Monday, November 4, 2013

Book Review: The House of Hades by Rick Riordan

Retellings are fascinating--there's no way around it. I mean, taking something old and metamorphosing it into something of yours? It gives us a completely different way of seeing things, like that optical illusion of the pretty young girl/old grandma. It's mind blowing! Rick Riordan's "The Heroes of Olympus" series, as I'm sure everyone knows, takes the gods and heroes of the traditional Greek myths and gives it a modern twist tailored for readers today. "The House of Hades" is the fourth installment to the series, and was released just last month! I'm pretty sure it flew off the bookshelves in no time--there's a reason Percy Jackson is such a big name!

Ever since Percy and Annabeth plummeted into the pits of the Underworld, things haven't been looking good for the demigods. The Greeks and the Romans are gearing up for war against each other, and Gaea's monstrous armies continue to rise. Jason, Piper, Hazel, Frank and Leo have to find the mortal side of the Doors of Death and help Percy and Annabeth out of the Underworld, if, that is, they survive the horrors of Tartarus. The clock is ticking for the prophesied Seven--or it might be too late before the giants free Gaea and the world is plunged into the biggest war in millennia.

It's always exciting to see the demigods of Camp Half-Blood again in a way that's like meeting up with friends you haven't seen in ages. I think it comes from the fact that you bond with the characters in a way that's only possible after being with them for eight years--which is precisely how long a lot of readers have spent with Percy Jackson! In "The House of Hades", I loved the development of Percy and Annabeth's relationship as they traversed the pits of Tartarus. You really see them grow more as a couple than individuals in this part of the series, and it's so heartening to see how committed they are to each other despite the crazy amount of hellish (literally!) obstacles they face. There are so many sweet moments--as sweet as being in the gruesome Underworld can get--that really remind readers of how young they actually are, yet there are also moments when you see that their relationship transcends the normal relationships of mortal teens in both depth and maturity. I've always been a huge Percy and Annabeth fan (Pernabeth? Anncy?), and this certainly satisfied my mulish insistence on some sort of romance in books.

The newer demigods are equally as awesome to be with in the series. While they're all part of a team against the dark forces (cue ominous music here), what's really interesting to read about are their individual issues that they struggle with. For example, Hazel knows that she has to face some adversary witch in front of the Doors of Death, and that if she fails, Percy and Annabeth may be stuck in Tartarus forever. She also has to deal with the fact that her father is Pluto, though he's hardly been around for her--oh yeah, not to mention the fact that she's from history! Talk about issues. Another character I liked following throughout the book was Frank, who undergoes a huge amount of development, more so than any other character in "The House of Hades". He really matures as he embraces his responsibility and role as a son of Ares/Mars, but it's also endearing to see him struggle with these changes, since he started off as a pudgy Asian kid who could change into animals. On the flip side of the coin, I have to admit I wasn't really feeling Jason's character. I felt like he was kind of pushed to the side a little, and he ended up as more of a passive, stock character than anything.

As for the plot of "The House of Hades", it remained interesting and fun throughout, which I think was especially helped by the multi-perspective points of view. However, while quite a lot happened to the demigods, both in the mortal world and in Tartarus, I felt like it wasn't as compelling as it could've been. I got the impression that the book as a whole is kind of a filler or detour before the final climax of the series, especially the portions where we followed the other five demigods. I get that the entire point of these crazy heroic journeys and quests is to go from one place to another, and face different foes and overcome different obstacles, but I feel like if Mr. Riordan had condensed it a little more and got to the point a tad more quickly, it would've been much more gripping.

All in all, "The House of Hades" is a great fourth installment to "The Heroes of Olympus" series, with a lot of exciting character development both in individual and in relationships. I can't wait to get my hands on the fifth book, "The Blood of Olympus" (talk about an ominous title), though it's absolutely killing me that I have to wait a whole year for it!

Rating: 3.5/5

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