4/5 Stars

Where would a half-blood son of Poseidon and his Athena-born girlfriend go after falling off a cliff? Hell.

That wasn’t a punch line, but the synopsis of Rick Riordan’s fourth installment in the Heroes of Olympus Series, “The House of Hades.” The book begins with five Roman and Greek demigods carrying the newly discovered Athena Parthenon back to Greece, where they hope to close the Doors of Death before the Earth Mother, Gaea, awakens and ends the world. Just when the group is beginning to think that Gaea may prevail, daughter of Pluto, Hazel, is summoned to take on a task that may just save Olympus.

Worlds below, we find Annabeth, a daughter of Athena, picking up from the very literal cliffhanger that the previous novel “The Mark of Athena” left off on, falling to her doom with the hellish pit, Tartarus, quickly approaching below her. With the help of the son of Poseidon, Percy, they manage to land in the River of Lamentation which proves to be one of their first and safest obstacles in the journey.

Riordan is notorious for spending a copious amount of time retelling major events from other books in the series.  In  “The House of Hades,” he has finally found the right balance between what we need to know and what we should already know. This balance allows more focus on the well-described details of Tartarus and the previously unexplained phenomena of the supernatural veil between humans and the gods.

For the most part, the story follows a moderate pace; fast enough that there aren’t any drawn out encounters but not so fast that important details and events are overlooked. The major benefit of the pacing is character development. Although traveling Tartarus is an experience that changes Percy and Annabeth in ways they may never understand, changes in other major characters are even more dynamic and immediate.

Fans of the series may be pleased to find that the point of view shifts between some of their favorite characters, including Percy and Annabeth. As the story is told by all of the seven demigods sent on the quest, the reader gets to see from the perspective of a few characters, such as Piper, who have not contributed since the first book.

Perhaps the most disappointing character absence of all is Nico di Angelo, son of Hades. Although Nico has unofficially joined the quest, the perspective of this veteran character has not appeared once in the entire series.

Overall, “The House of Hades” wonderfully prepares readers for the fifth and final installment, “The Blood of Olympus”, to be released next fall.

For fans of:

“The Kane Chronicles,” “Oh.My.Gods.,” and “Throne of Glass.”