This fourth book in Riordan’s Percy Jackson & the Olympians series is vastly entertaining, as always. Within, Percy and his friends must enter the huge labyrinth that is under the surface of the earth, just beneath the mortal world. Grover goes in search of Pan, whom he is convinced is hiding out, to substantiate his claim to the Council of the Cloven Elders, who want to revoke his searcher’s license. Percy and Annabeth must stop Luke, who’s seeking to use the labyrinth to lead the army of Kronos into Camp Halfblood and destroy it.
Riordan uses his boundless imagination to bring us a giant hellhound named Mrs. O’Leary, a Dodo bird that hums “It’s a Small World,” fire-breathing horses (“I wonder if it hurts their sinuses”), a dragon lady who guards Alcatraz, and a great deal of suspense and excitement. He also has a wealth of great quotes, thanks to his super sense of understatement, a few of which I’ll share here:
“The last thing I wanted to do on my summer break was blow up another school.” (Another trademark Riordan opening line.)
“We’d spent maybe ten minutes together, during which time I’d accidentally swung my sword at her, she’d saved my life, and I’d run away chased by a band of supernatural killing machines. You know, your typical chance meeting.”
“I tried to fall asleep, but I couldn’t. Something about getting chased by a large dragon lady with poison swords made it real hard to relax.”
“‘So,’ my mom said when I was done with my story, ‘you wrecked Alcatraz Island, made Mount St. Helens explode, and displaced half a million people, but at least you’re safe.’ That’s my mom, always looking on the bright side.”
There are a few details I don’t care for in the series, like how the gods follow western civilization, moving Olympus from Greece to New York City. Other places move to America, as well, like the door to the Underworld and the stronghold of Kronos. I see why he does it, to create an American setting for his American readers and his American character, but it just seems wierd. The Labyrinth also moves and shifts and changes, so tunnels or rooms are never in the same location twice (except for Pan, who, incidentally, is still under the same state Grover found him in last year). And, of course, I’ve never really been keen on the whole premise of promiscuous, dysfunctional gods, but as it’s been pretty much in the background, I wouldn’t bar the series from my kids.
But in The Battle of the Labyrinth, an intensification of some darker themes will probably put this series in the 12+ age category for my kids, along with the likes of Harry Potter. In this one, Kronos, who is the epitome of evil and who is seeking to destroy Olympia and western civilization, takes over Luke’s (a kid) body with Luke’s permission. This doesn’t settle too well with me. Yes, Luke is a bad guy, and I haven’t read the last book yet (which I suspect redeems Luke). In the meantime, I don’t think I want my kids reading this series until they gain a little more wisdom and maturity.