I first read The Hidden Oracle by Rick Riordan (the first book in the Trials of Apollo series) in February 2017, so this review is a long time coming!
Having read Percy Jackson and the Olympians, and the Heroes of Olympus, I admit I was unsure about this series. How was it going to be, I thought, with Apollo, a god we’ve got glimpses of before but don’t really know, as the main character? More than that, it had been a couple years, I think, since I’d read any Riordan books. So I went into this not really knowing what to expect.
What a pleasant surprise! Apollo turned out to be… well, actually, he’s a bit arrogant and insufferable and self-centered. But that’s to be expected to an extent, as he is an immortal Greek god who has been banished to earth in the body of an awkward teenage boy named Lester Papadopolous. I’m sure some people found him a bit annoying, but I didn’t. He’s all those things I said, but he also has such passion for what he enjoys, genuine affection for his mortal children, and a hint of humanity that is subtle so far but promises for more growth in the future.
This is a middle grade book, so it is fairly clear from early on that the point of this series is to show what it means to be human — Apollo’s obviously going to learn about life and death, love, and selflessness from a mortal point of view. And I must say, I am looking forward to seeing how that plays out; Riordan has always been good at the “life lessons” in these books, as well as showing emotions. I trust you, Rick.
Apollo aside, the other characters are great too. We have a main newbie, Meg, whose backstory is both interesting and heart-breaking. Riordan isn’t messing around, I have to say. She’s the victim of an abusive relationship at the hands of her stepfather, who has gaslighted her for years. It’s so sad to see her struggle with that, but I like that Apollo takes it seriously and tries to help. She brings out a rather rare, protective-paternal side of him.
Our villain is great, and history buffs will know what to expect of him before we really see him. I can’t wait to see what happens with him!
And then there’s the triumphant return of Percy Jackson, Nico DiAngelo, and Will Solace! I was so excited to see them come back! Percy was hilarious — he’s so done with everything that happens to him. And Nico and Will… they’re so adorable together. I kind of love Riordan for this. With those two (and Apollo, who is pretty flamboyantly bisexual) we’re finally getting some LGBT+ representation in this genre/age-group! Yeah!
The plot is engaging and fun — basically Apollo has to figure out what the heck is going on with him and his mortal, flabby, acne-covered body, but also save two of his demigod kids and free one of the Oracles, which have been taken by the antagonists. It is, as usual, full of goofy mythology and adventure.
I quite liked this book, which sets up the world of Apollo-as-Lester well. It made me eager to read book two!
Overall rating: 8.5/10