Phew!!! I’m pretty sure I forgot to breathe towards the end of the book. Talk about action-packed and high on tension, House of Hades scores on both accounts without losing out on character and plot development. I had been dying to get my paws on this ever since I finished The Mark of Athena and was more than a little worried that HOH might just disappoint (as a lot of other books have this year) and it smashed straight through those puny expectations and soared even higher!
At the end of Mark of Athena, Annabeth and Percy fell into Tartarus while the rest of the crew decided to sail to the House of Hades to close the Doors of Death. In House of Hades, the narrative shifts between the seven demigods mentioned in the prophecy: Annabeth, Percy, Jason, Piper, Hazel, Frank and finally Leo. On their way to the House of Hades, they meet arai, empousai, titans, strange cows, minor goddesses and their even more minor side-kicks, giants and a former titan called Bob, not-minor-goddesses and a whole lot more. In addition, the heroes each have a trial they have to face and pass if they are to eventually defeat Gaia.
It was almost as if Rick Riordan was high on adrenaline and steroids when he wrote House of Hades. There was something or the other happening all the time! The narrative ran at full-tilt throughout; it was frenetic, frantic, chaotic and desperate. Not once did it slow down to take a breather. And yet it never chafed. It was perfectly balanced. As a reader, I never once felt like I was losing out on important plot points because of the pace of the narrative. There were times when I wanted to stop reading (just so I could breathe) and at the same time skip ahead to find out how things had turned out. I really wanted to ration the reading so it would last longer and it seemed to be working and then the weekend came and it all went downhill, it was impossible to stop reading. So I stopped trying to stop. My only complaint with the split narrative was that it was very annoying when the narrative from one character suddenly switched to another. This was made even more painful because the chapters often ended with a cliffhanger and I would flip to the next chapter and find that it was from someone else’s point of view. It also broke the narrative flow and it took me some time to get used to it. Of course this was nothing new, Riordan followed the same format in all the previous Heroes of Olympus books but here, due to the pace of the book and also the stakes, it was a little more jarring.
Of the seven, Percy and Annabeth are hands-down, by far my favourites. I fell in love with these two in the Percy Jackson series and it is so awesome to see them grown up and so much more amazing than they were the first time around. It actually isn’t fair to the other characters in this series because they can’t possibly compete with these two; it’s a very uneven playing field. But thankfully, they don’t have to win a popularity contest in order to beat Gaia. I love how Percy and Annabeth have grown as independent individuals and how well they complement each other. They are perfectly attuned to each others’ strengths and weaknesses and each picks up the others’ slack.
SPOILER If anyone else had fallen into Tartarus, they would have had a much tougher time surviving and that’s not to say that it was a walk in the park for these two.
Nico was his usual sullen self but we finally find out the reason for his strange, detached behaviour and also why he left Camp Halfblood. But to be honest, by the time it was all revealed, I had already guessed. So it wasn’t that big a surprise.
Jason is probably my least favourite hero among the seven. There is something that doesn’t feel right about him. He’s tough to pin down. Even otherwise, he’s pretty boring and hasn’t got much of a personality. Very blah.
Piper had very little screen time in HOH, she only had about 3 chapters from her POV but even in them she managed to make an impression. I like her. She’s got spunk and spirit. It was especially satisfying to see her kicking Khione’s ass!
The most drastic improvement this time around was in Leo, Frank and Hazel. They were the most prominent characters in HOH after Percy and Annabeth. Hazel had so far been in the background, but not anymore. This time, she was front and centre and she was amazing. She managed to hold her own with adversaries who were much older and much more powerful.
I had never been a big fan of Frank’s, he was ok, easy to forget. In HOH, he went through a huge transformation as well. He grew into his powers and got better at controlling them. He finally seemed like the son of Ares/Mars.
Leo was the most fun in HOH. I loved his transformation most. We always knew that beneath all that joking around, he had some pretty serious stuff on his mind. He probably matured the most in this book. He was always sure of his capabilities but this time, he was surer of himself (as a demigod and his place among the seven) Plus, he’s a sweetheart. I really want him to get his happily ever after with you-know-who and no, I’m not talking about Hazel.
Reyna made an appearance as well as that toad-face Octavian. Seriously, why is he still alive??? I’m hoping he meets a very painful end in the final book. Reyna is one of those rare characters who you root for even though she’s hardly in the book and isn’t one of the main characters. It’s surprising how alike she and Annabeth are.
House of Hades is an excellent addition to the Heroes of Olympus series and a great book in itself. It is well written, has amazing characters and is chock-a-block full of action. It is seriously one of the most enjoyable books I have had the pleasure of reading in sometime. There were no wearisome love triangles, no needless drama and half-baked and artificially manufactured tension. It was an absolute pleasure to read House of Hades and while I can’t wait to see how the series ends, the wait will be easier because it did not end with a cliffhanger.
And here is some amazing news, Riordan released the title of the fifth and final book in the series at the end of the House of Hades, it is called The Blood of Olympus and is tentatively scheduled for a release in April 2014!!! Can’t wait!!
UPDATE: The release date for The Blood of Olympus is in October 2014.. Sorry for the mix up!
P.S. – I just want my Percy and Annabeth to get their happily ever after. Next up Leo with you-know-who and then everyone else. Ok, fine, I want all of them to be alive and happy but most especially Percy and Annabeth.