The last thing I wanted to do on my summer break was blow up another school. But there I was Monday morning, the first week of June, sitting in my mom’s care in front of Goode High School on East 81st.
Goode was this big brownstone building overlooking the East River. A bunch of BMWs and Lincoln Town Cars were parked out front. Staring up at the fancy stone archway, I wondered how long it would take me to get kicked out of this place.
“Just relax.” My mom didn’t sound relaxed. “It’s only an orientation tour. And remember, dear, this is Paul’s school. So try not to... you know.”
Author: Rick Riordan
Synopsis: All Percy needs to do is live to age sixteen so he can fulfill the big prophecy, but that isn’t as easy as it looks.
With Camp Half-Blood under threat from Kronos’ army, Percy accompanies Annabeth on her first quest, a trip into Daedalus’ Labyrinth. But Annabeth refuses to tell anyone, even Percy, the last line of the prophecy the Oracle gave for the mission. Besides having to fight for his life every few turns in the maze, Percy has to deal with Annabeth’s confusing behavior, another unexpected half-brother, a reckless son of Hades, a mortal girl who sees through the Mist and annoys Annabeth, Grover and Tyson’s troubled search for Pan, and a hard-to-control power that he didn’t know he possessed. If all that weren’t enough, his archenemy, Luke, is getting weirder and stronger, and unfortunately no less vicious.
Notes: Percy’s fourth book is darker than the second and third, partly owing to its passing almost entirely underground. Though Riordan maintains the humorous junior high boy voice, life in the Labyrinth cannot stay light. Particularly not when our hero stands opposed to an evil Titan rising from Tartarus, and spends a fair amount of time dealing with a son of Hades.
Now fifteen years old, Percy has begun to think and act just a little more seriously. Annabeth mystifies him; he cannot understand either her dislike of Rachel Elizabeth Dare or her continued bond to Luke, let alone her various charged responses toward Percy himself. Determined to take on the burden of the prophecy, Percy soldiers onward, but to his surprise, he seems unexpectedly capable of destroying not just schools, but parts of America. Influence over Nico, however, seems beyond him.
Nico's character progression is excellent. Hating Percy and desperate to revive his sister, he starts off under the influence of a vengeful minor god. His summoning of the dead will make some readers uncomfortable, though in the context of the story he has some right to communicate with the Underworld and even exercise limited authority over it. But the direction of his story is toward wisdom. It should be interesting to see where he goes in the next book.
Darker by far than Nico is Luke, who, having sold his soul to evil, begins to suffer its demands upon his body as well—though perhaps not in the way one might expect. It’s not a gory or visual horror, but it’s horror nonetheless. Though Percy has no good feelings toward his archenemy, Riordan maintains a limited, if suspect, sympathy for Luke. Or maybe it’s just this reader sympathizing with Annabeth.
Despite the darkness, the tale seemed slightly less Vegas-y and rather more beautiful than its predecessors. Calypso’s island and the cave of Pan are both intensely lovely, and Daedalus’ workshop has a beauty of its own. Percy’s dreamlike narration of the former two gave off a stronger sense of beauty than I recall finding in either of his trips to Olympus.
The environmental sermon from a certain character was interesting, and amusing and poignant enough to keep the rhetoric from being quite so tiresome as environmentalist moralizing sometimes is. It was also one-sided and therefore short on subtlety, but meritorious nonetheless.
The Greek words and concepts got a little overwhelming compared to the other books in the series. On the other hand, I read so quickly that this may have been more my fault than Riordan’s. A second read would probably clear up all that.
Recommendation: Highly readable, with much to like. I’m looking forward to book five.