The House of Hades: Percy and Annabeth traverse the Underworld

The House of Hades by Rick Riordan children's fantasy book reviewsThe House of Hades by Rick Riordan Children's fantasy book reviewsThe 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.

Heroes of Olympus (5 Book Series) Kindle Edition by Rick Riordan

HEROES OF OLYMPUS

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!

Published in 2013. 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 from 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.

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REBECCA FISHER, with us since January 2008, earned a Masters degree in literature at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand. Her thesis included a comparison of how C.S. Lewis and Philip Pullman each use the idea of mankind’s Fall from Grace to structure the worldviews presented in their fantasy series. Rebecca is a firm believer that fantasy books written for children can be just as meaningful, well-written and enjoyable as those for adults, and in some cases, even more so. Rebecca lives in New Zealand. She is the winner of the 2015 Sir Julius Vogel Award for Best SFF Fan Writer.

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One comment

  1. 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.

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