Apollo is the best (seriously): Rick Riordan’s ‘The Hidden Oracle’

*****WARNING: SPOILERS FOR THE TRIALS OF APOLLO: THE HIDDEN ORACLE BELOW. IF YOU HAVE NOT YET READ IT AND DON’T WANT ANYTHING TO BE SPOILED, DO NOT PROCEED READING THIS POST.*****

trials-of-apollo

For as long as I can remember, I have loved ancient mythology. Greece, Rome, Egypt, India, Persia, Briton, you name it. I was a very small child with a very big reading appetite and an even bigger stack of books. I devoured anything I could find about Ancient Egypt, and the myths of Gods and Heroes of antiquity. My mum still uses my books in her classroom when she teaches about ancient civilizations (I’m glad they have a home where they’re loved and read).

When I was in my first year of university, the very first Percy Jackson & The Olympians movie came out. I had heard about the series, but none of my friends had read them so I didn’t know a whole lot about the premise of the story. I just saw “& The Olympians” and I was 100% on board. I watched it, and it was a great flick. I really enjoyed it. Really. I mean have you seen Logan Lerman? *dreamy*. And Jake Abel? *also dreamy*.

I started following PJO blogs on Tumblr and began reblogging gifs and graphics with song lyrics on them like any good fangirl should. But then during my second year, I started to feel a little bit like a poser because I hadn’t read the novels first. So my roommate and I hopped on the bus to Chapters and grabbed a boxed set. There’s five books in the PJO series, all clocking in between 250-400 pages each. An “easy” read for someone who had read all three Lord of the Rings novels at age 11. Listen, I was nervous that as an adult, I might not enjoy the writing style, or the language wouldn’t be interesting (really silly things to assume about a book, based on the target audience), but BOY was I ever wrong. Within the first page of  The Lightning Thief, I was in stitches. Percy is a great narrator, and Rick Riordan really knows how to turn a phrase. The myths are integrated into the story in newly imagined ways, and somehow manage to not be cheesy or contrived. How does he do it? We just don’t know. I won’t go into all the things wrong with the movie because I don’t want to bore you to death, or work myself into a critiquing frenzy. But know this: the first one is bad, and the second one is worse. Am I watching The Lightning Thief as I write this? Yup.

So Five years, five series, and a couple hundred dollars later, I own and have read all of Riordan’s books (with the exception of a couple companion books, and four books I loaned to someone that never returned them) and have fallen in love with the laundry list of diverse and loveable characters that Riordan plays scribe to. I laughed, I cried, I screamed, I threw my book across the room, and missed out on a lot of sleep. I waited for new releases with baited breath and raced to Chapters on publishing days to pick up the new novel, to see whether my predictions and interpretations of previous prophecy were right on the money or totally off the mark (which I will tell you, I am damn good at discerning plot points based on prophecy).

The last book I had the pleasure of diving into was the first in the Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard series, The Sword of Summer. And it was everything I had hoped for. The main character is a homeless teen, on the run from unseen evils. He joins forces with a seriously badass hijabi-valkyrie-demigod, who takes him to Valhalla; where of course, hijinks ensue. His two best friends from the street turn out to be mythical creatures, and they join the adventure. One of the coolest features of this book is that a good chunk of the dialogue is portrayed via ASL interpretation, and descriptions of sign language, because one of the characters, Hearthstone is deaf.

It was a long wait between MC being released this past October and the first Trials of Apollo novel May 3rd of this year. I WAS SO EXCITED. Sooooooo excited. I’ve always felt particularly fond of Artemis and Apollo, which has only been affirmed by countless online quizzes about “Which Olympian is your Godly Parent?” placing me in the Apollo cabin. I’m dazzling, I know. So imagine my enthusiasm when Uncle Rick announced that the next series would feature Apollo’s adventures on Earth as a mortal.

I wasn’t really sure what to expect; a new story with new characters in a world that you’re already familiar with is always an adjustment. But I definitely enjoyed The Hidden Oracle. Apollo is arrogant but absolutely endearing, all at the same time. His journey through the novel is one of empathy; he learns the value of life and relationship, and comes to terms with his shortcomings. He realizes how often he has failed and feels sincere remorse, especially when it comes to his demigod children, who show him genuine compassion from the word go. Apollo is portrayed as being particularly shallow in his other appearances in Riordan’s books, which is fairly true to his mythological self. He’s selfish, and brash, and frequently falling all over himself in pursuit of the next new sexy thing that walks past. He’s overly concerned with his appearance, and doesn’t shy away from sharing his musical and poetic talent with whomever is present at the time.

