House of Hades (Heroes of Olympus, book four)
By Rick Riordan
Published 2013 by Hyperion Books
WARNING: This likely will contain spoilers for the first three books in the series. To read my reviews of those titles, click here and follow the links through.
Percy and Annabeth must traverse an extremely perilous path alone. The other five demigods - Jason, Piper, Leo, Hazel, and Frank - must do their part on earth to help prevent Gaea from rising. Will they succeed?
So I was a little underwhelmed by book three. Maybe the passage of time has been kinder this time around, because I feel like book four is back to form. While there is, of course, still a lot of "meanwhile, back at the ranch" storytelling going on, I found it didn't bother me this time around. Maybe it was because I actually felt like the characters were in legitimate peril this time around. Although, who am I kidding? It's pretty unlikely that Riordan will legitimately off one of the characters in this series, though I'd be quite impressed if he did. Additionally, I feel impressed with Riordan just because of the consistency of his work. He is putting out a new book every year and they are basically all on equal footing in terms of quality. And this one is nearly 600 pages. To be consistent like this and still be good is very impressive.
Once again, I think Riordan does a decent job with alternating POVs, though this book seems to have more than previous books and therefore some characters don't get as much "screen time" as others. Also, it felt like the scenes in Tartarus with Percy and Annabeth (which, let's be honest, are what most people are wanting to read about) were spaced quite far apart, making it feel a bit like the story was dragging in places. I think character development is still on pace with the previous books; it's great that we are still learning new things about the characters even this far into the series as well as watching them grow and change. In particular, I'm not sure I should let this review go by without mentioning the major character development regarding Nico in this book. On the one hand, I feel like it explains many things that have been happening throughout the series. Similarly, I'm pleased that a mainstream and very popular author decided to include a gay character and not make a huge issue out of it. On the other hand, it almost feels a bit tacked on, to me, and I'm not sure it feels genuine. But, that's just my opinion.
As for the action and plot, it's on point as usual. I'll keep saying it: Riordan is the master of the cliffhanger and this is no exception. I'm already anxious imagining the rending of clothes when this series ends this fall with Blood of Olympus. I think Riordan did an excellent job of characterizing Tartarus in a way that was unsettling and believable. I can only wonder at how epic the conclusion is going to be.