Thursday, October 24, 2013

Review: The House of Hades - Rick Riordan

The House of Hades by Rick Riordan
Series: The Heroes of Olympus #4
Genre: YA, fantasy
Published on October 8, 2013
Published by Hyperion
Pages: 583
Read From: 10.13.13 - 10.15.13

Hazel stands at a crossroads.  
She and the remaining crew of the Argo II could return home with the Athena Parthenos statue and try to stop Camp Half-Blood and Camp Jupiter from going to war. Or they could continue their quest to find the House of Hades, where they might be able to open the Doors of Death, rescue their friends Percy and Annabeth from Tartarus, and prevent monsters from being reincarnated in the mortal world. Whichever road they decide to take, they have to hurry, because time is running out. Gaea, the bloodthirsty Earth Mother, has set the date of August 1 for her rise to power. 

Annabeth and Percy are overwhelmed. 
How will the two of them make it through Tartarus? Starving, thirsty, and in pain, they are barely able to stumble on in the dark and poisonous landscape that holds new horrors at every turn. They haven o way of locating the Doors of Death. Even if they did, a legion of Gaea's strongest monsters guards the Doors on the Tartarus side. Annabeth and Percy can't exactly launch a frontal assault. 
Despite the terrible odds, Hazel, Annabeth, Percy, and the other demigods of the prophecy know that there is only one choice: to attempt the impossible. Not just for themselves, but for everyone they love. Even though love can be the riskiest choice of all.


Cover Blurb: Yes or No? I love, love, love the cover art. Yeah, there's character impersonators, but I've never minded them too much on Rick Riordan's books because you can never fully see their faces. This particular cover is dark and moody and haunting. It captures the entire feel of the book so amazingly well. So I ought to have been better prepared for what a ride The House of Hades was.

Characters: I love every character in The Heroes of Olympus series more or less equally. They're all so different and bring so much to the story; it wouldn't be the same if you cut any of them out. I love Jason's confidence and how he's struggling with feeling more loyal to the Greeks than the Romans (switching sides, essentially). I love Hazel's understanding nature and selflessness, and I enjoyed her continued character growth and struggle with accepting herself as Pluto/Hades' daughter. I love Leo's ingenuity and the comic relief he brings to the whole story, and his own character change was equally amazing to read about, as he goes from his belief that he's the seventh wheel of the group, to realizing that he's just as valuable as everyone else. Frank probably has the most character development, as he grows more confident in his abilities and steps into the role of leader and a true son of Ares/Mars. I can sympathize with Piper's feelings of being the most useless of the group, as her only power is charmspeak and she isn't very good at swordplay. But she, too, experiences a moment of character growth as she gains confidence in her abilities and tries to better herself with the sword. With this collection of characters - not to mention the side characters such as Coach Hedge and Festus - it's no surprise that they're all amazing. But my affections are still mostly for Annabeth and Percy. Having gone through the Percy Jackson & the Olympians series with them already, I have a strong bond with them, which I'm sure all Rick Riordan Readers feel. They're very strong, deep characters with a ton of history, unending loyalty, and incredible selflessness. After everything they go through in this book, my affection for them has only increased. Then there's Nico di Angelo, who is my second-favorite to Percy. A loner, quiet, brooding, only an ally when it best suits him, and also the most useful (and under-appreciated) character out of the whole bunch, my heart always goes out to him. I always feel the urge to get him a hot drink and tell him, "I trust you, Nico." I would really love to get a chapter in Nico's point of view. The side characters were even amazingly well developed in this book. They always have been, but it seems like they became more in-depth in The House of Hades. Bob the Titan, Festus, Coach Hedge, Reyna, and even several of the other monsters got a lot of background and played really important roles. In fact, I found myself sympathizing with the monsters more than once in this book. I rather understood why they hated the Olympians and the demigods so much. And I really hope Reyna is in The Blood of Olympus (Book #5) a lot; I'm starting to really like her.

The Romance: Of course, everyone has some sort of pairing. There's Annabeth and Percy, Jason and Piper, Hazel and Frank, and Leo and . . . . Well, I can't tell you. But he's not left out and let's just leave it at that. I've never been a big fan of romance, especially teen romance, but Annabeth and Percy's relationship is so strong, and everyone else's pairings feel like they will grow to be just as strong, too. And since the romance really isn't dwelt upon all that much, I don't mind it in these books.

