“We’re staying together. You’re not getting away from me. Never again.”
– Percy Jackson, to Annabeth
I know going into it that this will probably be a fairly useless review…after all, the latest Percy Jackson book was released almost six months ago, and quite a few people have read it since. I even finished it back in November; I just haven’t had time to write a full, thoughtful review of it until now. Sorry about that. However, it would be a crime not to review this novel at all, since it’s not only one of my new favorites, but also easily the best Percy Jackson book to date.
Note: this review does contain spoilers, but I’ll give plenty of warning beforehand.
The third book in the spin-off Percy Jackson series picks up right where book two left off: Jason, Piper, Leo and Annabeth are sailing towards the Roman camp, while Percy, Frank and Hazel are waiting there for their friends.
Let’s talk about the first two books in this series for a second.
I strongly disliked them. Very strongly. I thought Riordan’s humor was reaching the end of its life, I thought the stories were just recycled plots from all the other books, and I initially disliked the new characters. Not that I hated them, but I really missed Percy. And no, his role as main character in book two doesn’t count, because he couldn’t remember anything from his past life.
For those who agree with me so far, fear not. Because while book two cuts off exactly where it starts getting good, this means that book three starts off great. Mark of Athena shines from page one to the ending (which, don’t worry, I’ll discuss).
A rough overview of book three: now, with all the friends reunited, they all sail away on the Argo II towards the land of Rome itself, with plenty to throw them off-track along the way. Meanwhile, Annabeth is dealing with her own secret, which warns that she’ll have to face a powerful enemy when they get there.
This book’s prophecy—easily the coolest to date—reads as follows:
“Wisdom’s daughter walks alone; the Mark of Athena burns through Rome. Twins snuff out the angel’s breath, who holds the key to endless death. Giants’ bane stands gold and pale, won with pain from a woven jail.”
What I LOVED about this book:
Whenever people ask me about this novel, the first thing I tell them is that it should be judged on a completely different level than any of the other Percy Jackson books. For one thing, it doesn’t have the same old formula (Prophecy + quest + episodes of snarky monsters + ending skirmish= mucho dinero) that we’ve grown tired of. Riordan shakes it up with twists along the way, fresh scenery, and—most importantly—heavy character development, through use of flashbacks and one-on-one romance scenes.
We also see some of the Olympians again! There’s a pretty sick flashback scene between Annabeth and her mother, which we’ve never really witnessed before. We also meet Aphrodite, who’s every bit as entertaining as back in The Titan’s Curse. One of my favorite quotes from her is, “Love and war always go together. They are the peaks of human emotion! Evil and good, beauty and ugliness.”
I think that’s a good illustration of what really made this book so much better than the others: Riordan demonstrates his mastery as an author. He doesn’t just tell a fun story, he injects serious messages in subtle ways, at all the right moments. His style is clearly elevated, fuller and more developed, so he tells a story that reads solidly for all ages, not just little kids. I’m seventeen, and I was still blown away.
My only complaint? The kids are sixteen, constantly avoiding getting killed, and still none of them have uttered a single cuss word. I understand the marketing behind that, since this is a children’s series, but I’m somewhat of a stickler for realism. I suppose I shouldn’t expect that from a fantasy franchise, though.
And now—here come the spoilers, everyone—the end of the book.
I liked it. Believe it or not, I thought it was a bit less cliffhanger-esque than book two, in which it literally just starts getting good as the story ends. This one leaves me feeling optimistic towards the direction the series is headed, even though Percy and Annabeth died.
Alright, so they aren’t dead dead. They’re just dead by the technical term, as in, they fell into the pits of Tartarus together to avoid being separated again (hence the epigraph at the start of this post). If book four, The House of Hades, is half as good as this installment, I’ll probably squeal like a little girl.
In Conclusion: filled with development of all the characters we love, packed with action and humor, and armed with a superb writing style, this book is more than just my favorite Percy Jackson book to date. It’s one of my favorite books to date. Well done, Rick Riordan.
Rate: 9 out of 10.