Monday, October 14, 2013

House of Hades

House of Hades
By: Rick Riordan
The House of Hades (The Heroes of Olympus, #4)
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?

THIS BOOK. This book was so good (if not what I was expecting). It did remind me quite a bit of The Battle of the Labyrinth  in that a ton of stuff happens and the action is just as high, but it's also a set-up book. There are SO many possibilities and loose-ends for the last book. It's nearly impossible to guess where everything is going, but you just know it is going to be fantastic.

At this point I'd like to point out that this is a FREAKING LONG REVIEW. Sorry! I tried to cut it down to size, but I just had too much to say. Also, I should probably state that this is much more of a discussion than a review. It has quite a few spoilers, so if you haven't read the book I would turn back now.
Percy: Oh baby. Ohhhh Honey. This book was a tough one. Anything that could break him would have to be a freaking nightmare. That's just what Tartarus was. I think we'll see the ramifications of their excursion to Tartarus hardcore in the next book. They literally went through hell together and you don't come back from that in one piece.
And I'd just like to point out the absolute, irrefutable truth of this line,

"Wow. When he started looking back on the war with Kronos as the good old days--that was sad."
As far as everything that already happened in Tartarus, wow. It was both fascinating and terrifying to see Percy and Annabeth at their breaking points. (The thing that got me was Percy with the poison-bending). This was a much much MUCH darker setting than we are used to seeing them in and yet they were there to support each other every step of the way.
It killed me to see him hurting so much over Annabeth's Calypso curse. But honestly, the irony of that was brilliant (and a perfect way to reintroduce her into the story). That was probably the scariest curse because it was the one time that Annabeth questioned Percy being there having her back. It was horrible seeing how helpless Percy felt about it all.
We saw Percy's fatal flaw again and again and again on their journey. He has to come to the realization that sometimes he can't save everyone. Sometimes he has to let friends and allies make sacrifices without intervening. His loyalty is unquestionable, but sometimes it clouds his judgment. That's why it is so interesting to see him and Annabeth fighting it out together. Because she isn't nearly as trusting as Percy. She hated trusting Bob and Damasen. Percy trusted that they had a better nature than their siblings.
I also love that Percy is still having doubts and regrets based on his own actions rather than just the actions of others. This is working to keep him humble and humanistic rather than just this unbeatable and invincible hero. When you fight for as long as he has the casualty count adds up and begins to weigh you down. I love that Percy doesn't escape that just because he is the hero of this story. Even if that does make it that much more heart-breaking.
Percy did a lot of growing in this book. He had to come face to face with the fact that these monsters that he's been working for years to kill will keep coming back long past his own mortal life. He could kill them as many times as he physically can and they would still come back to face his children and grand-children. But then I also love how he doesn't lose hope. I thought it was so adorable that the thought of him and Annabeth having kids kept him moving forward.
Annabeth: I actually loved seeing her in this book. She was allowed to cry and still be kick-butt at the same time. I think even when she broke down a bit she managed to keep it together. We see both her vulnerability and her strength. I think a clear moment of this was when she was almost killed by Arachne again and would have been if Percy hadn't been there. And can we just talk about how Annabeth managed to defend herself in the depths of Tartarus without a weapon and FREAKING BLIND. Even in those conditions she took down monsters. But she isn't just a fighter. I think it's important that we see her outwitting monsters as well as outfighting them.
Her and Percy trying to cheer each other up and raise their spirits in Tartarsus was simultaneously adorable and frightening. That they were together was quite literally the only thing keeping them both alive.

Now that we've covered Annabeth and Percy I would like to take a second to say how brilliant I think Rick was for separating the group in this book. Without Percy and Annabeth to save the day, the others were given their own opportunities to shine. They had to become the leaders and the fighters (not that they weren't those things before, but not to the same level as they became them in this book). We got one book with them all together for getting to know each other, but it was Percy and Annabeth holding them all together. I think it was really cool seeing all the different combinations for quests (Jason and Leo, Jason and Hazel, Nico and Frank and Hazel, Jason and Nico). I think one of the most interesting facets of the group's relationship was how nearly every one of them thought of their own power useless, but they all found the others' powers terrifying. Now they had to develop their own relationships with each other and it was wonderful. I think Rick knew that only by separating them again could they become fully cohesive.

