Today I finally got round to reading the latest installment in the ‘Heroes Of Olympus’ series by Rick Riordan, ‘The House Of Hades’.
The House Of Hades opens on the morning of July 3, two days after the end of The Mark of Athena, somewhere in northwestern Italy. The Argo II is unsuccessfully trying to fly east over the Apennine Mountains running down the center of the Italian peninsula past hostile mountain gods known as numinae montanum to the Romans and ourae to the Greeks who hurl boulders at the ship, which cannot fly high enough to avoid them or overwhelm them with firepower. Hazel sees Arion racing through the countryside and she asks Leo to take the ship down so she can speak to him. Arion takes her to a nearby crossroads enveloped by storms where the goddess Hecate is waiting for her. Hecate tells Hazel that she knew Hazel’s mother, who was a witch, well, and that Hazel has four options: go west, back to the United States with the Athena Parthenos to stop the impending Roman attack on Camp Half-Blood, and leave Percy and Annabeth to their fate; go east, to make another attempt at crossing the Apennines, which will get the ship pounded to pieces, and although the Seven may survive the crash, they will be knocked out of the war with the Giants; go south, to Epirus around the southern end of Italy, which will not save Percy and Annabeth, either; or go north, to Bologna and then to Venice via a secret pass through the Apennines once used by Hannibal in his attack on Rome during the Second Punic War, which will require Hazel to use the Mist to protect the ship and her friends. Hazel picks the northern route and then vows to Hecate that they will accomplish it all–closing the Doors of Death, stopping the war, saving Percy and Annabeth, and defeating Gaea and the Giants.
Meanwhile, Percy and Annabeth, having been dragged into Tartarus by Arachne, land in a river of Tartarus after a long fall, and immediately begin their journey toward the Doors of Death, following the River Phlegethon. They are forced to drink fire water from the Phlegethon in order to survive and heal their injuries, there being no ambrosia or nectar in Tartarus. Attacked by empousai, including Kelli, who Percy fought in The Battle of the Labyrinth, they are unexpectedly rescued by the Titan Iapetus, who Percy once fought, wiping his mind in the River Lethe, turning him sweet and helpful, and convincing him that his name was actually Bob. Iapetus/Bob then joins them on their trek back to the world. Along the way, they battle more monstrous creatures of Tartarus and encounter a helpful Giant, Damasen, who was created to oppose Ares, but turned out to be peaceful, meaning that he disliked wars and noise (unlike Ares), and was consequently banished to Tartarus for being a failure to his parents, Tartarus and Gaia.
As the Argo II approaches Bologna, it is boarded by two mischievous monkey-like dwarves, Akmon and Passalos, the Cercopes, who steal Leo’s Archimedes sphere, Piper’s knife and various other objects. Then they flee. Leo and Jason pursue them into the city, corner them in their lair in Bologna’s landmark Two Towers, and force them to return the stolen items, along with an astrolabe that once belonged to Odysseus and an old book which turns out to belong to the agricultural god Triptolemus, who lives in Venice. Leo allows the dwarves to keep the rest of their loot and has them go to New York to harass the Roman army Octavian has raised to attack Camp Half-Blood.
The crew of the Argo II then proceed to Venice to return the stolen book to Triptolemus and ask for his aid. Frank, Hazel and Nico, who was born in Venice and still speaks Italian, go into the city and find it overrun with anteater-like herbivorous monsters of African origin called katoblepones which were inadvertently brought into Venice many centuries ago from Egypt with the remains of the Apostle Mark, which the Venetians intended to revere as holy relics in the Cathedral of San Marco; the infestation is punishment from the gods for disturbing St. Mark’s remains. The katablepones exhale poison, which overcomes Hazel. They find Triptolemus, who is initially unwilling to help because he aided Demeter when she searched for Persephone, who was abducted and forced into marriage by Nico and Hazel’s father. He says he cannot help children of Hades because, for his help, Demeter made him a god. When Nico protests, he is turned into a corn plant. Frank, however, persuades him: seeing that the chariot Triptolemus once used to travel throughout the world is disabled due to having only one of the two snakes necessary to fly, Frank cleanses Venice of its katoblepones, leaving only one, which his father Mars turns into a python which Frank then gives to Triptolemus to replace the missing snake on his chariot. Triptolemus then turns Nico back to human, heals Hazel, and tells them how to survive an ordeal they must face to enter the House of Hades: they will be immunized from poison they must drink before going in by eating special barley cakes.
