Why You Should Read Spoilers For The Burning Maze
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Being Spoiled For 'The Burning Maze' Might Actually Be a Good Thing

Rick Riordan's newest book explores child death and grief -- but only if you know it's coming.

Being Spoiled For 'The Burning Maze' Might Actually Be a Good Thing
Disney Hyperion

Warning: Major spoilers for The Burning Maze below. Enjoy them.

Four weeks ago, I had every phrase that could possibly spoil me for Rick Riordan's newest book, The Burning Maze, blocked on Tumblr. "Burning Maze Spoilers," "Trials of Apollo Spoilers," "TBM Spoilers," "Apollo," "Meg," "Grover" -- all hidden so that I could enjoy the fallout from Infinity War in peace.

A few days before the book came out, though, an untagged spoiler slipped through my system. Just three words, so simple that my mind instantly read them before I had a chance to stop it:

"Apparently, Jason dies."

Now, if, for some reason, you are reading this article and don't know much about the Percy Jackson/Rick Riordan Universe, Jason was one of seven lead POV characters in the second series of Rick's Greco-Roman myth trilogy, The Heroes of Olympus. He is, arguably, more of a lead than some of the other characters, since his point of view kicks off the entire series and his character growth and arc are at the center of the series' conflict between the Greek and Roman camps. Where POV characters like Hazel or Frank easily and unfortunately slipped to the sidelines in the final book of HOO, Jason was at the core of it. The idea that any of the seven, let alone Jason, were at all in danger in a series we believed would just feature them as cameos had not even passed my mind.

So, in being spoiled, I did lose some of the shock of watching a character I thought was completely safe die. At the same time, though, I gained a lot more from this book than I believe I would have otherwise.

Second warning: If you haven't read the book yet, it is best to head in knowing the simple spoiler above. Save the rest of this article for later.

First of all, a simple fact: Jason was brought back as a tool. His character arc ended neatly in Heroes of Olympus, so any extra appearance he made was expected to be about as minor as Percy's or Leo's were in the previous books – just a little cameo before he went back to life as it was before he made an appearance. Instead, he appears simply to craft a quick legacy for himself and then dies, entirely to raise the stakes of this third series.

It's a pretty well known fact that one of the seven should have died -- about three years ago, when they were the central characters and it might have spoken to their story arcs. In fact, many believed Jason should have died back then. But none of those deaths ever happened. Instead, years passed without a proper, effective death happening, so death lost all meaning and Heroes of Olympus lost all its stakes. Any drama that Rick tried to create felt completely pointless or fell flat.

In order for Rick to raise the stakes again for this third series, he could not kill a minor character, even one from the original series. It had to be someone major. So, three years after his story reached its proper end, Jason reappeared. And, as well-written as Jason's death was, it's hard for it to feel like Rick did more than bring Jason back just as a device to heighten the stakes he lowered through his own faulty writing without a care for Jason's character arc.

As a tool, though, Jason's death is shocking and unfair, but effective. If Jason is vulnerable, every other main character is vulnerable. If Jason can die before he was ready, so can everyone else. It adds an element of realism and danger to this series that Heroes of Olympus, and even parts of Percy Jackson, didn't have.

As far as being spoiled goes, knowing this was coming hardly lessened the shock of reading Jason die. Had his death come in the form of an explosion, like Beckendorf's, or a collapsed bridge, like Michael Yew's, or something equally as quick and painless, knowing Jason's death was coming would almost definitely have lessened the impact of that moment. It would have been short, most likely made in sacrifice for the other characters, and I would have seen it coming a mile away.

Instead, Jason is downed in battle halfway through the book after being shredded by shrapnel, shot full of arrows, and brutally stabbed twice in the back with a spear. His body is charred black and dragged to the beach, where an entire chapter is dedicated to his best friend breaking down in her father's arms. It's an excruciatingly long and heartbreaking deep dive into one of the biggest, if not the biggest and most painful death Rick has ever written. And the shock of it is in every word of these chapters, whether or not you know it's coming.

Perhaps most shocking of all, though is the fact that being spoiled for this death actually helped the narrative and themes of this book.

As soon as Jason appears in The Burning Maze, it's clear that he is hiding something about his visit with the oracle in the Labyrinth. He dances around the subject, acts distant and closed-off, and lies to Piper's face. Without being spoiled, his demeanor is a mystery. With the spoiler, though, it's easy enough to guess what the oracle told him -- that death was ahead of them on their quest. And because of that, every sentence Jason speaks, every action he takes before he tells Apollo what the oracle told him, is far more impactful. Jason's scenes in his dorm room are heartbreaking with the knowledge that he feels the prophecy's end drawing closer with every moment Piper, Apollo, and Meg spend in there with him.

Even more effective if you know the spoilers, though, is that there is no ambiguity in his prophecy. No "to storm or fire." No "Jason or Piper." It will be Jason. His fate is sealed, and that fact weighed on me for the entire book. The spoiler has the same effect on the story as the Great Prophecy in The Last Olympian had. Percy Jackson was destined to die, so every action he took in that book had weight, since we knew it was meant to be the last week of his life. It adds a factor of heartbreaking inevitability, especially to the actions the characters take to try and stop the prophecy from happening.

These spoilers add gravitas, complexity, and fear to a death that, though purposeful, is a tool of the author's meant to fix his mistakes, plain and simple. If you are spoiled for this plot point, you can fool yourself into thinking Jason's death is a little more of a natural conclusion. He was meant to die at the end of The Lost Hero and has been heading here ever since. It was inevitable. It was demanded by the fates. It marks the turning point of this series from another romp in the Percy Jackson universe to the endgame of a 15 book-long saga. When combined with the deaths of several other characters in this book, The Burning Maze becomes a 300 page contemplation on death as an unstoppable force. Rick Riordan has never been one to ignore or purposefully leave out the issues of the real world so that his fantasy world can remain clean – in fact, he touches on a lot of the issues of the real world in his books, be it domestic abuse or racism or poverty -- and now, about five years too late, the fact that good people, children, can die far, far before their time without it serving a higher purpose or being a grand sacrifice like it tends to do in children's fiction. That inevitability can only come through clearly if you knew it was inevitable in the first place, and you can only know that by being spoiled.

Jason's death is a harsh tool, yes, but, if you know it's coming, an utterly heartbreaking and effective one. I will never know the shock of reading Jason's death without knowing it was coming, but at least I have the inevitability of death before one's time on the brain now. So, thanks for that, Rick.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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