Review: The Burning Maze

The Trials of Apollo: The Burning Maze by Rick Riordan

4 stars – I liked it, it was good

Book 3 of The Trials of Apollo. This copy (along with the second book) was a gift from a friend and is a paperback instead of a hardcover. I read this book in a little less than a week, and it was one of the saddest so far.

Read: Mar. 3 – Mar. 8, 2023

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Enter: The Third Emperor

Together with Grover and Meg, Apollo (as Lester) dives into the Labyrinth, only to discover that it has been infected with blazing and malicious fires. The emperor of the west is burning the dryads of California, and in only a few days time, will lead an attack on Camp Jupiter. With Leo flying ahead on Festus to protect the camp, Apollo and his crew search for the emperor’s shoes to take them to the heart of the maze, where the third oracle resides.

Since the other reader I listened to on Youtube didn’t get as far as the third book, I listened to a different channel: Audiobook Reading channel. He wasn’t as good as the last, and there were quite a few mistakes, but I liked the different voices he made for the characters. If you’re interested, check him out here and see what other books he reads.

As made obvious by this book’s title and by the last chapter of the previous book, Apollo and the gang start their search in the Labyrinth, and end up in Palm Springs after a nasty monster attack. Their journey encompasses just the beginning of the Dark Prophecy they received from Trophonius, and their next oracle is one who works in word puzzles. The plot of this book sees them in and out of the maze, and reuniting with old friends in Piper, Jason, and Gleeson Hedge, as well as introducing new characters—mainly dryads.

The cast remains fairly small yet again, which I appreciate. The worst thing is when a whole bunch of characters are introduced, and you can’t tell them apart. We keep the core team of Apollo and Meg, but now we have Grover, Piper, and Jason along for the ride. The new characters introduced are mostly adversaries, though we meet about half a dozen dryads of SoCal who are dealing with the fallout of the Labyrinth fires.

Apollo continues evolving, becoming more human; I like where this is going. While as a god he shouldn’t have to become more human to become more likeable, it’s still important that he learns what it means to be mortal. Gods live forever, and they don’t understand the cycle of life and death in the way that mortals do; they don’t care about things the way mortals do. It reminds me of that old saying, “Things aren’t beautiful because they last” which basically means that beauty comes from impermanence. And this is one of the lessons that Apollo is learning.

While the tone remains mostly casual and humorous, things are getting more serious. They’ve met and fought all three emperors now, and the stakes are only getting higher as they’re halfway through freeing (or destroying) the oracles. They have two more left, Ella the harpy (who memorized the Sibylline books) and Delphi. While Nero hasn’t been in the books lately, he makes a brief appearance, and I’m sure he will show up in the next book with a bigger role.

As for relationships—there weren’t many. Of course, there are the friendships of the team, but the main romantic relationship was that of Hedge and Mellie (with their baby Chuck). There was another mention of Hyacinthus, proving yet again that Apollo is still haunted from his past mistakes (romantic and otherwise).

I’m not an expert on grief, but I think this book deals with it quite well in many facets—loss of a loved one, loss of a home, loss of family, and loss of career and material possessions. All of these are explored. Some are dealt with, others not so much.

At some point in the story, we deal with a major character death, so I offer a trigger warning to readers. It was a heart-wrenching scene, as were the scenes that came after.

I listened to it at 2x speed, though this reader is slower than the last one, so it felt like regular reading speed to me. Despite the mistakes in pronunciation and some misread words, I think @dominationgamingchan did quite well.

Overall, I would say that the pacing was quite good. We start in the maze and are immediately introduced to the problem (the fires). Coming out of the maze, the reason for stopping the fires (the dryads’ homes and lives) come up next, and everything progresses from there. The action was fast-paced, and the more emotional scenes slowed down a little as needed. No scene felt out of place, and almost everything comes together in the end—if not, they were left open-ended for the next book.

This was a wonderful addition to the series, and I think it’s a great step along the journey. I highly recommend continuing this series. Next is book four: The Tyrant’s Tomb.

Want to read my other reviews for this series? Click below!

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