Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Book Review: The Battle of the Labyrinth by Rick Riordan (Percy Jackson and the Olympians #4)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Characters; creative use of mythology
Cons: Formulaic plot; environmental lecture
The Bottom Line
The same basic plot
Still entertains as Percy
Faces more danger

A-Maze-ing Fun

By the time you hit The Battle of the Labyrinth, the fourth book in the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series by Rick Riordan, you really need to be up to speed on the story.  Unlike some kid's series, the books in this one build on each other.  Yes, there is enough information that you could jump in here if you really, really had no choice.  But please, start at the beginning.

What are the basics?  Percy Jackson is a demigod.  His mom is a mortal but his dad is Poseidon, the Greek god of the sea.  During the school year, he lives with his mom in modern day New York City, but each summer he goes to Camp Half-Blood where he and other demigods train.  Unfortunately, Kronos, the ancient Titan that the gods defeated centuries ago, is gaining power and trying to overthrow the gods.  Percy always seems caught in the middle of the action, too.  Not too bad for a fourteen-year-old, which is at the upper end of the late elementary through jr. high target audience.

This book opens just as summer is about to start, and Percy is looking forward to summer at Camp Half-Blood.  But the growing conflict between Kronos, and the gods has even infiltrated the camp.  It's recently been discovered that there is an entrance to Daedalus' Labyrinth on camp grounds.  If so, this entrance could be used to get around the camp's security system and attack the camp itself.  And so Percy and his friends Annabeth, Grover, and Tyson set out on a quest into the heart of the ever changing labyrinth hoping to find Daedalus in his workshop before the Titan army does.

Meanwhile, Percy is having dreams about Daedalus from 2000 years ago and visions of Hades' son, Nico's, attempts to raise the dead.  Percy and Nico met during the last book and separated on bad terms.  Will Percy be able to reason with Nico?  Will Percy and his friends find the Daedalus' workshop and stop the army from invading their camp?

The books in this series have been a fun ride from the very beginning, and that's certainly the case here.  While each book does contain a standalone adventure, each book is obviously building to the series climax in the fifth in the series, and things keep advancing here.  In fact, I am quite anxious to pick up the next book and see where everything leads.  Each book has had fun moving elements and characters from ancient Greek mythology into modern times, and that creativity is on full display here as well.

Unfortunately, each book in the series has the same basic plot structure, and that's the case again here.  I would have enjoyed the book more if Rick Riordan had found some way to change up his basic plot structure.

There is some pretty heavy stuff for the characters in this book, and it was interesting watching them grow.  A couple characters in particular ended this book differently than I thought they would.  But on a lighter note, there's also a very fun love triangle with Percy in the middle.  The poor guy is completely clueless as to what is going on and why.  Yeah, he is fourteen, after all, and the author captures that part of the character so well.

One sub-plot of the book leads to a lecture on the environment.  Frankly, I felt like this was forced into the story, so as a result it actually drove me out of things.

Finally, there are some inconsistencies in the timeline.  Yes, this is the fourth book, but it only represents the third year since the stories have started.  At times, it sounds like Percy has known who he is and been going to Camp longer.  Plus a couple times the author refers to things that happen a couple days ago as happening yesterday.  Minor details, but incorrect timelines really irritate me.  The rest of the writing is great, and I find Percy's first person narration to be quite fun.

I doubt I would have struggled with most of the flaws as a kid.  In fact, I could imagine a younger me devouring these books as quickly as I could get my hands on them.  The adult me is still enjoying them and planning to read the fifth one very soon.  The Battle of the Labyrinth entertains.

Here is a listing of both series in the complete Percy Jackson and Heroes of Olympus sagas in order.

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