper seemed to do little but fawn over how amazing Jason was. I have to admit that with this book, I was happy to see a lot more of Jason, particularly the way he thought about himself, his father, and where he really belongs in terms of being Roman but feeling like a Greek. He was much less of a blank slate here than in The Lost Hero, because he was a Jason who remembered who he was and where he came from. I also adored the way he tried to befriend Nico and provide support for a character who I’ve always loved and hasn’t had the best time of it. Piper, likewise, was pretty darn badass in the few chapters she narrates, and I very much liked seeing that side of her. She’s so awesome when she isn’t thinking about Jason!
However, the main draw of this book for me was hands down Nico di Angelo and the way we got to meet him without ever reading a point of view from him. While I loved Percy’s chapters, and the fact that we weren’t left hanging after that terrible cliffhanger in the previous book, I just really loved that we got to see a side of Nico that’s been hidden from us since he was first introduced all the way back in The Titan’s Curse. The reader really got a chance to understand how this dark, sad son of Hades works, and why he is the way he is. Let me just say that my heart absolutely breaks for him and all he’s been through, from being born in 1930s Italy to losing the only person he felt ever cared about him. In the end I completely agree with Jason’s assessment that what Nico does is far braver than perhaps anything anyone else does in these books, and I just really applaud Mr. Riordan for fleshing Nico out and making him real, flaws and all. I am desperately hoping that Nico will get some kind of happily-ever-after because no one deserves it more.
I do want to give a heads-up that this book is decidedly darker than its predecessors. Not only are the demigods encountering more dangers, but the characters themselves – particularly Percy – are demonstrating darker sides to themselves as well. All of the children of the Big 3 – Nico, Hazel, Percy and Jason – have moments where their powers and abilities are truly terrifying, and it just sort of makes you realize how amazing they can be, in good and bad ways. I like that we’re not just seeing the gloss and shine, but the grit and darkness underneath them; it really helps fully draw them out so readers get to know them and feel all the more connected to them and their stories.
Other things I loved: getting to see characters from the Percy Jackson & the Olympians series; Reyna being AMAZINGLY awesome; Rachel and her blue hairbrush; the intriguing story line with Leo and his new crush (and Leo in general, who continues to be awesome); Hazel learning to control the Mist; Frank’s quip about loading Octavian into a catapult. Seriously, there is not a single thing I didn’t like or at least appreciate, and I can’t even imagine what that means for the final book in the series! It will probably kill me or at least render me catatonic with its awesomeness.
All in all, The House of Hades is a beyond-astounding sequel to The Mark of Athena, and a wonderful continuation of the series. Every single character experiences some sort of growth, some sort of development, and they all wind up holding a special place in the reader’s heart. Nico especially is someone absolutely special, and I wait extremely impatiently to see how his story is going to turn out. It’s going to be a very long wait until The Blood of Olympus is released in October 2014. Please, Mr. Riordan, don’t break my heart!