The House of Hades by Rick Riordan
It’s been nearly two years since I read the last book in Rick Riordan‘s five-part THE HEROES OF OLYMPUS series — not because I wasn’t enjoying it; I simply got swamped by my never-ending To Be Read pile. But I’m back, and eager to finish what I started!
The House of Hades is the fourth book in the series, following on with the overarching story of seven young heroes working together to combat the rising power of Gaia, the ancient and bloodthirsty Earth Goddess intent on releasing her giant offspring into the human world. They have a prophecy to guide them but deadline to meet — and at the conclusion of the last book, The Mark of Athena, two of them fell into Tartarus with only a slim chance of survival.
With only each other and their wits to rely on, Percy and Annabeth make the dangerous journey across the Underworld to the Doors of Death, their only possible escape route. Meanwhile, Leo, Frank, Hazel, Piper and Nico chose to forego their original mission to return the Athena Parthenos statue (retrieved at the end of The Mark of Athena) to Camp Half Blood, in favour of mounting a rescue mission to save their friends. This involves sailing the Argo II to the other side of the Doors of Death, a mission fraught with its own set of dangers.
The House of Hades isn’t the strongest installation in the series; it’s divided into the two plots described above, and as such feels a little more formulaic than usual. Like Frodo and Sam traversing Mordor, Percy and Annabeth’s ordeal in Tartarus is grim and arduous, whilst the rest of the teens are caught in a repetitive cycle of coming up against an obstacle from Greek/Roman mythology and finding a swift way to defeat it before moving onto the next one, gradually inching closer to their destination.
That the main point of the book is to save Percy and Annabeth (rather than a continuation of the quest to return the Athena statue to its rightful home) makes it more of a “filler” instalment than its predecessors. However, there’s a fair bit of character development (especially for Frank), a few important subplots (mostly involving Reyna from Camp Jupiter) and at least one surprising revelation concerning Nico di Angelo.
Although Riordan’s narration feels a little unwieldy considering the sheer amount of characters that get point-of-view chapters (seven in all; constantly shifting from one to the other) I appreciated the way he touched on a major theme of Greek mythology: that as well as great feats, legendary heroes also left plenty of chaos and destruction in their wake. For the first time Percy and his companions are brought face-to-face with the consequences of their previous exploits, and it’s not always an easy reality to confront.
So though The House of Hades is one of the weaker books in the five-part series, it’s still an essential part of the story, preparing several plot-developments that’ll no doubt pay off in the grand finale: The Blood of Olympus. I’m sorry it’s taken me this long to catch up with Percy Jackson’s latest adventure, but it’s good to be back!
I didn’t know he had chosen the mythological avatar of the feminine principle to be his big villain. That’s disappointing.
I’ve never been able to get into these, but I know younger readers still love them because they fly off the shelves at the bookstore.