Proceeding south down the Adriatic toward Greece, the crew of the Argo II is waylaid on the coast of Croatia by a bandit called Sciron who is assisted by a giant predatory sea turtle and kills his victims by making them wash his feet and then kicking them off a cliff into the ocean for the turtle to devour. Hazel uses the Mist to trick Sciron to kick Hazel away from the cliff instead of off it, and then Sciron is thrown off the cliff himself by Jason and gobbled up by his own turtle. Pluto then appears to her and tells her that the Doors of Death are at the lowest level of the Necromanteion, the temple of Hades near the village of Mesopotamo in the northwestern Greek region of Epirus where they are going, and will be guarded by Pasiphae, a Cretan sorceress who was the wife of Minos and mother of the Minotaur.
Jason has a psychic dream in which he learns that Annabeth has managed to send a message intended for Reyna to Rachel Dare at Camp Half-Blood from Tartarus; Rachel, accompanied by Grover Underwood, delivers the message to Reyna, who is with Octavian and the other centurions of New Rome atop a Manhattan skyscraper. In order to stop the war between Camp Jupiter and Camp Half-Blood, Reyna must personally deliver the Athena Parthenos to Camp Half-Blood. Reyna, mounted on her pegasus Scipio, heads for Europe, dismissing the protests of Octavian.
Upon awakening, Jason directs Leo to change course for Split, Croatia, the site of the palace and tomb of the Roman Emperor Diocletian, a personal hero of Jason and Reyna who Frank says was the last of the Roman Emperors to worship the Olympians before Constantine I made Christianity the empire’s official religion. Despite Diocletian’s infamous persecution of Christians, Jason and Reyna admire him as an able emperor who rose from humble origins through the ranks of the military to the throne, and retired peacefully, to his hometown of Split, instead of dying in battle or being murdered. Diocletian’s scepter is said to be able to control the spirits of dead Roman soldiers who worshipped the gods of Olympus and Jason and Nico intend to look for it in Diocletian’s palace.
At Diocletian’s tomb, Jason and Nico are confronted by Favonius, the Roman god of the west wind, and by Cupid, the Roman god of love, who are the guardians of Diocletian’s scepter. Cupid extorts a confession from Nico as the price of giving him and Jason the scepter: Nico had fled Camp Half-Blood after Bianca’s death not just because he felt rejected by the other campers as the son of Hades, and not just because Percy had let him down by failing to keep Bianca safe–he has feelings for Percy, which he could not deal with because he didn’t want to face his feelings. Jason has seen in another psychic dream that Reyna is on her way, and, assuming correctly that she will take advantage of being in the region by visiting Diocletian’s tomb, leaves a note for her near the tomb directing her on where to go from there.
As the Argo II continues on toward Greece, the weather becomes unseasonably and mysteriously cool and cloudy, and then Khione, the goddess of snow, who Jason, Piper and Leo confronted in The Lost Hero, attacks and damages the ship and sends Leo to Ogygia, the island home of Calypso, in Malta, and the rest to an isolated desert location somewhere on the north African coast. Calypso, who has become bitter over being trapped on the island with no means of escape and no permanent romantic relationship, resists Leo’s presence, but slowly warms up to him. The two of them kiss and when he finally leaves the island, he is determined to free her from her exile and vows on the River Styx to return to her.
In Tartarus, Percy and Annabeth meet Akhlys, the goddess of misery. She enshrouds them in death mist and betrays them. A fight ensues, and Percy and Annabeth escape when Percy uses his powers to turn Akhlys’s own mist against her.
Jason has had daily audiences with Auster, the Roman god of the south wind, in connection with the Seven being able to proceed on their way to Epirus. Auster is naturally capricious and indolent but yet seems increasingly disinclined to cooperate with Jason. Meanwhile, Jason has been thinking that he misses Camp Half-Blood and that he never really fit in at the more formal, traditional, even hidebound Camp Jupiter, and that he may have been changed irrevocably by his time at Camp Half-Blood. When Auster finally agrees to meet with him, he indicates that Jason is not committed to one course, Greek or Roman, personally; Jason’s heart now lies with Camp Half-Blood, and Auster forces him to commit to it. Once Jason has done so, Auster changes to his Greek counterpart Notus and decides to send The Seven on their way. They then proceed to Valletta, Malta, having the damaged ship dragged by Notus’ winds; upon arriving there, they find Leo at a cafe, pensive because of his encounter with Calypso; they reunite and, with Leo back, they get the ship fixed and continue on to Epirus.
