I have a kind of unconditional love relationship with this series. By which I mean I love it regardless of what anyone else might say. And this book, The Battle of the Labyrinth
was a favourite in the series when I read it. That said I don't want to merely write a review that indicates my emotional reaction to this series but also my thoughtful philosophical reaction.
I am on record as having said that I can't appreciate a book unless there's something for me to take out of it. No doubt there would be many people who would think: 'what can you get out of these adolescent books aside from a quick fun read?' I don't want to be condescending and say that they're reading these wrong but they are. All jokes aside, I think that some books resonate with audiences in different ways. I see things in some of these better YA books that I don't even see in the established classical novels. I see things in established novels that others don't. We all have our own personal way of looking at books which I think reflects on our ways of looking at the world.
I love the mythology in this book. I've always loved mythology and I particularly like the twist Rick Riordan has with his modern myths. If I were teaching 12 year old children about Greek mythology I'd utilise these as a tool. They are quick reads, I personally can read them in the time it would take me to watch any movie version, and that's perfect for children wanting entertaining information about the Greek myths. Also, I find that the book's writing perfectly encapsulates Percy Jackson's perspective nicely. He's a bit of a humorous and unreliable narrator and I find him an endearing protagonist. Speaking about humour I've always found that the funniest jokes or witticisms are those which contain truth or reflect on truth. In many ways the narration is very funny and quite clever.
This book has plenty of fun with a narrative journey featuring a quest into the labyrinth of Daedalus, a meeting with Hephaestus, Titans, monsters and mortals. The plot also leads the series closer to the final climactic battle between the good and evil. So, if you've read up to here in the series you can expect more of the same and yet for some reason this is one of my favourite books in the series. With the last being my favourite.
Fun aside I do pick up some interesting motifs in the series. I feel this book of all of them reveals the overall ideas of the series best. Yes, you have the typical ideas about good and evil, although for children's literature Riordan does an excellent job of portraying the ambiguity of his characters. In one book the gods want to kill Percy Jackson and in another they want to honour him as family.
Yet a motif I observed in this story is the one of changeability. This series and in particular this book, has the idea of how everything in time changes and yet at the same time stays the same. It is the idea that old ideas (the gods, the monsters, the old mythological locations) rise up again in new forms (gods with technology, monsters running boutiques and mythological locations in key tourist hotspots). It is also the idea that people change over time. We see the protagonist Percy Jackson change. We see the villains and the secondary characters change. And yet at the same time they are the same characters we begun with.
Change is such a fascinating topic to me. At the same time it is one many people both like to think about and want to ignore. There are some changes which are awkward, which we want to rebel against. No one wants to grow old or to undergo the final change from life to death. No one wants to undergo a change which causes us to lose friends or families. There are many things we sentimentally do not want to change and hence why nostalgia is such an appealing idea. There are also changes we want (changes to laws for the good, new ideas arising, new books, new movies, new distractions). And yet I still hold this idea that there really is nothing new but rather all changes now are things which arise from the old. I think this series addresses that idea excellently.
I encourage anyone who is young at heart or looking for a fun read full of mythology to read these. And perhaps if you've already read these maybe you won't look at them quite the same when you consider that there are deeper ideologies and motifs in these novels.