And then the House of Hades came.
When I first picked up this book, I was very apprehensive. Of course I wanted to know what happened to Percy and Annabeth after that terrible, and literal, cliff hanger at the end of the Mark of Athena, but I didn't expect Riordan to be so good at writing dark. This book is possibly one of the darkest books he was written. From the description of Tartarus that originates from both classic myth and his own imagination to the descriptions of some of the gods, the book was very well written. Anthony Horowitz still takes the cake for being one of the best dark YA authors, but Riordan holds much potential.
Can we talk about the cover for a moment? It is just so perfect! As mad as it may sound, the US cover perfectly fits the book. It is dark, symbolistic, and actually partially portrays a scene from the book (unlike the UK covers – sorry, but those still scare me). It is a near-perfect portrayal of Percy and Annabeth in this book. John Rocco, this is a shout out to you being an amazing cover artist for the books since The Lightning Thief!
Up to this point in the series, there was a certain disconnect from the original books. This book completely patched that over; references to the Second Titan War, old characters appearing, and our good ol' Annabeth actually acting like herself again. For once, I felt as though I was reading a continuation of PJO instead of a [poorly] written fanfiction. Old characters also popped up in this book. Remember Rachel? Grover? And if you've read The Demigod Files and The Demigod Diaries, be prepared to see some references to some of the stories in there.
And the characterisation. Of my gods, this book did an amazing job at it. Ever wonder about some of Nico's past? This book connects the dots and even sneaks in a little detail in about him where, unless you've come across a spoiler before reading the book, you will have not seen coming. Flat characters are turned into round, dynamic characters and, overall, this book fixes most of the mistakes from the prior books.
Now let's discuss the plot. It moved along quickly - almost too quickly than what I would have liked. 600 pages went by way too quickly, and although I like a fast book, this one went a little too fast. Individual scenes weren't generally very descriptive, and were done in a choppy manner through the switching of perspectives between scenes. The chapters were also almost to Maximum Rider length, the shortest being only two or three pages long. The story itself was entertaining, but it could have gone into a bit more detail.
Uncle Rick has also surprised us in a way other than a troll-worthy cliffhanger. As some of you may or may not be aware, Riordan had a reputation for being a bit of a homophobe. It seemed, in prior books, that he purposely avoided any and all myths that involved any sort of gay characters. This book changed this. I won’t say who, but besides there being a blatant mention through a myth, there is also a gay character. And it is seamlessly written into the story – not at all forced like I would have assumed.
Overall, I would give this book a 4 out of 5. It is the best book in the Heroes of Olympus by far, and though there are a few mistakes (and misquotations), it was overall well done and well thought out. I was definitely not expecting this high quality of work and I will be expecting something even better for the last book, The Blood of Olympus, planned to be released Autumn of 2014.