Arriving at the Necromanteion, Jason, Hazel, Frank, Nico, Leo, and Piper descend into the ruins, and eat barley cakes to protect themselves against the toxic potion they must drink in order to enter the temple, as per Triptolemus’ instructions. Earthquakes strike the caverns as they walk through them, and monsters assail them. Nico uses the Scepter of Diocletian to summon ghostly Roman soldiers, but they will not obey Jason, as they sense that he is no longer Roman, and some, but not all, obey Frank, who may not command the entire force, as he is only a centurion. Jason resigns his praetorship and gives it to Frank, who then takes command of the undead soldiers and defeats the monsters.
When Percy and Annabeth arrive at the Doors of Death, which is a magic elevator from Tartarus to the world similar to the elevator in the Empire State Building in New York providing access to Olympus, they find Gaea’s Giants and other monsters boarding the elevator. Bob tells Percy and Annabeth how they can escape: when the doors open, they enter the elevator, making sure no one else enters with them, before the doors close, and wait twelve minutes to get to the other side while the elevator is manually operated by someone holding down a button on the lower end during the whole time. The elevator ride up to the world takes twelve minutes, and then the doors must be open from the outside quickly or whoever or whatever is inside will vanish and be destroyed. The doors are guarded at the upper end by Pasiphae and Clytius, the Giant created to oppose Hecate. The Doors of Death normally move around unpredictably, but the elevator doors are held open with magical chains on the both ends, fixing them so that the elevator travels only between Tartarus and a cavern at the Necromanteion’s lowest level. In order to close the Doors of Death, and free them so that they resume their normal wandering behavior, these chains must be cut.
Bob volunteers to drive the Titans Hyperion and Krios, who are guarding the elevator, away from the doors and hold the elevator open and operate it so that Percy and Annabeth may escape Tartarus. Percy protests, since he knows that this will mean Bob’s death, but Bob insists. They are then confronted by Tartarus, the god of the pit, who tries to stop them and is in turn confronted by Damasen; together, Bob and Damasen come to their aid and hold off Tartarus while Annabeth and Percy destroy the chains on Tartarus’ side and escape, having a tearful (potentially final) farewel with Bob.
Meanwhile, in the Necromanteion, Leo and Hazel confront Pasiphae and Clytius. Pasiphae informs them that she is regenerating the Labyrinth, which was destroyed when Daedalus died in The Battle of the Labyrinth, and intends to use it for her own purposes, to aid Gaea. As the elevator arrives with Annabeth and Percy inside, Clytius and Pasiphae attempt to kill them by preventing the elevator doors from opening, but Leo opens the door with a well-thrown screwdriver aimed at the button. Hazel uses the Mist to get Percy and Annabeth out of the elevator and then to drop Pasiphae back into Tartarus through a pit which suddenly opens underneath her feet, then cuts the chains on the elevator doors with her sword, thereby closing the Doors of Death, which vanish. The other heroes arrive and they all then set upon Clytius, and Hecate, who has appeared to watch the battle, cremates him alive with her torches to finish him off, as Bacchus had Ephialtes and Otus in the Colosseum of Rome in The Mark of Athena. Before disappearing, she warns them to leave quickly, as the ruins have become unstable; Nico cannot shadow-transport all eight of them, but they manage to do it with the aid of Hazel, who has never previously shadow-traveled before. They reappear on a hillside outside the temple, with the Argo II hovering overhead, as they left it. Hedge lands the ship, and they see Reyna is with them. She is without Scipio, who she was forced to euthanize after he collapsed immediately upon landing on the deck; he had been mortally wounded in an attack by a gryphon the night before.
The ten of them share a meal on the hillside, and it is decided that Nico will transport Reyna and the statue back to Camp Half-Blood through shadow travel. Reyna wishes to have three people along so Frank volunteers Coach Hedge, who wishes to be with his wife the wind spirit Mellie, who is pregnant with their child and was caught at Camp Half-Blood by the war while on vacation from her job as Piper’s father’s personal assistant. The rest of the heroes continue on toward Athens on the Argo II, and Percy, remembering that Bob missed seeing the stars and had asked Percy to say hello for him to them, looks up at the night sky and says to the stars, “Bob says hello.”
It was an incredible book, one of the most action-packed in the entire series of Percy Jackson adventures. There were twists, turns and revelations throughout. We got to revisit some old favourite characters, and had some serious character development along the way (particularly with my favourite character, Nico, who only get smore and more awesome and interesting). The ending set up a spectacular final book in the series, and I can’t wait to see how the tale ends. I desperatel want all of my favourites to have the happy endings that they so clearly deserve (though it always seems doubtful) – fingers crossed!
Thanks for reading.