5 out of 5 stars
The Battle of the Labyrinth was first published in 2008 and is the fourth book in the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series written by American author Rick Riordan. It follows the fourteen-year-old titular character, Percy, as he returns to Camp Half-Blood to discover the secret plans his friend Annabeth had been involved in prior to the events of the previous novel, the discovery of former camper Luke’s plan to use the legendary Labyrinth of Daedalus to invade the camp with Kronos and his army of monsters, and the inevitability he and his friends would have to enter the labyrinth themselves to persuade Daedalus to help them instead of Luke.
I absolutely loved this novel.
The narrative of the story kept to the same writing style as the previous novels and was impeccable at capturing Percy’s voice. It not only kept up a sophisticated air of a skilled story teller, but it kept the language simple at the right places so that you remember that you are reading from the point of view of a fourteen-year-old boy. Everything about the writing flowed amazingly well and unlike The Titan’s Curse, the story kept at a pace that was entertaining. Everything made sense. When an event happened that needed an explanation to make sense it got one. If it didn’t and could be used to build suspense for the final novel then it was left in a way that hinted at an explanation but kept the reader on the edge of their seat with anticipation.
Rick Riordan has created a character with a voice that is developing superbly. One thing that I look for in a good story is proper character development – Percy is one of the few narrating characters I’ve read to have some really fantastic development. You can see him ageing through his speech – as you read, you can see this boy growing up and that is an amazing thing to do. Often in stories, the character has the same personality, the same thoughts, the same everything. They never change. But Percy I felt was showing really well paced development. He is a moron and stupid in places, common sense is something that is being ingrained into him with every incident. Yet his intelligence is growing, his empathy towards his friends and his sense of right and wrong is brilliant. He’s a good role model of a character.
I liked the darker tone of this novel through the description of the labyrinth and the various paths and rooms that could be found inside. It was chilling and creepy and some of the descriptions of corpses and skulls and death were surprising to me in a book labelled “9+”. It seemed a little too dark in places for children that young, but for an older reader like myself it gave the right sense of danger that I had to keep reading. Everything was described so I could vividly visualise the scene in my head and I enjoyed that so much.
Development of characters is a very key feature in this novel as Annabeth has returned and was given the chance to redeem herself for her behaviour in the previous novel. I was glad to see that she was living up to the opportunity and growing up almost as much as Percy was. However, she still had those lingering comments about Luke that still bugged me. I stand by the point I made in my review of the previous novel: how many times does this guy need to try to kill her friends before she agrees that he’s bad news? She’s keeping the door open for a chance for redemption and I admired that a couple of novels ago, but time has moved on and she is still waiting for him to change his mind when he has killed people and made a pact with the one creature capable of wiping out all life on the planet.
However, her relationship with Percy was a theme that I found amusing. She is still as argumentative with him, but her loyalty and trust in him is proven beyond measure when she breaks rules and puts herself in danger for him. She is brilliantly smart and can plan with the brightest minds yet she still has enough time to help him out too and trust his judgement even when she knows that it could be twice as dangerous his way but possible the quickest way out of a monster infested mountain. Her spontaneous kiss with him was cute and left as a lingering factor between them but never really resolved.
Luke is still a weasel of a villain and you can see the weakness behind his motives more in this story. It was nice to see snippets of his time with the monsters and Kronos as you can see his doubt creeping in and his confusion. When the time comes for him to stick to the choices he’s made, he is a strong character and well deserving of the hate he receives. However, the true villain of the story will always be Kronos whether Luke is there or not and the threat of his return is made apparent and leaves a very heavy weight on the story.
It still lingers during the final scenes at Percy’s fifteenth birthday party but there was a lighter air at the same time that helped balance the novel and the coming sequel.
Love and loyalty is a deep theme in the novel as well as betrayal and dependency. All the characters are independent thinkers, amazing in their own rights and flawed in ways that make them easy to relate to. These traits just make their trust in each other and their want to protect and defend even more substantial. It’s a good message to promote to the younger end of the audience and reminder for the older end: you can be as independent and strong as you want, but everyone needs someone else in their life to keep them balanced; whether that’s in the form of a girl/boyfriend, best friend, sibling or parental figure.
Overall, I was thoroughly entertained by this novel and enjoyed every second of reading it. Everything was well paced, gave enough detail and left me wanting to read the final part of the story.