I was so excited for The House of Hades by Rick Riordan to come out this week. After Sea of Monsters and The Son of Sobek I was even more so. I’m always pulled so fully into Riordan’s world of brave magical teens, gods and monsters. He’s created such a rich tapestry of characters and placed that falling into it for 24 hours ever year or so is always a treat.
The House of Hades is the fourth book in The Heroes of Olympus series, the ninth “Greek” story, and the twelfth set in this universe (The Kane Chronicles is the Egyptian half and The Son of Sobek is a short story that sets up a clear crossover as the next step.) and is by far the most romantic. Not just because of Riordan delves deeper into the complex emotional relationships of his characters than ever before, but because it’s intense emotions and beautiful imagery feel like something out of the romantic era. Which, incidentally is my favorite literary era. Hades is also probably my favorite book in the series now, after The Last Olympian held on to the spot for a very long time.
Because it’s the most romantic, though, let’s talk about some of the kick ass relationships that got explored. Mainstay couples Jason and Piper and Hazel and Frank basically got a pass from angst this time around, which was nice to see. It also made their personal internal journeys a little less interesting than their friends this time around. Especially Piper, who grows into her powers, and defeats an old enemy but does very little else.
Anyway, let’s start with Percy and Annabeth. When we last saw them, they were falling into Tartarus and their inevitable doom, but for a couple that has overcome kidnapping, oracles, Annabeth’s past, the goddess Calypso and amnesia, a little hopeless doom is nothing. In a lesser series they’d probably be separated again, but Riordan makes it absolutely clear, Annabeth and Percy are past that. They’re together now, and will stay together. The journey they take, while desperate and horrific, they take together and in the end, vow never to be separated again. One terrifying scene has Percy living through the agony of every curse ever uttered against him. The heartbreaking moment comes when Annabeth walks away from him, essentially abandoning him to his torment. This curse came courtesy of Calypso, who Percy has a brief but lovely relationship with in The Titan’s Curse. This is the worst for Percy because losing Annabeth shatters him and he’s reminded of Calypso, who he did care very much for, and it stings that she’d curse him at all.
Speaking of Calypso, she was probably my favorite part of this whole endeavor.
If you recall, when I read The Mark of Athena was really hoping that Leo Valdez was going to get the girl. The girl in question at that point was Hazel Levesque. Riordan did better. Much better. After being shot into the sky by the snow goddess Khione (who later got her ass handed to her by Piper), Leo crash landed on Calypso’s island. But this isn’t the sweet, sad Calypso of The Titan’s Curse, she’s grown pretty bitter an angry over the past few years. (Which would explain her cursing of Percy.) She hates Leo on sight, and he pretty much feels the same. They avoid and ignore each other for his first few days, but eventually respect each other, like each other and fall in love. It’s really quite touching. Because of Calypso’s curse, that no man she loves can stay with her, Leo has to leave, but unlike her previous lovers (Odysseus and Percy, among others), Leo doesn’t have anyone waiting for him at home, and vows to return.
Guys, it was amazing.
But it was nothing compared to the most touching and unexpected twist Riordan’s ever given us.
I’m telling you, this one made Rachel being The Oracle look downright contrived. It made Luke being in love with Annabeth all along seem predictable. It made Leo being the great grandson of Hazel’s boyfriend look well, snooze worthy.
I also might have thought this because it was about my favorite character.
See, I’ve always loved Nico Di Angelo, the Son of Hades. Of the Big Three kids we met in the first series, Percy, Thalia and Nico’s sister Bianca, he was always the most interesting. His motivations were never clear, he always seemed to be on his own side, and that tended to line up with Percy’s so yeah, there they were.
But while Nico and Jason confronted Cupid this time around, again, in an incredibly spooky scene, we learned the reasoning behind a lot of Nico’s decisions.
Fans have theorized for a while that Nico had a thing for Annabeth. It’s understandable for a few reasons, his clear avoidance of Percy, and extrapolated almost entirely from a moment when Nico agrees to do a favor for Camp Half Blood because Annabeth asked him.
What Jason, and we, uncover during their visit with cupid is Nico isn’t in love with Annabeth at all. Nico is (or was, the current status of his feelings is unclear) in love with Percy. I’m not doing the moment justice because it was incredibly touching and deeply rendered. And it cements Nico’s character in a way. Yes, all of the Half Bloods are outcasts, in the mortal world. But in the Greek and Roman worlds? Our main characters aren’t outcasts at all. Percy and Jason are like high school quarterbacks. They win a lot, they have pretty, smart, talented girlfriends. Nico isn’t like them.
Nico is The Son of Hades, he isn’t from this era, and he’s isolated himself, no matter how many times he’s been reached out to. When Jason considers this, he tries again to tell Nico his friends won’t reject him, but Nico makes him promise not to tell.
One of the things that I really admire about Riordan is how he doesn’t condescend to his child readers and he also doesn’t dispense with the nastier bits of mythology. They’re watered down, but not thrown out. Of course, he also isn’t ignoring some of the more unconventional aspects of Ancient Greek life, including that homosexuality was both widely practiced and widely accepted. But Nico is still a product of our world, and even more so a product of being a child of a time when being gay wasn’t accepted at all, he would have trouble reconciling it.
Also, how much you want to bet that in the next week or so the internet explodes with Nico/Jason fanfiction? You know it’s coming world, there’s no getting around it.