Heroes of Olympus: The Mark of Athena by Rick Riordan
This is the third book in the five-part HEROES OF OLYMPUS series by Rick Riordan, and as the title would imply, it focuses on Annabeth Chase: daughter of Athena. Though it suffers a little from middle book syndrome, with nothing started and nothing finished, Riordan makes sure that Annabeth’s quest remains the key focus of the book, letting it drive the course of the otherwise sprawling narrative.
The seven heroes of the prophecy have been assembled: Percy, Annabeth, Leo, Hazel, Frank, Piper and Jason; all of whom have a vital part to play in the defeat of the goddess Gaea, who has been awakening both giants and the dead in her bid to destroy the Olympian gods.
As it happens, the Roman gods are also at risk thanks to the meddling of Hera/Juno, with the various deities in a chaotic state of flux as they shift uncontrollably between their Greek and Roman incarnations. The students of New Rome and Camp Half-Blood have to work together in order to find the legendary lost Athena Parthenos and rescue their friend Nico di Angelo, a son of Hades who may have important information about the coming war.
In this they are guided by a prophecy that seems to pertain particularly to Annabeth:
Wisdom’s daughter walks alone,
The Mark of Athena burns through Rome.
Twins snuff out the angel’s breath,
Who holds the key to endless death.
Giants’ bane stands gold and pale,
Won through pain from a woven jail.
I’m always surprised by just how thick these books are — they are easily twice the length of the original PERCY JACKSON books and the different points-of-view number four this time around, with chapters alternating between Annabeth, Leo, Piper and Percy — each with their own little subplots and side-quests.
Needless to say, the narrative can get a bit cluttered at times, and for the first time in reading one of his books I got the impression that maybe Rick Riordan had bitten off more than he could chew. The plot occasionally feels a bit strained, with more padding and a few solutions to problems that don’t feel as ingenious as they usually are.
But his droll sense of writing style is still intact, with lines such as: “Percy had absolutely no desire to find out what was making that sound, so he figured that must be the way to go,” and: “The wooden beams were too narrow to walk on unless Annabeth was an acrobat, which she wasn’t, and didn’t have a broken ankle, which she did.”
As usual, the most enjoyable aspect of the book is Riordan’s contemporary updates on Greek and Roman mythology. Though the Percy Jackson books as a whole can serve as a primer for those new to the old stories, familiarization with the legendary gods and heroes ensures that half the fun of reading is anticipating what twists Riordan has in store for them. For example, here we meet Hercules for the first time — who among other things — hates all the bad movie adaptations of his life. (And it’s true — has there ever been a good Hercules film?)
The Mark of Athena is ostensibly meant to be about Annabeth, and though she initially gets lost in the shuffle there are some good insights into her character, and the cliff-hanging conclusion rightfully hinges on her.
The paperback copy of the book also contains a short-story in which Annabeth meets Sadie Kane, a heroine of Riordan’s other series THE KANE CHRONICLES, which deals with Egyptian rather than Greek gods. It’s unclear when exactly the story takes place (before or after this book?) and contains a few spoilers for THE KANE CHRONICLES, but does provide some hints as to what Riordan’s next series might involve…
The Heroes of Olympus — (2010-2014) Ages 9-12. Sequel to Percy Jackson and the Olympians. Publisher: After saving Olympus from the evil Titan lord, Kronos, Percy and friends have rebuilt their beloved Camp Half-Blood, where the next generation of demigods must now prepare for a chilling prophecy of their own: Seven half-bloods shall answer the call, To storm or fire the world must fall. An oath to keep with a final breath, And foes bear arms to the Doors of Death. Now, in a brand-new series from blockbuster best-selling author Rick Riordan, fans return to the world of Camp Half-Blood. Here, a new group of heroes will inherit a quest. But to survive the journey, they’ll need the help of some familiar demigods.
I’ve got to clear out some reading time so that I can get to these books, because all I keep hearing about is how good they are.