Book one of The Trials of Apollo
By Rick Riordan
Available now from Disney Hyperion
Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson novels are great examples of children's books that can be fun for all ages. They're action packed and extra fun for anyone who enjoys spotting classical allusions. I feel like he's been growing as an author through each series, developing more complex plots and keeping his prose accessible but interesting. He's also made an impressive effort to diversify his books. For example, his Apollo is as casually bisexual as the god was in myth.
Apollo has been cast out of Olympus and into a mortal body by his father, Zeus. He must find a demigod to serve until he earns forgiveness. He ends up with Meg, a young homeless girl who is surprisingly capable. While THE HIDDEN ORACLE is best read by those familiar with previous books by Riordan, it is the start of a new series and puts the new characters front and center. Percy shows up a few times and Nico is present at Camp Half-Blood, but neither are that involved in the plot. There's also a stark contrast between Apollo and previous narrators, which gives THE HIDDEN ORACLE its own distinct feel.
I found Apollo's terrifically self-absorbed narration hilarious. Apollo is all about Apollo, and desperately trying to act as if getting knocked down a peg hasn't thrown him for a loop. And his centuries of experience aren't as helpful as they could be since he only has a mortal brain to rely on now (and let's face it, hasn't practiced thinking clearly and quickly in awhile). I found his character development a bit quick, but it is necessary to Apollo being useful. (And as much as he improves in THE HIDDEN ORACLE, he's got a long way to go.)
Meg is not just a sidekick. She's scrappy and clever, two things that are sure to appeal to many readers. And despite the fun, breezy tone of the novel, she's dealing with a rough past. I wasn't surprised by the reveal of her home life with her stepfather, but I'm sure it might be the first time some younger readers discover a story about how someone who seems to love you can hurt you. It's written with great empathy, and in a manner appropriate for the target audience.
This is one of those books where I finished and instantly looked up when the next book is coming out. Unfortunately, the answer is May. I'll have to wait until then to read THE DARK PROPHECY. I'll definitely be there to see what happens to Apollo, Meg, and a couple of surprise returning characters. This is an extremely promising start, and the Trials of Apollo could be the best part of the Percy Jackson universe yet.