Me, reading and enjoying a book by Rick Riordan? Unheard of!
Wait, no it’s not.
In The Tower of Nero, the final installment in the Trials of Apollo series, Lester (once the god Apollo) and Meg McCaffrey have made their way back across the United States, on their way to New York, where they will have one final confrontation with the emperor Nero. And then, assuming they survive that, they will face Apollo’s old nemesis, Python. If they can do that, perhaps Meg will be free of her stepfather once and for all, and Lester can regain his godhood.
To no one’s surprise, I loved this book. I’ve been a fan of Rick Riordan for over a decade now, so to at last read the final book in the overall Camp Half-Blood Chronicles (so he claims; more on that later) was a delight.
And this is a really strong book, as well as a strong conclusion to the series. The tensions that have been building for four books reaches a breaking point here, with fantastic action and dynamic fight scenes. The character development of the two main characters reach moving conclusions, and the side characters also have lots of time to shine. The final battle is exciting, brilliant, and moving.
Lester/Apollo is of course the main focus, and he’s still the witty, sarcastic, blustering boy he was at the beginning of the series. But to see how far he has come, to see how much he has learned to care about others, how much he has learned about what it is to be human, is so touching.
Meg also is utterly fantastic, her own struggles with the ramifications of emotional abuse making for some serious moments. Seeing a character like this portrayed with such sensitivity in a middle grade novel is something I personally haven’t seen really at all, and it’s done very well. The complex feelings that result from being forced to face one’s abuser after time away is approached with care, and yet Riordan doesn’t talk down to his audience. And Meg is by far one of the strongest and most nuanced characters he has written yet.
And the other characters! We get a few new faces, like Lu and the trogs, who I loved. The best part for me, though, was definitely the triumphant return of Will and Nico, who are instrumental to Lester’s quest, as well as having some of the best banter in the book. I adore them to pieces, and I could probably read an entire series following them. No, not probably. I definitely could do that.
Characters aside, this is a terrific story about overcoming darkness both internal and external, embracing one’s imperfections as just a part of being human, and fully accepting that there are forces stronger than hatred. And it’s full of laughs, heartfelt moments, adventure, intrigue, and magic. I could go on and on, but it would make this review way too long. Just trust me when I say this has a fantastic plot, characters, and themes.
And anyone who truly believes Riordan is done with this universe… well, they’re just wrong. There’s no way there isn’t more to come. I saw what Chiron said, Uncle Rick, and I’m ready!
In the meantime, I’ll just recommend these books all over the place. Seriously, if you want Greek/Roman shenanigans with lots of heart, read Riordan’s stuff.
Overall rating: 9/10