The Battle of the Labyrinth is the fourth book of Rick Riordan’s projected five-book opus, Percy Jackson and the Olympians. The series began with The Lightning Thief and has constantly picked up steam as it’s progressed. I’ve been reading the series to my son, and we’re looking at the fifth and final book coming out next year with a mixture of anticipation and dread.
We want the next book. We want to know how everything turns out for Percy, Grover, Annabeth, and the rest, but we don’t want the adventure to end. Riordan’s imagination and zest for action is matched only by his wit and humor. We’ve become fans and end up talking about the books and Greek mythology quite often.
If you haven’t read the series yet, you’ve missed out on a lot. And you’ll probably want to stop reading this review now. Otherwise you’re going to trip across some spoilers for the earlier three books. Riordan’s books, Percy’s adventures, are an organic tale, growing and adding to canon with each new volume. Things just don’t stay the same in Percy’s ever-changing world.
Well, nothing stays the same except Percy’s continuing bad luck with schools. At the beginning of this one, Percy’s mom has a new boyfriend who gets Percy into a well-respected school that Percy normally wouldn’t have a shot at with his past record of suspicious destruction. Sure enough, almost as soon as Percy sets foot on school grounds, he’s attacked by demonic cheerleaders (the empousai, from Greek myth) and the school BURNS.
I couldn’t help laughing throughout the section as I read it. Friends of Percy are going to be blown away by the sequence even though they’re expecting it. My son and I kept cracking each other up for days afterward. These books just keep on giving!
The book turns more serious, to a degree, when Luke’s plans to invade Camp Half-Blood are revealed. Luke, Percy’s arch-enemy, is still trying to bring the Titan Kronos back to life so he can wreak vengeance against the Greek gods. Camp Half-Blood, because it houses and trains so many of the demi-gods – the children of the gods with mortal parents — is a prime target.
As always, Riordan establishes the roots of his story in traditional Greek myth. This one deals with Daedalus, the famed inventor who created the Labyrinth that housed the Minotaur. According to Riordan’s story, the Labyrinth has become – to a degree – a living thing that continues growing throughout the world and time. I loved the concept and my son was totally engrossed in the idea that the world was honeycombed with magical tunnels. This is the kind of thinking I’ve come to rely on the author for.
There are other adventures that take place before Percy, Annabeth, and Grover find an opening to the Labyrinth and climb down inside it, but once they’re in place the adventure kicks into high gear. They’re chasing after Nico, the son of Hades, who no one else at the camp knows about. Percy feels guilty about the death of Nico’s sister and doesn’t want everyone weirding out about the younger boy. Percy still believes he has a chance to set things straight between him and Nico.
Grover’s situation has gotten more dire regarding his hunt for the god, Pan. With all the failures Grover has racked up, the satyr community is thinking about pulling Grover’s searcher’s license, which means he can’t continue hunting for Pan. A lot of things are at stake in this one.
Tyson, Percy’s Cyclopean half-brother, stars in this one as well. I have to admit, Tyson is one of my favorite characters in the books. Tyson, with all his childish innocence, has won a special place in the hearts of my son and I. Every time Tyson’s on stage we’re just waiting to see what he’s going to say or do. In this one, Tyson gets to meet Briares, one of the Hundred-Handed Ones, an ancient from Greek myth. Briares’s reaction to his jailer is hilarious and I don’t want to spoil it, but my son and I went around doing it for days, to the point that my wife believed we’d taken leave of our senses. She hasn’t quite gotten into the Olympian view yet.
In addition to all the great imagery and dialogue, Riordan continues piling on the Greek mythology in The Battle of the Labyrinth. I love how he twists it and brings it into our world. And he dangles each cliffhanger and revelation of the plot with evident glee and precise precision. This next year of waiting is going to be a long one.