Percy Jackson and Co. are back for another terrific adventure in The Mark of Athena. In the third installment of Rick Riordan’s The Heroes of Olympus, the demigods must fly to Rome to save Nico from some twin giants and find Athena’s statue that will unite the Greek and Roman camps. After spending books 1 & 2 introducing the demigods and establishing the stakes of the overarching quest of the series, all seven characters are now united together, making this the most crowded of Riordan’s novels.
Riordan continues his trend of four consecutive chapters narrated by one character as the story shuffles from person to person. Fortunately, he doesn’t give all seven of them chapters; but, instead, focuses on Annabeth, Percy, Leo, and Piper, emphasizing their characters arcs in this novel (saving us from the tedium of Hazel and Frank chapters that bogged down the previous novel, while providing fodder for their unlikely love triangle with Leo). Unfortunately, Riordan gets into a frustrating structural loop with the four chapters per person cycle. The first two are dedicated to expositional and travel purposes and the other two build up to a battle scene with gods or monsters. The perspective then switches to the next character and the cycle is repeated. It quickly becomes both predictable and tiring, which makes slugging through the middle of the book a challenge on par with these demigods’ quest.
But Riordan knows how to tell an engaging story, and all his plot threads tie up perfectly. And this series is so well thought out, that he can already hint to the events to come in the next book—giving each of these books a great cliffhanger ending. So far, I find the Heroes of Olympus series a much more fascinating and rewarding read than his original Percy Jackson and the Olympians series (which I also absolutely adore).