Hazel: As if there was any doubt that this girl could kick butt and take names, Hazel Levesque brought it once again. She was meeting goddesses and learning magic and defeating monsters all over the place.
Rick Riordan never ceases to amaze me with his knowledge of his own characters. He uses their pasts as believable opportunities as well as problems. The best example of this is Hazel herself. She spent years among the dead and that sucked, but it also gave her the unique understanding of humans that she needed to operate The Mist. Our pasts are hardly ever straight good or bad. They're more often a confusing mix of both.
I am absolutely loving seeing Hazel come into her element. I knew she had the potential and to see it come to fruition is fantastic. I also loved her journey from kind of unsure of herself to a fighter and a magician.
Frank: YES. He's been one of my favorites since Son of Neptune, but I felt he wasn't given enough time in Mark of Athena. I adored this book for having so much Frank in it!
The beginning of his first section had me smiling because it was so perfect. He's kind of this really powerful, shy, goofball.

"Frank woke up as a Python, which puzzled him."

He had some fantastic development in this book. He grew into his own (apparently he did so physically as well as mentally). At the beginning of this book he was still nervous and quiet and kind of shy and he still felt useless, but by the end he was leading armies of ghosts as a Praetor and being the key to rescuing their friends in time.
I have always been a huge fan of Frank and Hazel together and I think we're seeing that grow. I loved that Hazel was mainly worried that his personality would change after his gift from Mars rather than caring that his physical appearance had changed.
It was great seeing Frank develop relationships with the others on board other than just Percy and Hazel. He was genuinely lovely to Nico about his mom and I loved that little moment when they bonded over playing Mythomagic. I also think that Frank and Leo have the potential to be really great friends. They aren't all that different when you think about it. They both don't think they're good enough or worth anything to the group. They've lost all their family and want to prove themselves using their abilities. They both feel like the goofy sidekicks to Percy and Jason. I think that that's way more than enough for them to bond over, so I really hope that happens more in Blood of Olympus.
Also can I just say that I would like to direct the Frank sections of this book to anyone and everyone who thinks he is a gentle giant or a weakling. Because DANG IT GETS IT DONE, MAN. And yet he still remains his adorable, goofy self. I think this is best stated here,

"Frank had trouble processing her words. Terrifying couldn't apply to him. He was just Frank."

And THAT is the true charm of Frank Zhang, my friends.
I also think that one of the best things about this book was Frank working really hard to get Coach Hedge home after he learned what was going on. He's caring and kind enough that even through the near end of the world he remembers what Coach Hedge is going through and tries to fix it without breaking his promise not to tell anyone. I just... You can't outdo Frank Zhang in terms of kindness.
Piper: Okay, so we didn't actually see that much of Piper in this book. She had one POV section as a highlight, but other than that she kind of stayed in the background. But of her section I'd say that the Khione fight was pretty awesome. She used the things she had available to outwit and outgun Khione, Zethes, and Cal. She might not be the strongest, but that does not make her wimpy. I really liked the little detail that she started learning how to fight with a sword. She took the initiative to not be taken without a fight again. Also, she learned how to take down enemies with a freaking cornucopia! That's pretty awesome, I think.
I also loved the mentions to Piper and Hazel's growing friendship. We got to see Annabeth and Piper become really good friends in Mark of Athena and I think it's really cool seeing all the girls get to know each other. They're all crazy smart, but in different ways. So you just know that together they would make a fantastic team. (I'm hoping for a scene where the three girls all fight together in the last book).
Jason: Ohhhh Jason. I really like you, but sometimes you're just a klutzy goofball (okay, so most of the time). There were three fights on the Argo II and during all of them Jason was incapacitated. He spent one trapped inside a net, another as a popsicle, and the third flying off a cliff while Hazel took care of things. It's not that he's not strong, it's just that he appears to have REALLY bad luck when it comes to, you know, staying conscious. He first section even started out with him being knocked unconscious #helpfuljason. (And I will admit that I started laughing REALLY hard when I read that).
Also, Jason seemed to become the giver of relationship and love advice on the ship? When did that happen... It was cool seeing him in that light though. He was there for Nico and Leo when they needed a friend.
I think it is so fascinating that Jason and Percy want to switch homes. It gives a weird, but cool, insight into their development as characters and in their relationships with their girlfriends. I just hope Percy doesn't have to completely leave Camp Half-Blood. That'd make me too sad.
Leo: This was a fantastic Leo book. Just brilliant. His fight against the Dwarves was so kick-butt. VICIOUS LEO IS ALSO ADORABLE LEO.  I absolutely love his perspective now that he's starting to see his own value to the team. I loved seeing him take out monsters without Jason's help, too. I think that's an important aspect of his development in this book.
Next I just have to talk about LEO AND CALYPSO. I loved x 100,000,000 this new aspect of the story and of Leo's character. I love that they started out sort of hating each other. I love that Leo was sad that he thought Calypso was out of his league. I love that she started wearing jeans when she saw his and that she was great at helping him with repairs. I love the idea of them starting their mechanic business together. I JUST LOVE THEM TOGETHER, OKAY? I have to see a resolution to this story in the next book. Please and thank you.
I also think an important moment for Leo in this book was the change in his relationship with Hazel and Frank. When he cared enough to ask for a fireproof bag for Frank's wood, I just about died. And I love that the tension is gone from his relationship with Hazel because I really love their friendship.
Really, I almost started crying at this line from him,

"Nah," he said. "I'm just a mechanic. But I figure my bisabuelo Sammy knew what was what. He let you go, Hazel. My job is to tell you that it's okay. You and Frank-you're good together. We're all going to get through this. I hope you guys get a chance to be happy."

