The Trials of Apollo: The Hidden Oracle by Rick Riordan
4 stars – I liked it, it was great
Embarrassingly, I managed to get this entire series (five books) before getting around to reading it. It’s been on my list for the longest time, and I’ve finally started. I can already say that I am excited for the rest of the series.
Read: Feb. 15 – Feb. 21, 2023
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Humorous and Fun
Apollo, once god of the sun, archery, and healing (among other things), is now Lester Papadopoulos, a plain mortal with little to no godly abilities. He is being punished by Zeus for his unwitting role in the war with Gaea, and to regain godhood, he must complete the task of reclaiming his oracles from a great evil. He is not amused.
I have the books in hardcover and paperback (mixed) but I’ve acquired a taste for audiobooks, so I went onto Youtube and found a channel reading the book aloud. She is not a professional reader, but I found the reading enjoyable, especially since she inserts fanart for certain scenes and characters. Check out her channel here.
As always, Riordan’s writing is very casual. The book is written in the first person, like the Percy Jackson and Magnus Chase books, and the author never takes things as seriously as other literature. It’s a very fun and childish version of the original myths, though I understand that it’s not everyone’s cup of tea. If you’re looking for a serious book with real-world problems and their real-world solutions, this is not for you. The monsters are deadly and dangerous, but they are easily fooled, and there’s a lot of almost cartoon humour sprinkled in with the death-defying adventures. The same can be said for the rest of his work—it’s just a part of his style. I enjoy it, even though the Magnus Chase series made me pause every once in a while. Nonetheless, this book makes for a great introduction to the series. I always love how inclusive Riordan is of the LGBT community, and how varied his characters are—be it race, sexuality, gender identity, even body image (not everyone is perfectly athletically inclined). He is really setting a good example for the next generation. I really think other authors should take a page out of his book (so to speak).
Onto the characters: Apollo, being a former god, is unapologetically egotistical and self-centered, which I’d normally hate in a protagonist, but it works here. This is because it isn’t the book where Apollo is first introduced (if that were the case, it wouldn’t work for me). It’s like with MCU’s Thor, where he starts out arrogant, then becomes human and learns humility, but I never liked that kind of story. We know where his character evolution is going, but it really helps that the previous books were from the perspectives of demigods looking at the gods, and now Apollo is learning the harsh reality of the gods’ mortal pawns. He is learning what it means to be affected by the world—for the world’s problems to be his business whether he likes it or not. However, since falling into the New York alley dumpster, he’s had two moods: “I am the absolute best” and “I am completely worthless” which are somewhat funny extremes to bounce back and forth between. It is interesting to see him struggle with being mortal and realize with it’s like. Riordan does well in writing his slow and steady change, and it’s exceptionally realistic that even after learning and growing, Apollo still slips back into his old ways at times.
The other characters are wonderful too. There are some new and familiar faces, and I appreciate that while he includes characters we already know and enjoy, Riordan makes a point of giving new characters a spotlight so as to diversify his cast. I won’t spoil any new characters, but I can confirm that some old ones coming back are Chiron, Will, and Nico, to name a few.
The plot revolves around Apollo’s disappearance and the loss of Delphi during the war with Gaea from The Heroes of Olympus. The Oracle is not working, and unfortunately without a prophecy, they are unable to issue a quest. What’s more, demigods are disappearing from camp, lured into the forest by the dangers of whispering trees. Apollo is not a hero, but others are relying on him to help, and now that he isn’t a god, he’s not enjoying the attention. He’s not used to not having answers, not being celebrated, and this whole situation is an ego check for him, which he sorely needed.
After reading The Iliad and The Odyssey (click to read my reviews), I’ve come to appreciate Greek and Roman myths even more, and I’ve also found that Riordan takes a lot more from those books than just his characters. He puts so much into these books, and I respect the level of research it would have taken to write all these books.
Of course, I can’t talk about Riordan’s work without mentioning his hilarious chapter titles (aside from the Heroes of Olympus series) and this book is no different, however, in Apollo fashion, each chapter title is a poorly written haiku; it’s quite entertaining.
I suppose all I’m doing is singing this book’s praises, and to be honest, there isn’t much I didn’t like about this book. I like Riordan’s writing style and how he puts the myths into mostly accurate child-friendly material cleverly hidden in the modern day.
Still, I highly recommend this book to fans of Percy Jackson. While this series can theoretically be read on its own, you should read Percy Jackson and the Olympians and The Heroes of Olympus beforehand. I can’t wait to see how the rest of this series unfolds.
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