Riordan goes out of his way to make Apollo (or Lester Papadopoulos, as it says on his drivers’ license) self-aware. He’s continually conscious of his lack of godly powers, and pulls no punches when trying to assure others of his greatness. Riordan places him in a position of service, almost at the very beginning of the novel – which is the course that Apollo’s previous stints as a mortal have gone; it’s not his first rodeo. However this time around, instead of a king or a famous hero, Apollo is bound to serve Meg McCaffrey, a quirky 12 year old demigod of unidentified parentage. The development of this relationship is one of my absolute favourite parts of the novel. This is where Apollo’s journey toward empathy and true understanding of sacrificial love begins.

Meg McCaffrey is a great addition to the diverse cast of characters in Riordan’s universe. I understood her “quirkiness” and sometimes out of the ordinary behaviour to be a signifier of her being a person on the Autism Spectrum. While this is not stated distinctly in the text, I felt that it was definitely implied. Including this as a part of her characterization is so important; it’s vital for neurodivergent people to be able to see themselves in books that they love. One of Riordan’s strengths is including diverse characters within these stories, while not reducing them to a stereotype, and doing justice to their stories. The case is the same with Meg. I’m really looking forward to seeing her arc progress. SOMEONE PLEASE HELP MEG MCCAFFREY…. NOT YOU NERO SIT DOWN.

Apollo also gives us glimpses of his true self through the first-person narration of the novel. Beneath the cocky smile and embarassingly confident exterior, we learn about what makes him tick; how he feels about his sister and his father, his loves and losses, and what he feels about his place within the godly community, as well as how that reconciles with his mortal experiences. The return to first-person narration is something that I was really happy about while reading. Riordan uses this narration style in PJO, Magnus Chase and the Kane Chronicles, but opts for third-person omniscient for the Heroes of Olympus books. One of the best parts of Riordan’s writing is the way that he develops a distinct voice for each character. He does this again with Apollo. We get the story, as well as Apollo’s humourous asides as commentary.

My heart broke with Apollo. It was important that we got more insight into his person than we of readers have had so far with the development of the Riordan universe. We learn that even gods experience loss and regret. And it was also important that Apollo distinctly points out repeatedly that he is not straight, especially by telling readers that the two loves of his life are a man AND a woman. In a world where characters portrayed in media are either gay or straight, with nothing on a spectrum in between, or separate from those two identities, it’s refreshing for an author of a popular series to be upfront about a character’s identity. Producers and writers are frequently afraid of words like “bisexual” or “pansexual”, portraying characters as either being gay, straight, or lying about one of those identities. I’m looking forward to seeing how this develops as the series progresses; will Apollo fall in love again? Or will he be held back by the disparity between mortal and god? Who knows!!! I don’t want to wait for the next book.

Finally, Uncle Rick ties up some lose ends that many of us fans were seriously disappointed by at the end of Blood of Olympus. We get to see Percy in his new life with his Mum and her husband, who are now expecting a baby. The prospect of Percy being an older brother to a very tiny baby is just…. !!!!!!!!! We also get to see how the relationship between son of Apollo Will Solace and son of Hades Nico DiAngelo has progressed since the end of the last book. The reveal of Nico’s feelings for Percy, and as a result his sexual identity, was one of the biggest plot twists of Heroes of Olympus (seriously – every part of Nico’s arc made sense after that piece of information was revealed), so I was ecstatic to get a glimpse of Nico in a happy and loving relationship. It was just too much – I had the squeals pretty bad. And of course, the return of many beloved characters, and tongue in cheek references to the other parts of the Riordan universe, were so perfectly done.

I’m very optimistic for how this series will continue. The stakes for Apollo and Camp Half-Blood are high, and the desperation to succeed in his hero’s mission is insurmountable. My only complaint is that it was not long enough.

If you’ve read The Hidden Oracle, let me know your thoughts on the book and what you think will happen next, in the comments!

Have a book you think I would like? Let me know!

Love Always,

Emma Cate

Both images from today’s post are from rickriordan.com. Click through for more info about the series and teaching resources.

 

 

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