Nico: An interesting book for say the least. I still feel so bad for him. He's been through so much crap in his life. It was fascinating seeing him interact (or more like, avoid interacting) with the seven. His reasoning felt quite contrived to me and I had trouble believing it, but hopefully it'll work itself out. I don't really like this new addition to the story. I still sometimes see the little boy he was in the Titan's Curse peeking through, he just has a lot more power now.
Reyna: We didn't see that much of her either. Just a couple of glimpses into her journey. But I petition for Annabeth and Reyna to be friends for all time. Period. Their interaction was SO COOL to finally see without distraction. I wonder how much we're going to see of her journey with Nico and Coach Hedge in Blood of Olympus.
Also, We finally learned her last name!
Bob: I LOVE Bob. And now I need to finish reading The Demigod Files so I can see his original story. And bless his titan-sized heart for getting my babies through Tartarus alive. I loved the inner conflict that he was the catalyst for inside of Percy. He reminded me a bit of Tyson in the way that he talked and the side that he brought out of Percy. Also Small Bob made me laugh every time I read the name.
Damasen: I loved him, too. And his big moment when he comes flying in kind of made my life. We knew he was going to, of course, but still. It was pretty epic.
Coach Hedge: Awww. Him and Mellie. I was not expecting that to be his secretive secret, but I'm okay with it. Also CAN WE TALK ABOUT THE FACT THAT COACH HEDGE WAS THE ONE WHO BROUGHT CLARISSE TO CAMP! I would pay so much money to read that story. Like, I need that in my hands. Because that must have been freaking hilarious, man.

As I mentioned earlier, this was sort of a set-up book. That's not to say that stuff didn't happen. Actually a TON of stuff happened and it was all action-packed. That just means that a lot of the stuff that happened is leading up to the last book, Blood of Olympus. I loved seeing the two separate, but connected, journeys of the two groups. One was clearly more misery-filled than the other, but they were both pretty freaking tough. There are so many possibilities for the last book that I have no clue where it's headed or what is going to happen, and I both love and hate that. (I love it because it amps up the anticipation but I hate it because I WANT IT NOW.)
I also loved all the connections to the past. We see Calypso again after so long and we finally find out how she is faring without Percy. We see Rachel Elizabeth Dare and Grover again (AND EVEN THE BLUE PLASTIC HAIRBRUSH! Which made me really happy. Ohhh the nostalgia.) And a lot of the monsters we've already faced resurface (like Hyperion and Kelli).

These are clearly a very important part of both the infrastructure of the group and the series as a whole. Also, I love them all so I'm going to talk about them. (There will also be a lot of quotes from wonderful moments between the couples.
Percy and Annabeth:
Ohhhh goodness. Those poor babies. Unfortunately (though to be expected), most of their moments were equal parts heart-breaking and heart-warming.
Here is a collection of some of my favorite moments:

"Tell me about New Rome," she demanded. "What were your plans for us?"
"New Rome...For us..."
"Yeah, Seaweed Brain. You said we could have a future there! Tell me!"
..."Architecture," Percy murmured. The fog started to clear from his eyes. "Thought you'd like the houses, the parks. There's one street with all these cool fountains."

"She...she would've killed me," Annabeth stammered.
Percy kicked the dust on the rocks, his expression grim and dissatisfied. "She died too easy, considering how much torture she put you through. She deserved worse."

"Percy had taken his girlfriend on some romantic walks before. This wasn't one of them."

"Despite being beat-up, sooty, and dressed like a homeless person, she looked great to Percy. So what if they were in Tartarus? So what if they stood a slim chance of surviving? He was so glad that they were together, he had the ridiculous urge to smile."

"She didn't want to sleep, but her body betrayed her. Her eyelids turned to lead. "Percy, wake me for second watch. Don't be a hero."
He gave her that smirk she'd come to love. "Who me?"

"For years, he had worried about Annabeth dying. When you're a demigod, that goes with the territory...But seeing Annabeth like this was too painful. He'd rather stand in the River Phlegethon, or get attacked by arai, or be trampled by giants."

