‘I have to succeed,’ Annabeth said simply. ‘The risk is worth it.’Rick Riordan demonstrates his superb storytelling abilities once again in the third instalment of the Heroes of Olympus series, The Mark of Athena. I am envious of Rick Riordan’s talent for crafting such great books with an emphasis on giving both boys and girls something to love. His books have plots that are the perfect blend of adventure, action, fantasy, mythology and romance, involving a cast of amazing characters with flaws, complexities and developments, and a prose that transitions from seriousness to hilarity seamlessly – The Mark of Athena is an ideal example. The Mark of Athena is the best book yet and although I complain way too much that time flies, I do hope that the next year does just that so I can have The House of Hades in my hands already. After the ending of The Mark of Athena you’ll be wishing for the next year to be over and done with too… Just saying.After the The Son of Neptune our favourite heroes have finally come together – Percy, Annabeth, Jason, Piper, Leo, Hazel and Frank. The Argo II lands in New Rome so that the Greeks can try to make peace with the Romans and purge any hostility between the two so that they can ally together to fight and stop Gaia from rising. But this does not happen due to some unforeseen events… Our league of heroes then set off to make things right between the Greeks and the Romans once and for all as per Hera’s wish, while completing the prophecy that takes them to Rome, Hazel’s brother Nico, and the Doors of Death – which they ultimately need to close. Oh, and don’t forget Coach Hedge who also goes along on this perilous adventure.Having known Percy and Annabeth for the greatest amount of time from the Percy Jackson and Olympians series you would think you know them as much as you know yourself, however that is not the case after all in The Mark of Athena. Rick Riordan continues to make Percy and Annabeth interesting, adding new dimensions and maturity to their characters. They just do not get repetitive. Their relationship flourishes and becomes ever so obvious and strengthened in and throughout this instalment, and the ending of The Mark of Athena relied on their relationship for the “twist” to occur. It was such a heart-rending moment – my heart was melted, then hardened, then pulverised into a million pieces. On Twitter I tweeted: “Someone please find me my own Annabeth, daughter of Athena. I would like to be her Percy, keeper of promises.”‘We’re staying together,’ he promised. ‘You’re not getting away from me. Never again.’The Mark of Athena has been said to be Annabeth’s book; she exhibits her true nature of being a daughter of Athena, by putting all that wisdom and audacity to use. However this book also comprises of Percy’s, Hazel’s and Leo’s POVs, and so is as much the other six’s book than just Annabeth’s. Yes, the whole reason they go to Rome is because Annabeth has to follow the mark of Athena and avenge her mother, but on this journey Percy, Jason, Hazel, Piper, Leo and Frank also discover something new about themselves and each other – we as the reader also learn something new about each of the characters. Jason really has the toughest job to grab the reader’s attention considering in the beginning of this series he did fill in for Percy and become our newest hero. Because of that there is an obvious rift; in The Mark of Athena the dominance/leadership quality that they both have almost becomes a shared possession between the two – by the end they find respect in one another and a bromance emerges. It was a great dynamic within the group to observe (as were all the relationships).‘I could have killed you.’‘Or I could have killed you,’ Percy said.Jason shrugged. ‘If there’d been an ocean in Kansas, maybe.’‘I don’t need an ocean—’‘Boys,’ Annabeth interrupted. ‘I’m sure you both would’ve been wonderful at killing each other. But right now, you need some rest.’‘Hmm…” Jason snapped his fingers. “I can call a friend for a ride.’Percy raised his eyebrows. ‘Oh, yeah? Me too. Let’s see whose friend gets here first.’Leo was just Leo – awesome, hilarious, and the odd man out with his baby Argo II. He always knew when to bring the laughs to the party (e.g. early scenes with Echo and Narcissus). Leo had this unsureness about the others – he was especially skeptical about Frank, because he just did not understand him as much as the others did… as much as Hazel did. So there was a bit of caution and uneasiness between the two. For me, I thought Leo used his jokes as a sort of defence mechanism against Frank or as a way of showing that he is an alright dude. But there is this awkwardness between them because Frank has a problem with fire, as we learned in The Son of Neptune. Moving on… Frank I found was the introverted and shy one of the bunch, evident in his relationship with Hazel but also in his distance from Leo. Plus he turns into a goldfish at one point – like I said, he’s a precious being. Hazel: this daughter of Pluto/Hades is something! She is the complete opposite of her father – where Hades kind of likes the whole conflict side of things, Hazel doesn’t; she aims to settle all contentions and disputes that arise in her good, calm demeanour (once again, e.g., between Frank and Leo or Jason and Percy). And then finally Piper, our daughter of Aphrodite, can really use that power of persuasion to do some good in the world – and she proves that she really is as intelligent than what people usually thought of her, considering she is the daughter of Aphrodite and all… the daughter of a goddess who would rather gossip over tea and cakes than discuss the war that is happening. We must NOT forget about Coach Hedge. Coach Hedge is just so effing cool… and strange… and a total goat!So yeah, if you didn’t see, The Mark of Athena was so so so good! The characters were the best part of this story and were all relatable. The House of Hades can you please come sooner? I cannot wait to see what Rick Riordan serves up to us in the next chapter of this series – I have a feeling we’re going to get to know more about Hazel along with Nico while in the Underworld. HELLO HADES!*Also, you would think that after the five Percy Jackson and the Olympians books, these three and The Kane Chronicles that I would have habituated to the stupidness of some of the mythological beings in them. But that’s what brings the humour and allows our heroes to use their wit more than force, intelligence over strength.