SPOILER ALERT: If you haven’t read The Mark of Athena as yet, please don’t go any further.
Rated it: ★★★★★
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 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.
Okay. I don’t know what exactly to say (oh but I do), other than that events have certainly heated up, so to speak. The House of Hades is the darkest installment yet, it had me on the edge of my seat and in an almost dire state of emotional crisis. While The Lost Hero and The Son of Neptune introduced the new players and had healthy plots; The Mark of Athena saw all of the seven finally assembled aboard the Argo II as well as decent character advancement, this fourth book I observed a greater sense of growth in all of them though at varying degrees, most of all Frank (as anticipated) and Leo (I’m going to relapse in feels). AND ANNABETH AND PERCY ARE IN TARTARUS FOR HEAVEN’S SAKE.
I particularly appreciated how as the story progressed the meaning of the prophesy takes on newer, more clearer and curiously personal meanings, completely different from what I thought before. Hazel is tested on her newfound abilities and after days of seasickness and worry we see her stepping up to the plate as she’s faced with decisions at crossroads and a farting polecat.
Piper really takes charge of her life, with her training and less focus on Jason and I gotta say I’m most pleased with her better sense of self, not as itchy in her role in the seven and as a daughter of Aphrodite. A certain snow bitch goddess didn’t know what she was stirring up.
We finally get a good feel for Jason‘s character, we see him shaping his identity against some of the traditional Roman values he was instilled with, and becoming more of his own man if you can understand that, instead of the guy they think he is and how how he should be. Palpably no longer the man he used to be. Am I happy? Bet your butts I am.
His and Nico‘s relationship (not that kind, shippers I’m looking at you) is especially interesting. No one knew what to make of the son of Hades, the wild card, even his sister. So Jason, understandably apprehensive of the guy, having little choice but to “split” from the crew for a while with Nico had sort of … an education. After the misadventure (?) that’s when things got going, where trust is brought into the front. I am on cloud nine because learn we more about Nico, his not belonging, his self inflicted isolation and secret longings. More Nico, an instant plus to everything.
Frank Zhang‘s Li Shang-esque transformation was a glorious thing to behold. As with most changes his was motivated by desperation, anger and determination; of Hazel’s being poisoned and Nico being turned into a crop plant. He became the leader and tactician not uncommon for an Ares kid but by now we all can agree there’s not much that’s common about Frank. I am so proud of our Chinese-Canadian-baby-man, the Romans will definitely be littering the ground with gaping jaws.
Leo. My fingers ‘can’t even’ to type now. Of them all Gaea pick on him the most. Why? Was he the weakest link? Perhaps it’s because he was actually one of the strongest, he was the machine, the innovator and most likely the one filled with the most venom towards her. He’s the clown that’s broken underneath the barricade of jokes and smiles, who fell in love so easily that when the real thing came out of the blue it hit him hard on the noggin it changed him profoundly, the others couldn’t help but notice and worry. The promise was his, he realized and if nothing else Leo was grim and driven more than ever. My heart is hurting.
Percy‘s and Annabeth’s wills were put to the test, navigating the deeply disturbing scenic landscape of Tartarus filled with vengeful old enemies, where even Hades wouldn’t go near with a ten foot pole, aided by a duo of unlikely allies. Percy is ashamed as he comes to terms with his carelessness. Annabeth clings to her wits as the pit threatens to consume it, unable to to a positive outcome of their predicament she puts one foot in front of the other, glad to have Seaweed Brain beside her.
How can I forget Coach Hedge? Rough around all the edges and secretly possessing a marshmallow interior, a heart of gold and more than a little violence. A satyr is never a bad company to have when in mortal peril, this one will shoot it in the face, “DIE DIE DIE SCUMBAG!”
My favourite book in the series. It’s when through hard labour they are consolidated not only as a team but also as parts of the whole. Where in the face of the odds their morale is at its highest. Written in his trademark seamless humour interwoven with the solid themes of friendship, family and sacrifice, Rick Riordan hasn’t disappointed me.