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.
Dear old Uncle Rick had set himself up for quite a task. With the end of Mark of Athena (if you haven’t read that, why are you reading this? There are series spoilers as there would be for any 9th book in a series… but no book spoilers!) being as epically epic as it was, it’s hard for anyone to follow it up, but Mr. Riordan did a damn good job. (PJ fans go ahhh!)
We basically leave right off where we finished last. Percabeth is falling into an endless pit, the other five and Nico di Angelo are off to meet them in hell and it’s all so cheery and hopeful. I was worried that Mr. Riordan was going to be nasty and not give us any scenes in Tartarus. No, no, he did worse, he gave us those scenes in Tartarus. Horrible, soul-crushing scenes. As one would expect in Tartarus, but to read it — to read about my little babies of the last nine books going through that?! I die. I die a thousand times over. And half the book is that. At some point early on, whilst reading, I said to myself, “so, Percy and Annabeth are Sam and Frodo, walking through Mordor to destroy a door.” If you’re a nerd like me, then you know that by the end of the long journey, Sam and Frodo are at their end mentally and physically and guess who else is? That’s right. Our little darlings. Amazing that they still retain themselves, Annabeth and her total and complete badassery. Percy’s humor, if nothing else than to keep us and them from utter despair. And it’s Classic Percy humor. Crack a joke in the face of certain death.
The other half of the book is Jason, Nico, Piper, Leo, Frank and Hazel battling all the things on the land. Now while Percy and Annabeth are going through the darkest and most painful experiences, they’ve ever gone through, the land crew is going through a several amount of personal growth and in a much less destructive nature. Honestly, I can’t think of one of them that didn’t grow or change in some HUGE monumental way. When I say that, I really mean it. They each came into their own, some more than others. Hazel and Piper had their brilliant moments of being awesome, but I feel like the boys owned that maturity a little harder. Frank’s growth was straight-up impressive. I totally called it on that kid, yo. Jason’s was just kind of flooring. As much as I resisted loving that kid, I fully, fully admit it. Jason Grace is amazing. Leo… oh, Leo, honey, I didn’t think I’d see the day… I’m so proud of you! Nico (yeah, he’s not one of the seven, but I don’t give a flying harpy). Nico, there aren’t enough words for. I’ve loved Nico di Angelo since he was that small little boy shuffling Mythomagic cards in Westover Hall and you will never convince me that he is not one of the most finely crafted characters ever.
Now there’s something else that needs to be discussed. It’s of vital importance. Here starts my epic paragraph of vagueness. I would LOVE to sit here and tell you about THE MOST MONUMENTAL THING that happens in this book, but it would spoil that and you’re better off going in not knowing. But I HAVE TO mention it and just be cryptically vague. I do this for you. But if you’re really smart and shrewd, you might just figure it out anyway. Ladies. Gentlemen. Demigods. Rick Riordan has broken a boundary. It’s not some big shattering explosion that would make Coach Hedge proud, but small and legendary. In my humble opinion, it is something that has needed to happen and the fact that Rick has done it, makes it impossibly mighty. Not only did he do this, but also he did it in a NYT bestselling Middle Grade series. Legen — wait for it — dary. In The Heroes of Olympus series, Mr. Riordan has worked to achieve diversity in his characters, clearly to reflect his broad fan base; a Chinese Canadian (my personal favorite ethnicity), Native American, Creole and Hispanic. He’s taken another step, and that’s both as mind-blowing and as specific as I’m going to get. If you’ve read the book, you know what I’m talking about I’m sure.
In short, there was so much going on this book, it’s hard to keep any review short and sweet. We have our classic favorites being tortured in a thousand ways, being broken down from any of glory they could ever think they deserve. We have our new friends who have carved little homes in our hearts, shifting and changing and ultimately getting ready for the final BIG battle, the likes of which they’ve never faced. It’s a bittersweet accumulation of three massive novels and five more of backstory and it’s all about to explode. As a whole, The Heroes of Olympus series is like the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series on steroids and more teen. So if The Blood of Olympus (5th book title) is anything at all like The Last Olympian on steroids, they I’m going to pick out my burial plot now because, guys, ain’t any of us gonna survive it.