"She couldn't lean on Percy any more than she had to. He needed her, too."

And can we all just take a minute to appreciate the drooling reference?
"For all she knew, she was drooling as badly as Percy did when he slept."

and the summation of their relationship,
"You promised, Seaweed Brain. We would not get separated! Ever again!"
"You're impossible!"
"Love you too!"

Frank and Hazel:
I love them. I love them. I love them. Oh, and did I mention that I love them?

"Frank was so pleased to be holding her hand, the crowds and the heat and the monsters suddenly didn't seem so bad. He felt needed---useful."

"Frank tried to hold it together. He scolded himself for feeling so weak. He could face an army of monsters, but as soon as Hazel showed him kindness, he wanted to break down and cry."

"Frank tackled her in a hug. "You're going to be fine," he said fiercely. "Everything is fine."
"But..." Hazel gripped his shoulders and stared at him in amazement. "Frank, what happened to you?"
"To me?" He stood, suddenly self-conscious. "I don't..."
...Frank was taller. His gut had shrunk. His chest seemed bulkier.
"Uh...I don't...Maybe I can fix it."
Hazel laughed with delight. "Why? You look amazing!"
"I-I do?"
"I mean, you were handsome before! But you look older, and taller, and so distinguished-"

Leo and Calypso:
THIS. THIS RELATIONSHIP. I absolutely adore them together. At first glance you don't think it would work, but then you realize that it is literally perfect for both of them.

"She smirked. "A job, eh? Making things in your forge?"
"Nah, we could start our own shop," Leo said, surprising himself. Starting a machine shop had always been one of his dreams, but he'd never told anyone about it. "Leo and Calypso's garage: Auto Repair and Mechanical Monsters."
"Fresh fruits and vegetables," Calypso offered.
"Cider and stew," Leo added. "We could even provide entertainment. You could sing and I could, like, randomly burst into flames."
Calypso laughed-a clear, happy sound that made Leo's heart go ka-bump."

"For all his joking and flirting, Leo had never kissed a girl before. Well, sisterly pecks on the cheek from Piper, but that didn't count. This was a real, full-contact kiss. If Leo had had gears and wires in his brain, they would've short-circuited.

"He understood how dangerous oaths could be. But Leo didn't care.
"I'm coming back for you, Calypso," he said to the night wind. "I swear it on the River Styx."

Tyson and Ella:
They didn't really show up in the story at all, but Grover mentioned that they're ACTUALLY A THING. And I am really excited.

As it always is with Riordan, the humor was right on mark. It added levity to the story, but didn't hinder any of the dramatic moments. In fact, in most cases it added to the dramatic moments (as was the case with Gale the polecat). Some of my favorite laughs include:

"Nico looked around in a panic. "I-I just had the weirdest nightmare about popcorn."

"The voice cackled maliciously. "To curse you, of course! To destroy you a thousand times in the name of Mother Night!"
"Only a thousand times?" Percy murmured. "Oh, good...I thought we were in trouble."

"I appreciate the offer," he said. "But my mom told me not to accept curses from strangers."

"I mean...Annabeth is right!" Percy volunteered. "Bob brought us all this way because he thought you could help. But I guess you're too busy staring at that shield and crying. I can't blame you. It looks just like you."

"Piper didn't plan to shoot blueberry muffins. The cornucopia must have sensed her distress and thought she and her visitors could use some warm baked goods."

And Rick Riordan has this way of phrasing things to make them sound both humorous and terrifying, normally at the same time. Example,
"He realized he was taking a stroll across the most dangerous circulatory system in the universe."

"Back from Tartarus!" Leo whooped. "That's my peeps!"


"It is a tool, like a knife. Is a knife evil? Only if the wielder is evil."

"In ancient times, two great Roman roads met here. News was exchanged. Markets were held. Friends met, and enemies fought. Entire armies had to choose a direction. Crossroads are always places of decision."

"The Greeks invented tragedy. They knew that the greatest heroes didn't get happy endings."

"It's natural to feel fear...All great warriors are afraid. Only the stupid and the delusional are not. But you faced your fear, my son...This was your bridge, and you defended it."

"There wasn't much difference between longing and greed."

"Love is no game! It is no flowery softness! It is hard work-a quest that never ends. It demands everything from you-especially the truth. Only then does it yield rewards."

"Now she realized that the hardest test for a child of Athena wasn't leading a quest or facing death in combat. It was making the strategic decision to step back, to let someone else take the brunt of the danger-especially when that person was your friend. She had to face the fact that she couldn't protect everyone she loved. She couldn't solve every problem."

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