by Rick Riordan
Book Four in the Heroes of Olympus series, following The Lost Hero, The Son of Neptune and The Mark of Athena.
It is set in the same universe as the Percy Jackson series and The Kane Chronicles.
This review contains spoilers for previous books in the series.
At the end of The Mark of Athena, Percy and Annabeth were cast into the Underworld. In order to return to the world of the living, they must make their way to the Doors of Death. Through this one portal, Percy and Annabeth can return to the mortal world. If not, they are stuck in the Underworld forever. But the demigods have also been charged with the task of sealing the Doors of Death, since right now monsters and defeated enemies can cross the threshold between worlds at will. It’s a race against time: Percy and Annabeth must reach the doors and escape before Nico, Jason, Leo, Piper, Frank and Hazel seal the Doors permanently.
I like Rick Riordan, I really do, but there are just too many narrators in this series. Of the eight main characters, only Nico’s perspective remains unexplored, so the story is constantly jumping around seven sets of eyes and ears. It’s too much. As a result, the story feels choppy. I have to admit that given how many characters there are – not just the narrating demigods but the countless side characters both old and new – it’s amazing Riordan is able to handle everything as smoothly as he does, but I really pine for the good ol’ days when the whole story was told through the eyes of Percy Jackson.
A lot of old, familiar faces pop up. In the Underworld, Percy and Annabeth fight off his old nemesis Kelli the Empousai and join forces with the reformed Titan Iapetus, whose memories have been washed away by the Lethe. Above ground, Calypso makes an appearance when Leo accidentally crash lands on her island. It’s fun to see these guys again, even if just in brief cameos. It somehow helps bring order to the chaos of the stories by tying events back to earlier scenes in the series.
I have to give these books credit – for all the non-stop action and adventure, they’re also a wee bit educational. Every time I read one of Riordan’s books, I learn about new mythological characters from the Greek and Roman pantheon. I mean, I’m no expert, but thanks to years of art history I’m pretty well versed in the legends of the ancient world. It’s always exciting to stumble across something new.
Oh, I almost forgot! In keeping with his goal to increase diversity in his stories, Riordan introduced his first gay character. I won’t spoil who it is, but it’s nice to see that Riordan used an established character instead of shoehorning in an unnecessary token character. I know some people will wish he was more “loud and proud” about his sexuality, but given this character’s upbringing and personal history, I thought this was a very subtle and realistic portrayal that brought another layer of depth to him.
One more book to go. I can’t believe this series is almost over!
(But is it really over? Naw. I’m sure Riordan will keep crankin’ them out as long as they keep making money.)
4 out of 5 stars
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Peeking into the archives...today in:
2013: The Street of a Thousand Blossoms by Gail Tsukiyama
2012: Flavorwire: 10 Literary Authors Who Illustrated Their Own Work
2011: The Shakespeare Thefts: In Search of the First Folios by Eric Rasmussen
2010: Dr. Horrible by Zack Whedon
2009: Cleopatra’s Daughter by Michelle Moran
2008: RuneWarriors by James Jennewein, Tom S. Parker