I have seen The Mark of Athena (and the entire Percy Jackson and Heroes of Olympia series) listed as either juvenile literature or young adult by the two different library systems I use; one classifies it as one, and the other library the other. Frankly, I don’t see how a book going on 600 pages is juvenile, but I’m not an official librarian, so who knows?
What I do know is that this was a very good book. It followed another book that I remember enjoying very much, Son of Poseidon. The bad thing is that I could remember almost none of that previous book, aside from the cover of it. I didn’t read it so very long ago, and yet starting this book, I was bewildered. Who was Hazel? or Frank? And why is he so scared of firewood? Shapeshifter? What?! Unfortunately, this book doesn’t help a lot with recollecting either Hazel or Frank, as they are featured much less in the story. Not that they’re not as important. They’re just less developed, characters that are more functional than complex. That’s how it seemed to me, anyway. Jason was rather boring in this too. Piper wasn’t bad, but it was Percy, Annabeth, and Leo that got to strut their stuff in this book, and they did a great job. Riordan does a great job giving each character a recognizable voice, even writing in the third person, and the changes in perspective were interesting as well as functional.
I was excited as soon as I realized this book was focused so much on Athena and therefore on Annabeth. She’s been a strong character all through the series, perhaps a prettier, stronger Hermione, and I was eager to see her take center stage. She did not disappoint. She is a complex character, brave despite fear, bold despite self-doubt, and definitely not an opponent to be trifled with. I loved her resourcefulness in the all the seemingly hopeless situations she faced throughout the story.
Percy also grew on me even more in this book. He can still be impulsive and unwisely outspoken at times, but he seems to have grown up a lot in the Heroes series, grappling with issues of love and leadership and understanding his own strengths and weaknesses, and the various challenges throughout this story definitely tested him in many ways. In that way, he contrasted with Jason in this story, who was a bit two dimensional, like the blonde Superman he’s compared to more than once. Functional, but not as complex as in The Lost Hero.
Leo annoys me, even more than Percy sometimes does, and yet there is something appealing about him, under the bravado and hyperactivity and electronic/ engineering fidgeting that Riordan captures very well. I think he grew a lot in the course of this book, and I can’t help but hope that Nemesis’ prophecy is not as straightforward as it seems.
Of course, this is still Rick Riordan. It’s still a bit young for YA (or a bit mature for juvenile lit). Silliness abounds, especially among the modernized versions of gods, demi-gods, monsters, and villains. However, reading this, I continue to marvel at how well Riordan fits the carrots and spinach of his writing in with the French fries and hamburgers: how much ancient Greek and Roman mythology and history and culture (as well as modern geography and history and culture) is covered in the course of the story, and inadvertently learned by the readers, while they are having a great time following cool kids in an exciting adventure.
So let’s see: strong, complex male AND female characters, sneaky historical/ cultural/ geographical/ literary content (and even a little cinematic history in this book), and a fast-paced, enjoyable story that kept me engaged through to the very end? Sounds like a win-win for me. The ending is a bit of a cliffhanger, and I sense something bittersweet coming up, although hopefully not directly related to the cliffhanger. I can’t help hoping for happiness, not only for the three couples, but also for the lone characters, maybe especially for them. But all of this just leaves me eager for The House of Hades already. I know Riordan won’t disappoint.
On a side note, I really hope he does a series sometime in the future that deals with Scandinavian/ Viking mythology. He’s handled Greek/Roman and Egyptian mythology so far. I’d be excited to see him write about Viking god and goddesses next.
This review is also listed on www.goodreads.com.