The Battle of the Labyrinth

It's nonstop action in The Battle of the Labyrinth, the fourth book in the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series. Percy's nearly fifteen, even more of a teenager than before, and still waiting to figure out if he's the one mentioned in the prophesy that might lead to his death when he turns sixteen.

In the first chapter, Percy destroys yet another high school, this time without even enrolling. He might be able to shrug this one off if it wasn't for the fact that it's the school where Mr. Blofis teachers, his mother's boyfriend who pulled some strings to get Percy an invitation. After defeating monster empousai cheerleaders with the help of redheaded mortal Rachel Elizabeth Dare (who Percy met in the last book at Hoover Dam), Percy and a very jealous Annabeth return to Camp Half-Blood just in time to witness Grover's hearing at the Council of Cloven Elders, where he's on trial for spreading rumors that Pan has called to him. He's given a week to prove himself and find Pan (a task that no satyr has been able to do) or his searcher's license will be revoked, but there are many other quests and trials to be taken on, too.

A new swordmaster named Quintus is at Camp Half-Blood, along with his pet hellhound Mrs. O'Leary. Despite his pleasant exterior, though, Percy is warned to keep an eye on this newcomer who might not be what he appears. Nico, son of Hades, is still missing, but Percy keeps getting visions of the young demigod summoning ghosts (with sacrifices of sodas and Happy Meals) in the hopes of communicating with his dead sister, Bianca. The ghost that is helping young Nico, however, may not have the boy's interests at heart -- which is confirmed when they discover that the ghost is Minos. We also learn that the labyrinth, originally created by Daedalus, has expanded to stretch across the United States, and Luke may have found a way through that would enable his army of monsters to explode upon Camp Half-Blood. Annabeth is given the quest to find Daedalus's workshop, acquire Ariadne's string, and convince the inventor (if he's still alive) that he must help them stop Luke from navigating the labyrinth. Annabeth takes Percy, Grover, and Tyson along on her quest, but everyone's quests ultimately come together as the young heroes navigate the twists and turns of the labyrinth... and they find that sometimes, even demigods need the help of a mortal.

There's a bit of tension between Percy and Annabeth as their teenage selves try to figure out just how they feel about the other -- and this gets further complicated when they each have the pain of other loves to deal with, despite their young ages. Annabeth has not yet given up on Luke, who appears to everyone else as completely lost to Kronos. Percy nearly dies and finds himself nursed back to health by Calypso, who offers him the tantalizing prospect of staying with her on her island forever, escaping his prophesy. Grover, too, has acquired a girlfriend -- a dryad named Juniper -- and he manages to complete his quest for Pan, even if the outcome is not what he desired. Even Clarisse, the bullying daughter of Ares, seems to have a love story as she struggles to save one of the half-bloods who turned to side with Luke and Kronos. While in the labyrinth, we meet a variety of new mythological characters. We meet Hera and Hephaestus, along with Briareus (a hundred-handed one), Kampe (a demon/she-dragon), others. I had forgotten that Thalia agreed to become one of Artemis's Hunters, and so I was a bit confused as to why she wasn't in this book at all, but remembered once I finished reading.

Riordan still manages to keep up his momentum and make this fourth book fun (I particularly enjoyed the twist where the Sphinx is no longer posing just one riddle to questers, but rather, insists on a standardized test of meaningless trivia), but this isn't his most delightful book to date. There isn't quite the same amount of playfulness and joking that the other books had, but I'm not sure this is a bad thing. The characters are getting older and things are more dangerous for everyone as we move steadily towards the fifth and final book. This installment ends with a large battle between the forces of Kronos and the demigods at Camp Half-Blood. There's bloodshed and sorrow, but the reader will finish this book with a desperate need to start the fifth. Do yourself a favor and have it ready and waiting.

No comments: