Book Review: The Mark of Athena, the Slowest of Riordan’s Heroic Efforts

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This review has spoilers.

Percy and Annabeth’s romantic relationship may actually be the real highlight of Rick Riordan’s latest book, the third in the Heroes of Olympus series, The Mark of Athena.  I have rarely come across so sweet and yet still believable a relationship (Cammon and Amalie’s from Sharon Shinn’s Reader and Raelynx still surpasses Percy and Annabeth’s, but Reader and Raelynx is more primarily a romance than The Mark of Athena is primarily a romance).

This book lacked the urgency of Rick Riordan’s other books—perhaps even all of his other books (minus the guidebook companions—though it ought to have been as compelling as the quest still had a solid expiration date and dire consequences if it failed.

I am a huge fan of Nico di Angelo’s.  I wanted him rescued just because I was going to be really upset if he died (that he is important to the success of saving the world is only an upside to saving him for me).  I’m not sure that Riordan is as much a fan of his, given the reserve, coolness, and “mixed feelings” that Percy, Annabeth, Jason, and Leo feel towards him (also the illustration of him that I assume that Riordan must have approved is not at all how I picture Nico; he’s far more bad-boy attractive in my head, looking actually a little something like Riordan’s approved illustration of Anubis but more dangerous).  I wonder if Riordan’s ambivalence towards Nico partially detracted from the urgency of the plot.

Really, I’m sure that most of the sluggishness of the plot grows out of Riordan’s desire to allow his characters some time to just enjoy one another’s company before the major bad hits.  I think there’s a lot of character-service in this book, a lot more than has been in any of his other books—which only increases my certainty that the next book is going to be gloomy and dark.

Possibly having seven main characters (eight if you include chaperone Coach Hedge), Riordan just had too much to discuss within the group for monsters to attack, gods to visit, glimpses of the enemy to be seen with the rapidity of previous books.

Also, this is a bridge book—a better-written bridge book than many I have read, including City of Fallen Angels and Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, but a bridge book nonetheless.  The true objective of the book was “Get the demigods to the Ancient Lands.”  Even “Save Nico,” the, I would argue, secondary quest of this book, is not as epic as others in the series: “Save Hera” or “Recover the Eagle to save camp.”

I missed the urgency, impressed as I might have been by Riordan’s ability to handle more mundane interactions and drama.

It was nice to see him handle yet another style—slower, more character-driven—but it is not what I expect from him, and it was not what I had thought I was opening, particularly with that epic cover, which—yes—I used to try and guess at the plot.  I expected more fighting within and of the group.

If this is a bridge book, what are we moving towards?  I predict a lot of darkness, some old enemies, and more sweetness from Percy and Annabeth in the next book.

****

Riordan, Rick.  The Heroes of Olympus, Book Three: The Mark of Athena.  New York: Hyperion-Disney, 2012.

This review is not endorsed by Hyperion Books, Disney Book Group, or Rick Riordan.  It is an independent, honest review by a reader.

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