Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The House of Hades (Rick Riordan)

Ah, the fourth book in the Heroes of Olympus series. So nice to see you after a few months off. In my earlier reviews of Rick Riordan's latest Greek myth stories, I noted my weariness of his tropes. I was worried about reading book four, The House of Hades, for fear that I would burn myself out on what is a fairy well-crafted universe because of how formulaic the author is. I am happy to say, then, that the newest book in this series defied my expectations--Riordan navigates new waters with his characters, and dang if the results aren't interesting and captivating!

When we left our cast in The Mark of Athena, Annabeth had just recovered the magical, giant statue of Athena and she and Percy had fallen into Tartarus. It was, I admit, a great cliffhanger. And it finally allows the narrative some room to breathe! Thank goodness. Percy and Annabeth make everyone else promise to meet them on the mortal side of the Doors of Death, and the quest begins.

One of the reasons this book is so great is because we get a lot of Percy/Annabeth-only time. Clearly, this is what the people want, and Riordan doesn't fail to deliver in spades. There are tons of great moments between the two of them, with Percy delivering his trademark (actually funny!) humor. Oh, and Bob, the Titan whose memory Percy erased once upon a time, joins them on their trip through Tartarus. Bob is a really fun character. Sometimes he made me really sad. In a good way.

I care less about the other five characters on the quest--Jason and Piper are pretty boring people, as is Frank; Leo aggravates me more often than he amuses me, but Hazel's pretty interesting. The House of Hades is a great book for character development, though--Hazel learns how to control the Mist, which is a fascinating concept, and Leo has a whole episode that convinced me to like him (and then it broke my heart). Nico di Angelo also goes through a moment of really sad, really great character development, and I think his moment most of all is going to be what sticks with me until the next book comes out. No spoilers, of course. But the revelation about Nico is definitely the best part of the book.

The quest, too, is more interesting than previous volumes. The first three novels in this series feature a very rigid adventure structure that seriously wore on me (quest proposed, arbitrary solstice/feast date assigned as deadline, random monsters and prophetic dreams, conclusion that fulfills quest but only just in time), but the dual questing (that is, two parties going for the same goal from opposite ends) mixed with actually interesting battle scenes proved to be a winning combination in this book.

The novel isn't without flaws, obviously. Annabeth is still remarkably swoony for a girl who I cherished in my heart for being so no-nonsense. Piper and Jason are dull to read about; they're weak characters and really drag down the narrative whenever they appear. There are times when the book takes itself a little too seriously, where the author gets caught up in demonstrating just how epic everything about his book is. It's a goofy kid's series about Greek mythology, or have we gotten too far beyond that point to look back?

Nonetheless, The House of Hades marks a serious improvement in terms of characterization and plot. I was very impressed with the quality of the narrative's construction (though the writing is clunky as usual). Obviously read it if you've already read books one through three, and if you got discouraged, keep going because this book is worth it.

My rating: 4/5
The House of Hades on Goodreads
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