Plot: We come to the difficult section of this review! There is so much I want to say, but I can't because it will be a major case of spoiler alert! I can't even begin to say how frustrating that is. The plot is huge, and the pacing never lets up. Not only that, but the plot is majorly heart-wrenching. Out of all of the books - including Percy Jackson & the Olympians - this is Rick Riordan's darkest. Not to say that there aren't moments of humor; there are. But mostly it's moments of despair and gut-wrenching tragedy and uncertainty and fear. The chapters following Hazel's group are more light-hearted, but there are very few moments of laughter in Annabeth and Percy's chapters. Mostly heartbreak and terror and moments of peril. I cannot count how many times I cried or gasped or shrieked or laughed or cried some more. The House of Hades is one giant rollercoaster of emotions, and there isn't a moment of respite from it, except for maybe two scenes. There's a ton of character development, all of it shocking and emotional, and there's lots of plot twists, all of it shocking and emotional, too. I had no idea Rick Riordan could destroy his Readers' hearts so thoroughly. And therein lies one of two problems with this book. I applaud character development, heart-pounding plots, and emotional journeys. But there can be too much of it, and at 583 pages, The House of Hades definitely has too much. I was quite literally mentally, physically, and emotionally exhausted when I was done, to a point that just wasn't good. My enjoyment of the story slipped as I began to wonder just how much could Annabeth and Percy really, truly, and honestly take before they just snapped in two. More to the point, how much more could I really, truly, and honestly take before I just snapped in two?

Believability: Not applicable.

Writing Style: Third person, past tense. Each chapter alternates narrators, and we actually get to hear from all seven of the demigods. We mostly hear from Hazel and Annabeth, though we get equal amounts of narration time with Leo, Frank, and Percy. Jason and Piper get maybe a total of five or so chapters, but it was nice to hear from them after so long. I enjoyed all of these narrations, and it's not at all confusing switching between so many characters because they all have very distinctive voices and thoughts. Percy and Annabeth's narrations were probably my favorite, but that's just because they are my favorite characters. The Author's style has always been modern and very action-y, but I don't mind it horribly because it does suit the story. And I will give him props for atmospheric writing; he had Tartarus down impeccably.

Content: Tartarus is creepy. It is dark and depressing and hellish and joyless and demonic. I enjoyed Annabeth and Percy's narrations, but a part of me always dreaded going back to Tartarus because it was just so dark. I've read much more demonic imagery, of course - it's nothing like Libba Bray's The Diviners. But it's still extremely disturbing and bothered me - which I'm sure is what the Author intended. Tartarus isn't supposed to be cheerful or even remotely welcoming. And then there's the second flaw with this book, concerning Nico di Angelo . . . [Spoiler] Apparently Nico is gay. He has a major crush on Percy. [End spoiler] Can I just take a moment and rant about this? If it is somehow essential to a story's plot, I won't complain about this sort of thing. But if it is not essential, then I will scream. Especially when it concerns my favorite character. There is no conceivable reason why the Author had to do that to Nico's character - no conceivable reason at all! Other than to be politically correct, and goodness knows, Riordan's books have always been that. I said I would like a chapter in Nico's point of view, but maybe I don't; not after this. I'm still in shock; I really am. Totally did not see that coming, because quite honestly, I don't believe the Author had this planned when he first came up with Nico! There was no reason for it!!

Conclusion: Dramatic endings are a must for these books, and The House of Hades is no exception. But like with the plot, I can't say much without giving something away. But I did like it. I don't want to say that The House of Hades was disappointing, because it really wasn't. It's heart-wrenching, has a ton of character development, and was just wonderful. However, like Percy and Annabeth, I was also overwhelmed. By the time Percy and Annabeth have to face the hordes of monsters at the Doors of Death, I felt like a wraith, I was so wrung out and exhausted. 583 pages of non-stop action and despair and monster after monster after monster - plus a few Greek/Roman gods - is a lot to wade through. I armed myself with tissues and chocolate and warm beverages, a snuggly blanket and a squeezable pillow (so I didn't end up squeezing Hedgie, who wouldn't have appreciated that). But that wasn't enough; I don't think anything would have kept me from turning into a zombie after all of that. Added onto the sheer volume of peril this book has was that horrible twist with Nico di Angelo, which almost did me in. So, I did love The House of Hades, but the lots was too much and that twist with Nico made me literally scream and start crying. I had to get a carton of ice cream afterward.

Recommended Audience: Girl-and-guy read, sixteen-and-up. Rick Riordan fans will love it!

Others in The Heroes of Olympus Series:
1)The Lost Hero
2)The Son of Neptune
3)The Mark of Athena
4)The House of Hades

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