The House of Hades by Rick Riordan. Hyperion Books, 2013, 583 pages.
Reading Level: Middle Grades, ages 11 and up
Maturity Level: 6
My younger siblings adore Percy Jackson. When I finally checked out the latest installment in the Heroes of Olympus series, House of Hades, they were itching to borrow it. Until House of Hades, I had read every book ahead of them. But, busy with summer, I made an exception. I wish I hadn’t.
Mark of Athena finished with a cliff-hanger so action is ready and waiting for House of Hades. As conflict continues between the Greek and Roman demigods, Jason and his crew on the Argo II continue their mission to close the Doors of Death. Meanwhile, Percy and Annabeth move through Tartarus with the same goal.
Despite the promise of adventure, the plot drags. Moreover, Rick Riordan introduces a new element that will trouble Christian parents. Nico di Angelo, one of the minor characters, is revealed to be homosexual. Until now, Riordan has avoided the other, darker side of Greek mythology, but now he both refers to the story of Hyacinthus and has a character “come out.”
“I had a crush on Percy,” Nico spat. “That’s the truth. That’s the big secret.”…Jason couldn’t imagine what it had been like for Nico all those years, keeping a secret that would’ve been unthinkable to share in the 1940s, denying who he was, feeling completely alone—even more isolated than other demigods.
Riordan’s treatment of Nico emphasizes that this a normal life experience and having a crush on a boy is treated as casually as having a crush on a girl. Thankfully, the book’s homosexual references and dialogue went over the head of my younger brother, but due to their inclusion, I cannot recommend this book for younger readers. As for older readers? There is nothing here that a teen aware of current culture will find surprising. For a middle-grade reader, I would recommend that parents preview chapters 35-36. Only you know what your child can handle.
Janie reviewed Vol. 3, The Mark of Athena.
Cautions: sexuality (homosexuality, occasional heterosexual kisses), violence (fighting scenes), supernatural (dark beings in Tartarus)
Audience: boys, girls, reluctant readers
Recommended use: entertainment, literary supplement