In an unexpected turn of events, the book I remembered least might be one of my favorite installments in the series! (By the way, there will be spoilers for the previous books of the series, but not for this book.)
At the beginning of The House of Hades—Rick Riordan’s fourth book in the Heroes of Olympus series—Percy and Annabeth have fallen into Tartarus, so the Argo II crew must get to the Doors of Death on their own. Those left behind grapple with the ramifications of what has happened, and how they will be able to take charge of the quest. Meanwhile, Percy and Annabeth make an unexpected ally in their bid to survive the most dangerous part of the Greek Underworld.
In this book, the mostly cohesive team formed in The Mark of Athena has been rent asunder. On the one hand this sets the group back a bit; however, it also makes sense from a storytelling perspective. The demigods who felt overshadowed now have to step up into leadership roles. Also, a writer can’t go too easy on the characters, right? (I can’t believe I just justified the fall into Tartarus—who am I?)
This book also has a lot to do with facing past actions that weren’t necessarily good. Percy and Annabeth run into (literal) ghosts from their pasts, from empousai to Titans. They are constantly reminded that, although they are regarded as heroes by most, they have still caused a lot of pain and destruction. This is best shown in Percy’s interactions with Bob, a Titan whose memory he wiped and tricked into being a friend. Though Percy never gave them a second thought before, he now grapples with the moral ramifications of his choices; it’s a sobering lesson that even in situations where the world must be saved, not everyone will be unscathed or will benefit.
This all calls into question what a hero really is. Percy and Annabeth have to consider the implications of their actions, and to be more thoughtful about those they interact with. By the end of the book, they learn that even if they cannot actively stop suffering from happening, they can still pay tribute to those who helped them along the way.
Meanwhile, the remaining crew of the Argo II go through changes as well, each having a moment to shine and use their own special skills, as well as gaining new ones. I love seeing their development and the complexities of such different people working on the same mission.
However, Nico di Angelo got the most dramatic character moment. We’ve seen some of him in this series, but not as much as here. His revelation, forced by Cupid/Eros here, is a painful scene, but sheds light on his past behavior as well as promises for development to come. This also marks a key moment in Riordan’s gradual shift to representing more diverse people, which I appreciate. (On the other hand, I really want more good things to happen to Nico than bad things.)
In the end, I loved rereading The House of Hades. It’s dramatic, exciting, and intense. The character development is brilliant, and the actions scenes wonderful. Now, on to The Blood of Olympus!
Overall rating: 8.5/10