The Sun and the Star by Rick Riordan and Mark Oshiro
I rearranged by TBR list specially so I could read this book so soon after its release. I don’t normally do this, but I went out and bought the book the day it was in stores—coincidentally the day I passed my driving test for my Class 5 (full) license.
Read: May 29 – June 2, 2023
Book contains: PTSD, mild torture, hell/Tartarus, triggers for entomophobia
Nico di Angelo and his boyfriend, Will Solace, must traverse and survive the terrors of Tartarus to rescue their friend, Bob, from the clutches of darkness, facing their own demons along the way.
I was so excited to start reading this book, and the first thing I have to say is how beautiful it is. The cover is amazing, and the inside end pages include the whole journey throughout the book (somewhat of a spoiler, but not by much). The design was also unique in that the pages were patterned for different things—dreams get a cloudy/smoky background, and at one point, the pages are steeped in shadows. I thought this was a very cool idea!
The book begins about halfway through the journey, in which Nico and Will are bargaining for a boat. It launches you right into the story as a sort of preview for what is to come before picking up at the end of the summer after the events of The Tower of Nero from The Trials of Apollo. This beginning scene breaks into the story a few times between chapters before Nico and Will chronologically reach that point, and I thought it was a clever way to insert some background information and feel-good moments into the story without it all being dumped into the middle at once.
I love how Nico and Will’s relationship is portrayed in this book. It continues to explore their own insecurities, of course, and while at times they fight, they always work through it by talking. They’re actually quite good at talking about their problems—Will because he’s a healer and knows at least something about therapy, and Nico because he sees Dionysus (his sort-of therapist) about his PTSD. (Who knew Dionysus would be such a good listener?!)
The overall lesson behind this story is valuable as well, about accepting one’s darkness, making room for it instead of trying to choke it out or let it consume you. It was very well done, woven into every fibre of the story.
I do have a few nitpicks, though. I try not to usually do this, as no one likes when people point out typos, but there were four that I found, and while one was just that—a typo—the others were so jarring they pulled me out of the story. It was near the end, in which two of the Underworld rivers were mixed up (a few times), and the other in which Nico accidentally says the wrong name when talking about his mother (he says Bianca instead of Maria). While I could figure out what was supposed to be written, I’m still disappointed in the mistakes within this traditionally published book.
Enough about that, now! There were some bits of the book that were a bit weird, but they were entirely overshadowed by the amazing humour that Riordan always inserts into his work, and I laughed out loud a few times at the jokes. Nico has such a dry and dark sense of humour, and while Will is quite literally the embodiment of sunshine, I love that he vibes with Nico’s jokes—and he makes some of his own as well, which Nico is always on board with.
There were some heavy topics addressed in this book, too, from Nico’s childhood trauma to his more recent losses and subsequent PTSD, to the horrors of Tartarus itself, which is never pleasant. The humour is very helpful in getting through these dark parts, and it’s much more mild that it could’ve been, since this is a book meant for younger readers, but I like that it normalizes these problems. Nico is a hero; he is no less heroic or brave or strong because he deals with these issues. He is allowed to be himself without judgement (touching upon the mild homophobia he faced while growing up in the 1930s/40s). Nico is not someone who is broken and needs to be “fixed,” and one lesson to take away from this book is that everyone is capable of change and that it’s a good thing.
I am so pleased with this book, and I highly recommend it to people who love adventures, to those who love love stories, and to those who love Greek mythology. Be warned, I’m not sure how much sense this book will make for people who haven’t read the other books by Rick Riordan, as there are so many references to Percy Jackson and the Olympians, The Heroes of Olympus, and The Trials of Apollo, but I’m sure that even if you don’t understand the references, you can still enjoy the story.