Review written by Jeff Dougan.
The Titan’s Curse is the third installment in Rick Riordan’s bestselling series about Percy Jackson & his friends. The success has inspired a direct response called Son of Angels, published for Christians who think fantasy is evil. The first two books, The Lightning Thief and The Sea of Monsters, have also been turned into films. (Side note: the second film appears to have flopped at the box office, relative to its budget, so I doubt the others will see the screen). I’ve reviewed novels one and two previously.
In this book, the series starts to get a tiny bit darker, as Percy, Annabeth, and Thalia start by trying to rescue a new pair of demigods from nearly being devoured by monsters. With the (original) Manticore leading the attack, this is an even tougher fight than their previous ones, and it takes the unexpected intervention of Artemis and her band of Hunters to save their collective bacon. As Artemis goes to investigate the meaning of things said during the fight, the Hunters, Percy, Annabeth, and Thalia get to escort these two new demigods to Camp.
It becomes obvious shortly afterward that something has happened to Artemis, and a group of five is sent to rescue her. With the quest belonging properly to Zoe Nightshade, she is originally extremely reluctant to take Percy along, and it takes some stealthy intervention and sabotaging one of the Hunters who is going to go to ensure that Percy has a spot—even then, he pushes Blackjack to the limits to be allowed to actually go.
This is one of their most dangerous quests, crossing the country, running afoul of Olympian detritus, and including the consequence of at least one broken promise. Along the way, two of the five members of the quest die, Grover gets a significant clue as to the location of Pan, and we learn that more of the titans than just Chronos are rising and things might be worse than anticipated.
SPOILER ALERT: Things you might want to know before suggesting this to your kid
I mentioned above that two of the members of the quest die. The first death is that of Bianca di Angelo, who was rescued early in the book and whose death has ripple effects into both the next book and the sequel series. In what can only be described as a “Junkyard of the Gods,” she enters a gigantic rampaging robot to try to shut it down. The robot runs off and crashes. The rest of the kids spend a long time looking through the remains of the crashed robot to try to find her body so they can get it returned to Nico, but to no avail.
At almost the very end of the book, Zoe Nightshade is both revealed to be the titan Atlas’ daughter and is killed by him while they fight to free Artemis. This one happens on-screen, but has about as much ceremony as Voldemort killing Cedric Diggory. It happens fairly quickly, and gets some emotional aftermath while the book wraps up.
Nico and Bianca di Angelo are a brother-sister pair of demigods who don’t remember much of their past, and their parentage is a mystery for much of the book. Their descent from Hades is revealed at the end of the book, and Nico becomes an important character through the remaining books of both this cycle and the second series of five.
Zoe Nightshade was kicked out of her family for betraying their trust back in the time of ancient Greece (see below)—her father is the titan Atlas.
Gender & Relationship Issues
We get a few more ongoing rounds of teenage relationship angst and kids’ ideas of gender roles. Zoe Nightshade dismisses Percy’s opinion early and often for being male, despite his proving that he’s at least halfway competent. Percy freaks out when he believes that Annabeth is seriously considering joining the Hunters.
The Importance of Promises
Percy makes Nico a promise to keep Bianca safe, but fails when Bianca sacrifices herself to stop the automaton. Nico’s rage at the broken promise sets up issues in the next book, and it might be exacerbated by Nico having a crush on Percy (something not revealed until The House of Hades, book 4 of The Heroes of Olympus). I’ve tried getting questions to Rick Riordan via Twitter since the book was published about whether this aspect of Nico’s character has been planned since the very beginning or not, but haven’t had any luck.
Just like in the first two books, there’s some rude humor that’s less crass than Captain Underpants and mostly in the chapter titles. The use of “Oh my gods” and similar turns of phrase show up again, too. In the audio editions, the plural form of “gods” is more obvious than to a rapid reader in the print editions.
Zoe’s issues with Percy go back to her relationship with Heracles, which Percy glimpses in dreams on and off throughout the book. She created the sword Anaklusmos (which Percy now uses), but Heracles failed to return her trust or respect after she got him past the dragon guarding the Apples of the Hesperides. She joined the Hunters of Artemis shortly after Heracles failed her and she was disowned by her family. Percy’s use of Anaklusmos isn’t the main reason Zoe doesn’t trust him, but it doesn’t help, either.
A must-read for fans of the first two books, The Lightning Thief and The Sea of Monsters. You definitely want to read this series in order, and do not want to start The Heroes of Olympus series before reading all five of these books.
The Titan’s Curse by Rick Riordan
Published in 2007 by Disney Hyperion
Third in the Percy Jackson & the Olympians series
Read & listened to audiobook edition