Friday, February 17, 2017

Review - The House of Hades

Original Title: The House of Hades
Series: The Heroes of Olympus, #4
Author: Rick Riordan
Published: October the 8th, 2013

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion Books
THE FOLLOWING REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS

In my previous review I said I would grab this book faster than the speed of light. So I did, and so I read it, and it deserves five solid stars, just like the previous one in the saga! After that mean cliffhanger, I practically flew through the pages.

One of the things that impressed me the most in this book were the vivid, terrible description of Tartarus. Riordan truly outdid himself, because it is described all too well. I swear I had nightmares about it, and the worst part is that its aspect wasn’t even the real one, as it was only what Annabeth and Percy’s human eyes could to see without going insane. Which means that the Rivers of Fire and Lamentation, the red-blood, poisonous clouds, the infectious-looking, skin-like surface, full of blisters like amniotic sacs where monsters reform… weren’t the worst thing to see there. My applause, it is really appalling, and it creates such images, that, while reading, I couldn’t help wrinkling my nose out of disgust and horror. Plus, the characters in there! So clear, I could see them and hear them in my head, thanks to Riordan’s amazing storytelling skills -like with Nyx, the elemental goddess of Night, her image simply got seared in my brain: her eyes like quasars, the black void of her dress, her whip like a string of stars… It really reflected how terrible she is. But I also loved that scene, because even with the scary appearance, it was very funny. Perhaps it came out repetitive the fact that Percy and Annabeth relied too much on their enemies’ stupidity to make them fight each other all the time, but still, I loved this book.

As I read Percy and Annabeth’s trip through Tartarus, I couldn’t help but being grateful for the fact that they are already a solid couple, confirmed soulmates who love each other and they know it, being willing to do anything to avoid separation. Their scenes could have been difficult to bear, as a reader, if I had to see them circling around each other, stealing glances and saying phrases with double meaning, as it often happens with a couple about to fall in love. They survived Tartarus, with all its horrors, because they had each other.

That being said, I can’t help feeling bad about Nico. He had the misfortune of seeing Tartarus’ real aspect, and it almost drove him insane; there was no one there to help him through that horrible experience. He’s such an interesting character… in some ways, he is like the Underworld. Cold, distant, unpredictable, and only the people who understand him feel comfortable around him. That’s why he gets along with Hazel. They both have a connection to their father’s realm, and can truly understand each other’s mind. As for the big revelation about him, that not many people were happy to read, well… I’m just going to mention it to say that, certainly, it was unexpected, that I couldn’t see the previous hints of it (or if it was hints at all), and, no matter if we agree with it or not, we have to say that it is realistic. He struggles with something that it is real every day, for many people, and it doesn’t make them any less human. Moreover, let’s not go any further than the Greek mythology itself that is the foundation for this entire world: check Ganymede’s myth (a Trojan prince, so beautiful that attracted Zeus himself), or Callisto’s (a beautiful nymph, follower of Artemis, who was seduced by Zeus in the form of the goddess herself). I mean, Nico’s true nature would not be a rarity in the ancient Greek world, and it allows many readers to feel identified with him. However, nothing could ever happen with Percy, because The House of Hades -along with the two previous books-, left more than clear that Annabeth and Percy are soulmates, each other’s destiny, and nothing could ever drive them apart. 

Oh, and by the way, I definitely prefer Aphrodite over Cupid as goddess of love… I never thought I would say that.

Oh, my, Leo’s story! He’s still one of the best characters, as he is funny, resourceful and smart, with those gags and phrases that had me cracking up as I read. I think his part on this story, besides of him being the son of Hephaestus and the mechanical genius of the group, is something not even the gods saw coming. Calypso is condemned to fall in love with the heroes stranded on her island, but I don’t think the gods considered what would happen if the hero in question falls in love with her in return. Everything I guessed as I read (with a pain in my heart) was confirmed when the raft bubbled out of the sea to take Leo away from Ogygia; it was heartbreaking, knowing that they fell in love, and it was worse than any curse, because she wanted him to stay, and he didn’t want to leave. Leo is not like the other heroes who happened to meet Calypso. There’s no Penelope, Elizabeth or Annabeth waiting for him. But there is a Calypso who helped him, kissed him, and would accept him, and he can’t wait to find his way back to her. He even swore to return on the River Styx, and we all know what that means! I can’t wait to see what happens next.

I think this book gave us the chance to see the true reach of these seven demigods’ powers before the final battle to stop Gaia. Through their fights, their true abilities could come to light, as their understanding of them grew. Like Piper’s charmspeak, that proved capable of awakening a machine, no less, to help defeat a goddess. As for Hazel, she saw she’s more than just her curse. Her destiny is not only to bring death to the surface, but one of great power and magic. She’s brave, and smart, and I understand her frustration, because, as all heroes, she received instructions from Hecate, but no explanations at all about how to do what was asked from her. With every test, she grows stronger, and here, she got to prove herself, and rightfully earn the title of heroine. As for Jason, he’s changing, and with each passing day, he is less Roman and more Greek, as it is in Camp Half-Blood where he’s been the happiest, and met Leo and Piper, who are like family. For some reason, he’s my least favorite in this group of seven, but he’s still great, and powerful. Only one tiny thing about his part in this story: when he and Leo chased the Kerkopes through Bologna, he got trapped by Neptune’s statue, that Leo had previously recognized as mechanic, but there’s no further explanation of it. It doesn’t affect the story, but I can’t help wondering, why was it activated when Jason approached it, and not Leo? Which purpose does it have a monumental fountain with an internal trap mechanism? We don’t know why it is there; it only delays Jason, and then, that’s it. Nothing more. And perhaps it would have been interesting to know why a figure of Neptune -a god that was feared by the Romans, not very popular- would trap a son of Jupiter, no less.

And finally, we get to my favorite demigod in this book, besides Percy and Annabeth. Frank really outdid himself. Both he and Hazel grew a lot in this book, but Frank… He proved he’s a hero, and a born leader, fighting for love and duty. A true son of Mars, worthy of the title, and his blessing. The battle in Venice’s bridge was awesome, but the one in the House of Hades was EPIC. When Jason raised him to praetor, and he brought his true leadership and temper to the surface, was probably his best moment, that sent a shiver down my spine. He’s a leader worthy of being followed, and he truly turned the tide to his favor. The battle was won, because of him. Long live Praetor Frank Zhang!

Once again we are in front of a book with too many details to do properly justice to them. Characters like Bob the Titan and Damasen made Tartarus a bit less traumatic for Percy and Annabeth, and they proved themselves heroes, too. And there’s also those crazy, funny gods like Triptolemus, Calais and Zethes, that at least can make you crack a smile, but also mean, vengeful deities, like Khione, goddess of snow, who are always there to make our heroes’ lives more complicated. 

The ending was not the terrible, maddening cliffhanger we read in The Mark of Athena, but still, there’s a quest to look forward to. Definitely, a great book, in an awesome saga that I’m glad I decided to read!


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