The House of Hades: The Heroes of Olympus, Book 4

Book review by
Carrie R. Wheadon, Common Sense Media
The House of Hades: The Heroes of Olympus, Book 4 Book Poster Image
Popular with kidsParents recommend
Another thrilling adventure, this time in the underworld.

Parents say

age 11+
Based on 16 reviews

Kids say

age 10+
Based on 132 reviews

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The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

You'd think after writing so many mythological adventures that Rick Riordan would start running out of gods and monsters. Not so! In Tartarus, we meet Nyx, Geras, Akhlys, the giant Damasen, and others. In Europe, we learn about Diocletian and his scepter, Notus, and Triptolemus, weird cow monsters named katobleps, a demigod robber named Sciron, and others. Can't keep them straight? There's a sizable glossary in the back of the book. Places you can find on a map: Epirus, Croatia, Venice, Malta, and Bologna. Places you can't: Calypso's island.

Positive Messages

Many characters face hard choices in this series installment. Which paths should they take? They are driven by loyalty for their friends, love for their boyfriends and girlfriends, and the big picture: how to save the world from destruction. They never take the easy path. When Jason finally makes his tough choice, it frees him to take more control of his life; indecision had kept him stuck. Also, there's plenty of deep food for thought during Percy and Annabeth's trip through Tartarus -- there can't be any harder place to stay positive and not give in to despair, but they manage to never give up hope by relying on each other and using brain over brawn to fight forces too big for them.

Positive Role Models & Representations

All seven demigods are admirable for their loyalty to friends and their drive to save the world. Two standouts in The House of Hades: Frank, for his bravery and budding leadership skills, and Hazel, for making one of the most difficult choices the group faces and tapping into her magical gifts. Percy and Annabeth, of course, face horrible trials in Tartarus. The bravest thing they do is not give in to despair when it's all around them.


The seven demigods go to plenty of rough places -- it doesn't get rougher than Tartarus -- and fight horrible and strange monsters, giants, robbers, and vengeful gods. There's plenty of battle action and danger here, but the descriptions never get graphic, except when monsters in Tartarus are tearing apart other creatures; one giant impales a drakon with a tree and tears apart his flesh for stew. Tension is broken up with humor, especially in the scarier encounters. An army of dead fight against monsters in a climactic battle, but the focus is on the way Frank strategizes the attack over carnage. Monsters die in a puff of dust. Demigods suffer poisonings and bloody injuries that are cured. One beloved flying horse dies from injuries.


Some kisses, budding romance, and declarations of love among older teens but never anything beyond that. The myth of the Minotaur comes up, as does how a woman was tricked into falling in love with a bull to sire him.


Stays light, as always, but includes "sucktastic," "hellish," and lots of demigod-specific terms like "Gods!" and "Holy Hephaestus." Hazel "yelled curses that would've earned her a mouth-washing with lye soap back at St. Agnes Academy."


Brief mentions of products like Nintendo Wii and M&Ms.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The House of Hades is the fourth book in The Heroes of Olympus series that spun off from the uber-popular Percy Jackson series about teen demigods (who have one Greek- or Roman-god parent) on quests to save humanity from ancient monsters still at large in the world. Rick Riordan combines plenty of action and danger (usually not gory but sometimes scary) mixed with lots of humor and learning. This book takes two of the main demigods straight into Tartarus, so expect the scary imagery to be amped up (though most kids don't secretly fear falling into a mythological underworld, so that helps). Riordan also introduces his first gay teen character, who gets outed by Cupid himself.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byCollegeStudent13 September 15, 2015

A Note on Homosexuality

Firstly, I am an observant Christian. As a Christian, I try to be loving and accepting of everyone. However, I cannot help being disappointed by some of the r... Continue reading
Parent Written byjoanne.marie August 21, 2014

Great Book!

This book was great! My ten year-old loved it! The book was greatly structured, and the characters felt real. The vocabulary used is more advanced than previous... Continue reading
Kid, 12 years old October 20, 2013


Teen, 13 years old Written byExplodination April 28, 2014

Please, anti-homosexual parents, understand that hate will get you nowhere on this site...

While I know (and apologize) that this isn't a review of the actual book (I may write one of those later), I'd like to give these parents my everyone-... Continue reading

What's the story?

Seven demigods on an ultimate quest to keep the Earth goddess Gaea from rising again hit the most dangerous leg of their journey so far. At least, Annabeth and Percy do when they fall straight into the underworld of Tartarus. They must cross the most miserable place imaginable, which is teeming with scary monsters, and somehow get to the Doors of Death on the other side without being noticed by all those scary monsters. Their guide: Bob the janitor, a now-jovial giant whose mind was erased of all demigod-related ill will in the Lethe River. He can wield a broom against evil enemies like nobody's business. Still flying along in the Argo II, Leo's fabulous ship, are the rest of the demigods who have promised to meet them on the outside of the Doors of Death. They only have a couple of weeks to get to the town of Epirus at the House of Hades, where the living try to connect with the dead. Standing in their way: mountain giants hurling rocks, giant hungry turtles, jilted wind gods, flying twin dwarves who love shiny things, cow-like monsters that spew poisonous gas...the list goes on. Everyone must use his or her talents to get to the Doors of Death on time, or the monsters will keep coming into the mortal world, and Percy and Annabeth could be stranded on the other side forever.

Is it any good?

There's something about reading every single Percy Jackson book that feels as if you're at a sporting event, rooting for your home team (Rome! Greece! Beat those Titans!) with loads of pride. Each season the players get better and better, some coming off the bench for the first time and scoring the winning whatever -- basket, touchdown, giant death blow. It's time to get out those pom-poms again: the home team brings it in THE HOUSE OF HADES, especially Frank and Hazel in the mortal world and Percy and Annabeth in Tartarus. And Leo -- yes, he finally meets someone! No more brooding over Hazel. And Piper with those wind gods? Rah, rah, rah!

It's a Herculean task to put all seven demigods in the spotlight at least once and make it count. Rick Riordan somehow manages to keep everyone's story pretty interesting, though Jason's role seems slightly less compelling considering he's the son of Zeus. It's also a huge task to take two favorite characters into an abyss of misery and despair and keep it a book for tweens and teens. Here's an extra rah-rah for Bob the jovial janitor for lightening things up in the underworld.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about their favorite demigods. Of course it's hard not to root for Percy and Annabeth, because they're in the worst place imaginable, but who else is a standout in this book? 

  • Why do you think Rick Riordan added more diversity to the Heroes of Olympus series with characters of different races and backgrounds and a gay character? Do you prefer to read about characters similar to you or different from you? Why?

  • Cupid doesn't appear as a cuddly baby in diapers to the demigods. How is he portrayed? How does his portrayal fit this story?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love fantasy and Percy Jackson

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