Take the maze challenge from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Now make a whole story about its mind-bending ability. Now throw in Greek gods. Boom! you have created Rick Riordan’s fourth book in the Percy Jackson series, The Battle of the Labyrinth.
Summer has barely started and Percy has blown up yet another school. Rushing off to Camp Half Blood, he discovers that the mythological Labyrinth exists, a maze that criss-crosses beneath North America, bending time and space. After an entrance to the Labyrinth is discovered in Camp, Annabeth is chosen to lead a quest to find Daedalus, the designer of the Labyrinth. With Percy, Tyson, and Grover, the four must find the ancient inventor before Luke does, who is waiting to lead an army through the Labyrinth into the Camp.
Not mention that Nico di Angelo is still missing, as well as the great god of the wild, Pan. And Rachel Elizabeth Dare is back–but she’s just a mortal, right?
But is it even possible that Daedalus is still alive? And even if he isn’t, the maze certainly is. And it’s not going to make things easy.
The Battle of the Labyrinth is definitely building up to the final book of the series, and does its job well. It builds the pressure of Kronos’ forces, as well as the fragility of the camp, the tension rising as the book progresses. The ending is very much the calm before the storm.
The maze is an interesting landscape, defying logic and reason, and I applaud Riordan for capturing that so well. This was the first book in the series where I was actually unsure that Percy might survive, just because the labyrinth and all the other things he faces are overwhelmingly dangerous.
The side plots involving the environment (with Pan) and loyalty (with Calypso) are real head-scratchers, asking questions that you don’t often see in young adult novels.
Generally, the character development is great across the board. Annabeth really shows off as a leader, proving her un-Mary-Sue-ness as she’s irritable, stubborn, and on the verge of the break point several times in the book. Percy develops his powers and is perceptions of the world, and Grover and Tyson really mature here.
Luke’s character is also progressing nicely, showing how he can be the bad guy but is hesitant when people he cares about are concerned.
Nico and Rachel’s development are certainly interesting. One is the son of the least favourite god, the other a mortal, and so neither really belong in the world of Camp Half Blood, but the way they fit in is leaves much to anticipation. Aside from the action, Rachel is stirring up a lot of romantic issues, as well as other *certain* people that Percy encounters.
I am surprised by the compassion in Clarisse and Dionysus’ characters as well. His conversation with Percy at the end of the novel was quite heart-warming.
One pitfall of the book is that the cover basically gives away the ending (which I am not going to mention here).
I’ll admit that things often felt disjointed, like the problems they encounter had little connection until the battle at the very end. For example, Nico gets to speak to Bianca for a chapter, and then he disappears from the story until Daedalus’ workshop. Ethan Nakamura disappears and then comes back at his critical moment, and then leaves again. Even Rachel gets injected and then ejected as soon as her use is needed and then finished (which was a little less than satisfying).
Admittedly, that’s usually how a good mystery novel works. The problem was that they didn’t layer one of the other, it was more like, okay this happened, and this, and this. Now put them together.
In the end, it’s a great book, and leaves me anticipating for the final instalment in the series.
Recommendation: Buy. If you’re reading PJO, definitely continue with this book. If you’re a fan of Greek mythology, or Harry Potter, you’ll also enjoy this book a lot.