“True success requires sacrifice.” Words spoken by the goddess Nemesis — surely, this is a bad sign!
The Mark of Athena demonstrates Rick Riordan’s increasingly suspenseful and exhilarating story-telling for the Heroes of Olympus… although I also keep wondering how much longer it’ll be until one of them bites the dust. There are just so many bad omens, foreshadowing of terrible things to come, and the ever-present “nothing ever goes well for a demigod” mentality.
Nonetheless, it is so wonderful to see Percy and Annabeth together at last. (I am finally able to officially join Team Percabeth!) From the moment the Argo II reaches Camp Jupiter, to the last excruciating moments of the story, my heart aches for them both. Yet, the development of each character’s personality, as well as the relationships between them, blossom throughout their quest. Cooperation between the seven chosen demigods is not only essential to their survival, but truly what helps them maintain the urgency of the quest — and prevents any of them from abandoning ship (which is often very, very tempting). As they try to escape the Roman legions of Camp Jupiter, aim to get rid of creepy eidolons, battle against Phorcys and Kato, try to avoid the various traps set for them, and search for clues to follow the Mark of Athena before setting sail for Rome (where things will only get exponentially worse!), the heroes need to rely on each other and learn that they are not only trustworthy, but valuable members of this quest.
Granted, it can’t be easy to carry so much power on one ship, no matter how grandiose the Argo II is. Percy and Jason constantly clash as leaders, since boys will be boys, and they want to out-macho each other. Frank fears Hazel’s interest in Leo, his short life-expentancy, and overall awkwardness. Hazel simply wants to feel useful due to this being her second shot of a meaningful life. Leo wants to desperately prove himself while keeping the trireme together, and trying to fit in with the group… he is quite uneasy about being the odd man out. Piper is cursed with that blade of bad news, Katoptris, so her nerves are always on edge. Annabeth is stretched so thin between ensuring the group holds together, and worrying about her own solo quest… the one no child of Athena has ever completed, and the one she must suffer alone. However, Coach Hedge is having a fantastic time… screaming out “Die!” every chance he gets. He is the much needed comic relief.
As I read my way through this group’s most difficult quest to date — riding along with Percy, Annabeth, Jason, Piper, Frank, Hazel, Leo, and Coach Hedge — I appreciated the references to prior adventures and previous books. These characters all have so much history — some more than others, but even the newest of crew members are invaluable at this point. Remember when Percy first awoke to hearing Annabeth say “you drool in your sleep”?… or how they took turns unwillingly holding up the sky?… or how Percy gave up the chance at immortality to be with Annabeth?
(… and where is Grover?!)
Of course, this all brings me back to the overwhelming amount of bad omens, and the many promises made that will no doubt be broken in the near future. I fear it can really go either way for our beloved heroes: perhaps a hero’s path is never easy, but after so much struggle and heartache, are they not deserving of some rewards at the end? …. or perhaps it’s all just horror after horror, and there’s a good reason why the Greeks invented tragedies.