During the third attack, Hazel almost ate a boulder. She was peering into the fog, wondering how it could be so difficult to fly across one stupid mountain range, when the ship's alarm bells sounded.
"At the conclusion of The Mark of Athena, Annabeth and Percy tumble into a pit leading straight to the Underworld. The other five demigods have to put aside their grief and follow Percy’s instructions to find the mortal side of the Doors of Death. If they can fight their way through the Gaea’s forces, and Percy and Annabeth can survive the House of Hades, then the Seven will be able to seal the Doors both sides and prevent the giants from raising Gaea. But, Leo wonders, if the Doors are sealed, how will Percy and Annabeth be able to escape? They have no choice. If the demigods don’t succeed, Gaea’s armies will never die. They have no time. In about a month, the Romans will march on Camp Half-Blood. The stakes are higher than ever in this adventure that dives into the depths of Tartarus."
I probably wouldn't have read this one, except it showed up at my school library. And I did enjoy The Mark of Athena after all; it's just that Riordan's novels are really, really predictable and sometimes way too dense (as in this case). On their own, they're entertaining enough, but then you start to realize that each one is so similar to the last in terms of plot and set-up. We usually have some evil force trying to destroy or take over the world, and a group of unlikely heroes trying to stop them from doing it by traveling through the world, usually with a time limit. The demigods all have really disturbing and cryptic dreams and mysterious ways that they have to prove themselves, tests that they have to pass without even really knowing it. There are always many scenarios where just when the demigods' deaths seems imminent, help arrives from an unexpected quarter. I got more and more annoyed as this long book went on, because I felt like I'd read the same stuff already in prior Riordan novels. Talk about mass media.
Still, I have to admit that it is entertaining, and I do really like the characters and how they're developed. Percy and Annabeth are having their own adventures, and meanwhile the rest of the crew are trying to get to save them and the world (of course). However, I'm not sure if I'll be reading future books in this series or this world; I think I've kind of outgrown them. I can definitely see how younger readers will just swallow up this latest installment though, so in terms of appealing to his target audience, Riordan succeeded.
Let's talk about the good: despite the whole bit about the world as we know it ending on August 1st, there's still a lot of trademark Riordan humor in the book, absurd situations, for example. At one point, Nico gets briefly turned into a corn stalk by the god of farming, which is hilarious given who Nico is and what he's like. That particular scene in Venice was one of the funniest in its absurdities. Rick Riordan certainly is good at creating strange scenarios; in this case, Frank Zhang ends up killing several hundred weird cow creatures in order to find a python in order to convince the god of farming to heal Hazel and restore Nico to his usual non-corn state. Yeah, it's pretty ridiculous, but even to me it was entertaining, and to younger people it would probably be more so. That whole sequence is pages 133-157, and it's pretty hard to forget. Riordan also does some punning in the book as well as other kinds of jokes.
The descriptions of Tartarus were rather chilling; the whole landscape is really just one giant body. The ground is squishy and permeable, like skin. The air is sulphorous, there are lots of monsters constantly reforming, and the only water is a spicy, bad-tasting fire that's purpose is to keep you alive to endure more torments.
Despite all this and Gaea's whole scheme of taking over the world, The House of Hades still is for the most part a light book, although some of the dream sequences are disturbing as well. There's a lot of humor, and you know everything's going to work out all right in the end (at least, at the end of the series). The book is really dense though; I suppose Riordan could have cut out some of the mini-quests or a bit of the extra padding. It didn't need to be nearly 600 pages. Still, The House of Hades was pretty good considering everything.