I expected a lot from this book. Namely, deaths, tragedy, and a classic Riordan cliffhanger.
Instead, Riordan has the nerve to publish this:
Riordan, you troll.
Percy and Annabeth have fallen to Tartarus, the deepest, dark pit of the underworld, prison for the worst of monsters. Meanwhile the crew of the Argo II races to Epirus under the guidance of Nico di Angelo.
They are all heading to the Doors of Death, hoping to close them, effectively ensuring that any of Gaea’s forces who die, stay dead.
Meanwhile the Romans are planning to march on Camp Half Blood.
But can Percy and Annabeth survive the treacherous environment of Tartarus? And can the Argo II hold together without them?
Just like the plot of this novel is split in half, the review is also split. This isn’t to say that the argo crew’s adventures were bad…well except for one, nagging thing. Which is why, unlike my other reviews, this will be full of spoilers!
Now on to the review.
What to say? Well, Tartarus is freaking amazing.
Seriously, the Tartarus half of this novel is the best writing I’ve ever read from Riordan. The concept, the imagery, the monsters…it was just beautiful. Poisonous, torturing, dark, monster birthing, and fatal, Tartarus is some of the darkest stuff in the series, partly because it’s so well put together.
Tartarus was where everything that happened in the past books came back with a vengeance. And the character development was great: Percy’s fatal flaw becomes a powerful and terrifying force, and Annabeth learns to trust monsters.
On the flip side we have the crew of the Argo II. There’s just as much character development here as in Tartarus, which is great…
…except it was poorly done. (I.e. the nagging thing aforementioned)
Cue spoilerific rant:
Almost none of the character development was set up well for the Argo.
Hazel can manipulate the Mist? Doesn’t it make more sense if Piper has that ability, since Hazel’s got a badass power that is actually helpful in battle? (If I have to read Piper insulting a group of monsters with her charmspeak one more time…) By comparison, Piper’s ability to speak to semi-animate objects pales.
The lack of POV contributing to the other Romans in the last book makes their development seem too sudden. Frank was plagued by his father’s schizo? Why just him? And now he’s this big, buff praetor? And Jason is conveniently too Greek to qualify now? Would have liked a heads up on all this information. Piper gushing about how Roman Jason is doesn’t exactly cut it.
Speaking of relationships that simply aren’t sharing enough feelings, Nico is in love with Percy. This whole time. And was jealous of Annabeth. So that’s why he was angsty.
Excuse me? I have nothing against this development (the fans have been anticipating it in their weird shipper minds), but that was terribly set up. Nico’s character was supposed to be about not fitting in because of unfair politics. Making it about love kind of ruins that. Besides, in the past few books, he didn’t seem to act that way at all! At least now I know why they were pushing that he had a crush on Annabeth all the time.
The problem here is that I would be happy with all if these developments if they were properly set up. If more time was spent on Frank’s troubles, so they don’t seem instantly resolved(maybe that’s why they failed in Charleston?). If Jason had a chapter in New Rome, questioning his place there now that he’s been missing for so long. If Marie Levesque was visited by Hecate, or if Piper’s manipulation powers were really that much better. If Nico dropped a hint that he thought of Percy as more than a big brother (which I originally thought).
And Reyna is flying to Greece, all by herself? If a flying ship with fire and weapons, seven demigods and a satyr is constantly under pursuit and attacked by Shrimpzilla, Hercules, and generally any sort of Mythological pest, how can one person, on a flying horse, do it all by herself? Did she stay in hotels? Why didn’t she take a plane? Scipio isn’t that magical, being an animal that needs food, rest, and water—I’m almost surprised the poor creature didn’t die on the way there.
I’m fine with Hedge’s and Leo’s development though, predictable as it is. Hedge with family problems? Sure. Leo being a badass engineer who can make a personal helicopter while falling at 9.8 m/s/s, or a flash bomb out of stuff he finds in the supermarket? Obvious. Leo falling in love with Calypso? Not expected, but understandable. Do I ship it? Sort of. (I was leaning more towards Reyna and Leo.)
-End Spoilerific Rant-
Okay, that’s enough of character development. What’s next? Oh right, writing.
If I didn’t say this enough: Riordan’s best writing is when he’s writing about Tartarus. And I don’t know if that’s what makes the other half pale in comparison or if it just isn’t as good as the previous books. Aside from the poor pacing in terms of Jason, Hazel and Frank’s plot lines, the four chapter structure didn’t really work as well this time. It just made things seem choppy. Also, the final fight scene was…dare I say vague? I’m so used to the detailed rolls, thwacking of heads with sword hilts and crossed blades, that the generic description of 5/7 fighting was a little less than satisfying.
The multiple POV I do applaud though, because it was what I’ve been waiting for. Also, the little tidbits like Rachel’s blue hairbrush, using Riptide as a pen, and Connor’s M&M’s were welcomed.
And don’t get me wrong, I cheered along when all this epic stuff happened in the book, I smiled at the jokes, and I was shocked by the twists.
I guess it’s just one of those books where the author does one part really well that the other part seems worse than it actually is by sheer comparison.
Recommendation: Buy. If you’re this far in HoO, you better believe you want to own this book. This is where the character development peaks and you will love to read it over and over again.