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The Battle of the Labyrinth (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, #4) by Rick Riordan
Sometimes between rereadings (and I have read these books at least three times by now) I forget how much happens in "The Battle of the Labyrinth." We meet a couple of gods that we had only seen in passing before; we return to San Francisco (we will be there again in future books in this universe); there are fight scenes, and escapes, and new characters, and the return of Rachel Elizabeth Dare, and that's all before the titular battle. Also, one of the saddest scenes, that contains one of my favorite quotes (if not my absolute favorite quote) from this series, happens in this book. And I really am so tempted to share the quote but it's a spoiler, so I can't. I have to resist.
The book opens at the credulity-stretching orientation for Goode High School in New York City. I say "credulity-stretching," because it's early June, and orientation, of course, usually comes right before the start of school, not at the start of summer. I am uncertain why Riordan made it orientation and not some other kind of tour for prospective new students. Anyway, it's orientation, and Percy got into Goode because it's where Paul Blofis, whom we saw briefly in "The Titan's Curse" and is now his mother's boyfriend, teaches. During orientation, Percy is yet again attacked by monsters -- in this case, the empousai, demonic vampires with one bronze leg and one donkey's leg (don't ask me . . . ). During orientation, Percy runs into Rachel Elizabeth Dare and she once again demonstrates her ability to see through the Mist by recognizing the empousai as monsters before Percy does. One of the empousai blows a hole in the side of the school and causes a fire, and Percy flees once again.
As he is leaving the school, Percy runs into Annabeth, who is supposed to be meeting him at the school after orientation. First Annabeth sees the fire and then Annabeth sees Rachel. Rachel insists on an explanation for what happened and gives Percy her phone number, which does not set well with Annabeth.
Annabeth and Clarisse have been busy over the past few weeks. Annabeth has put clues together that have lead her to the conclusion that Luke is traveling through the Labyrinth, possibly in search of an entrance to the camp that will allow his monsters to bypass the magic protecting the borders. Annabeth and Clarisse have been searching the Labyrinth for this entrance. When Percy asks where the Labyrinth is now, Annabeth says that the Labyrinth is not under any one place in the United States, but is, in fact, under the entire United States. You see, Daedalus, its creator, is still alive and the Labyrinth is tied to his life force. The longer Daedalus lives, the larger the Labyrinth gets. To make things even more exciting, the Labyrinth changes. So you can follow one tunnel then turn and look behind you and see that the entrance you used to get into that tunnel is no longer there. Space also means nothing under the labyrinth. You can start on Long Island, walk a few feet, make a right turn, go up a flight of stairs and end up in San Diego (not that that actually happens; it's just an example).
Annabeth is finally granted a quest of her own. She is to go into the Labyrinth to find Daedalus. She chooses three companions -- Percy, Tyson, and Grover. Chiron warns her that no good will come of taking three companions, rather than two, but Annabeth insists that all three are necessary. It turns out that she wants to bring Grover because she believes that Pan is in the Labyrinth somewhere. Pan being underground would explain why no satyr, including Grover himself, has ever been able to find him.
Of course, we meet a few new characters along the way, some of whom will be important later. The "travelogue" portion of this book includes the aforementioned return to the Bay Area (actually two returns -- Alcatraz and another trip to Mount Tamalpais) and Colorado Springs, Colorado. We also -- finally -- get to Texas, Riordan's home state. I find one of the Texas scenes particularly pointed, given Riordan's history as a teacher.
Once again, Riordan has created a terrific book that I love to read again and again. However, I have one small quibble. Lots of things shine in this book -- eyes, lights, floors -- and that's great. However, Riordan seems to have all but done away with the word "shone" in favor of "shined." The word "shined," to me, at least, always implies buffing or applying polish to something. So when Riordan writes, "his eyes shined," for example, I wonder what they were shining: shoes? glass? the chrome on a car?