In The Battle of the Labyrinth, the penultimate book of the Percy Jackson series, war is imminent. Those at Camp Half-Blood fear infiltration, and Percy is attacked at freshman orientation. Knowing time is running out, Annabeth, Percy, and friends head into the Labyrinth. There, they meet many obstacles and learn new, surprising information about the rise of the Titan Kronos.
This is a wildly entertaining book. Featuring the great labyrinth (of Minotaur fame), we see a selection of strange lesser-known creatures from Greek mythology, and also some more famous figures. Daedalus and King Minos stand out, and I loved seeing these ancient characters supplanted into a more modern setting.
The labyrinth itself, while providing a dangerous setting for our main characters to face, serves mostly as a convenient plot device to get Percy from place to place faster. However, what he discovers and experiences in these places enable him to learn—about himself and about his antagonists. He’s a stronger character here, but Riordan always keeps in mind that he is just a young boy, not a superhero. And Percy’s personality, so sarcastic and kind, is the best part of all this.
Other characters such as Annabeth, Nico, and Grover are not sidelined in this book—far from it. Annabeth gets the chance to lead this quest, and to face her past with Luke, the series’ main baddie. And watching her ever-evolving interactions with Percy is always a joy. Meanwhile, Nico travels down a dark path after losing someone he loves. Watching his struggles, pain, and the way he is being manipulated is saddening, but also rewarding as he starts to overcome that. And finally, Grover spearheads a significant subplot which I had forgotten I loved.
Throughout this series, Grover the satyr has been seeking the Greek god of the Wild, Pan, who vanished centuries ago. Each book has teased his reappearance, but now, Labyrinth brings that tale to a head, when our mains find Pan at last. But Pan is dying because there is so little undamaged, wild land left in the world. This scene is poignant and important, a call for younger generations to take care of the earth. Pan implores not just Grover, but all of us, to “stop waiting for me to save [you]. I cannot . . . You must carry on my spirit . . . [The effort] must be taken up by all of you.” A slightly obvious way of expressing this theme, but hey, it’s a book for kids.
In the end, The Battle of the Labyrinth is an excellent novel. Full of twists and turns both literal and figurative, it offers well-written character development and a strong plot while also setting up for series’ intense conclusion. I loved the characters and their interactions; the themes of friendship, bravery, and caring for the environment are lovely to see; and as ever with a Riordan book, the humor is stellar.
Overall rating: 8.5/10