Sunday, 3 November 2013

Review: House of Hades by Rick Riordan

The House of Hades is the fourth book in The Heroes of Olympus series--and I think it might be my favourite. Written again in typical Heroes of Olympus style of alternating narratives, this story is the continuation of the prophesied seven demigods and their fight against the psychotic and murderous Gaea.

Picking up where The Mark of Athena left off, Annabeth and Percy are stuck in the underworld and must somehow survive long enough to close the doors of death and thereby stop Gaea's massive armies from proceeding into the world above. Meanwhile, Jason, Leo, Piper, Frank and Hazel must reach the other side of the doors of death.

Being a huge fan of the Percy Jackson & The Olympians series, I was thrilled at the amount of time dedicated to Percy and Annabeth. Their adventure through Tartarus is dangerous, deadly, and most of all, thrilling and did I mention amazing? 

We get to meet up with old monsters that have been defeated, old friends, and new friends. HoH has its share of new and exciting mythology, including my personal favourite, the personification of Tartarus himself. I really hope that this series will get onto the big screen because I would LOVE to see that final battle.

While Gaea is certainly waging a more terrifying war and she's more creepy than Kronos in that whispering, motherly, psychotic voice, but I'm still not convinced she's as evil as Kronos. She just doesn't FEEL as dangerous. Kronos was pure power, so it's an interesting comparison between the two villains from Riordan. I suppose we'll see how truly dangerous and deadly Gaea is in the next book when she will obviously make a grand appearance. I always saw Gaea as good in the myths, which might be behind my inability to really see her as terrifying.

The story is wonderfully stressful. I was so keyed up reading this book, desperate to know more and see what will happen next--this has to be the most exciting book of the series so far. It's all leading up to the final book of the series, which is guaranteed to be simply spectacular. Everything Riordan does is spectacular.

I do have a grudging criticism. Gaea managed to take away Percy's curse of Achilles--a curse that should have been unremovable, as Homer tells us and as Achilles himself tells us in The Last Olympian. Obviously taking away his curse was necessary for Riordan's plot and I won't pretend to know why or to know more than Riordan, but come on... we couldn't work around the curse? I feel like Percy's lack of heroics and powers was disappointing. He was so powerful with his godly powers without the invulnerability and extra speed, accuracy, etc. He just felt...weaker. It seems to me that as time passed, he should be even stronger now.

A more minor point--does Hades not have any idea that Percy Jackson is running around his realm? Does he really just not care? He hates Percy... I'd have thought he would have wanted to put in his two cents.

Rick Riordan is as talented as the great JK Rowling and I wish he received more attention in Canada.  His knowledge of Greek and Roman mythology, and more than that, his ability to write dialogue for the monsters, gods, and other mythological figures without sounding cheesy is outstanding.  He does his research. All of Riordan's books--The Olympians, The Heroes of Olympus, and The Kane Chronicles--are well-written, exciting, and also educational. Whether young readers know it or not, they will walk away knowing something about Greek/Roman mythology.

He is also my hero for throwing a twist in the characterization of Nico. [[BEWARE SPOILER]] The reason that Nico is bitter, short, and rude towards Percy and to his friends? Nico has/had a crush on Percy and obviously his feelings are unreturned. I love the humanity attributed to Nico! Moreover, Riordan just slipped this little detail in and moved on with the plot without making his sexual orientation a big deal and without making it a game-changer. It's a notable characteristic, but it's not everything he is. So not only does Riordan's stories make children with ADHD, dyslexia, single-parent children, orphans, or just kids who are different, feel like they too can be heroes, Riordan also makes one of his heroes gay. Riordan teaches his readers that anyone can be a hero. Anyone.

I also LOVE this cover and how it represents the struggle of journeying through the underworld. It's just so dark, fiery, dangerous and mysterious.

House of Hades is a powerful read and a nail-biting, thrilling ride into the deepest pits of the underworld. A war is about to break out as the prophecy of seven finally comes to light.

The really sad part? We have to wait until fall 2014 for the thrilling conclusion, The Blood of Olympus.

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