By Rick Riordan
Blurb: “Percy Jackson isn’t expecting freshman orientation to be any fun. But when a mysterious mortal acquaintance appears on campus, followed by demon cheerleaders, things move quickly from bad to worse. In this fourth installment of the blockbuster series, time is running out as war between the Olympians and the evil Titan lord Kronos draw near. Even the safe haven of Camp Half-Blood grows more vulnerable by the minute as Kronos’s army prepares to invade its once impenetrable borders. To stop the invasion, Percy and his demigod friends must set out on a quest through the Labyrinth—a sprawling underground world with stunning surprises at every turn.”
My Thoughts: First of all, this will not be my normal book review format. I’m trying something different, and if you’re not a fan, feel free to let me know on discord. So without further ado, let’s get into the review!
After the very good The Titan’s Curse, I was curious where Riordan would go next with the Percy Jackson series. He had a lot to live up to, in terms of crafting a compelling narrative and weaving his character arcs into the story, but I was 2 for 3 with the series so far, so I figured The Battle of the Labyrinth had a pretty good chance of being, at the very least, readable and entertaining. So was it? Or did it succumb to The Sea of Monsters syndrome? Well, that’s what I’m here to discuss, so let’s get into it.
The first thing I noticed about BotL is that its plot has a…familiar setup, at this point. We open with Percy, at an orientation for a new school, he runs into some monsters, and everything goes to shit. While I wasn’t really all that into this opening — I thought it was especially weak compared to the fun romp that was the rescue of the Di Angelo children — I did enjoy Percy’s narration. His characterization is as sharp as ever, and telling this entire story from his first person perspective is still the best decision he ever made. Annabeth is back as well, and I still like her a lot too. She’s probably not my favorite character in the series anymore, especially after Riordan refuses to develop her at all in this book (more on that later), but I still think she’s a really fun and interesting character, who I like reading about. Also, that random mortal girl from TTC — Rachel — is back, which was a pleasant surprise because I honestly was baffled as to why she was randomly there in TTC. We then get quickly swept back to Camp Half-Blood and we get to plot similarity number two, one of the camp higher-ups has been banished, and replaced with someone else, who Percy doesn’t like. Last time, this was used in The Sea of Monsters, and I didn’t like it there either. This is one of my main issues with BotL. It borrows a lot of plot ideas from previous PJO books, and it just feels kind of lazy.
Another issue I have with BotL is that motherfucking Tyson is a main character again. I spent a very long time complaining about him in my Sea of Monsters review, and he isn’t really any worse here than he is there, but he has all the same issues, just done again. However, one thing that I do like is that Grover is important again, and his character’s super fun. I also don’t really like Annabeth all that much in this one. While I get what Riordan was going for, I feel like her conflict with Percy is just a bit forced, and it goes on for too long. As a result, I feel like every time it looks like she’s about to progress, something happens that sets her back. I shit you not, there are a couple times in this book where she and Percy are about to have a character moment, and then something action-y crashes into the scene and has the progression screeching to a halt, which has to be the laziest possible way to write conflict.
However, my biggest issue here is honestly that I find the plot to be kinda boring. I don’t really like the Labyrinth as a set piece all that much, and the story seems to largely consist of a series of action sequences with only a few little moments of character building sprinkled throughout, and even though it’s undeniably well done action, I just need something more in my stories. Oh also, Luke still sucks as a villain, he’s boring as shit, and I hate his character.
So now that that’s out of the way, let’s dive into some positives. First of all, the entire Calypso sequence is fantastic. Her characterization is wonderful, and the entire sequence has this deliciously tragic undertone to it. This is side-quests done right, right here. It’s honestly good enough to make the entire rest of the book worth it, although it has some fierce competition, because Nico’s story is also great. He goes through a super good arc, and whenever the story focuses on him, it’s an absolute blast. Finally, I actually think the finale here is pretty solid. Rachel being the key to everything really makes all of the attention she’s gotten thus far worth it, and Annabeth’s distrust of her is executed supremely well. Thank god, cause otherwise Annabeth’d be one of my least favorite characters this time around.
Also, this book ends on a cliffhanger, which was a cool little change. Good on Rick for taking that risk, I think it works really well. Kronos also finally becomes a scary villain here, and I gotta say, it’s about damn time. Thank you Riordan, for finally giving me a villain to be interested in after three and a half books of Luke dicking around doing his best Marvel Cinematic Universe villain impression.
Finally, I should mention that one of the best scenes in the entire series takes place in this book, which is the resolution of Grover’s multi-book arc to find Pan, the Lord of the Wild. It’s a beautiful, heartfelt scene that I genuinely teared up at. God, I love it so much.
Overall, The Battle of the Labyrinth is a book of highs and lows. It’s got characters I love, and characters I find to be really annoying. It’s got sections I love, and sections that I find to be deeply boring. However, though, the one thing that saves it for me is Percy’s narration. Even when the plot is stupid, and Riordan’s having some trouble writing teenage girls, I find his narration to be enjoyable, which was not always the case in The Sea of Monsters. So because of Calypso, Pan, and Percy, I’m going to give Percy Jackson and the Olympians: Book IV: The Battle of the Labyrinth a 7/10.
Written on 09/07/2021