Monday, May 9, 2016

The Hidden Oracle (The Trials of Apollo #1) by Rick Riordan

Rick Riordan's hilarious portrayal of the Greek gods has upstaged so many of his mortal characters in past series, that I was jumping with excitement over his latest book whose protagonist is the fallen god, Apollo. Apollo wakes up as a teenage mortal with no powers, a serious case (ee-gods!) acne, and a snarky attitude. Two thugs rob him and beat him to a pulp as he discovers he is mortal and reveals in some snappy dialogue his over-inflated ego and extreme narcissism. He's the opposite of your stereotypical hero except for the sarcasm and wit. Meg rescues him with some weird garbage wielding powers that reveal her demigod abilities. She binds him to her as his vassal forcing him to do what she wants.  She decides to head to Camp Half-Blood to explore and control her new-found powers and Apollo hopes for help from Chiron to get his powers back. Apollo slowly changes as he learns what it is like to be human. The gods have never cared about mortals - they are easily used and disposed of as a means to an end. Apollo finds meaning in what it is to have friends, courage, and kindness.  He not only atones for his past but makes peace with former enemies.

When Apollo and Meg get to Camp Half-Blood, they discover that campers are going missing in the woods. The Oracles are no longer prophesying and Olympus seems to have gone silent. With all communication down, Meg and Apollo slowly figure out what is happening to the camp becoming friends in the process. In an action-filled climax Apollo sees himself for all his conceit and decides to change. Percy, Nico, Will, Rachel Dare, and Leo make cameo appearances along with some great monsters and villains in the usual satisfying Riordan style. Apollo is a flawed character which I tend to like as there is more dynamic in character arcs.

The strong character development and distinct voices were welcome after recent books Riordan's written where characters have been sounding alike. Apollo is an ancient person dealing with being a teen. He is having an identity crisis and adults can laugh at the humor directed at them, while younger readers can relate to trying to fit-in with peers. Apollo has no conscience as a god and he takes responsibility for past mistakes with those he's cared about and lost in death. He mulls over his love life with men and women in a matter-of-fact way and ponders the terrible choices he's made; something he has been unwilling to do up to this point in his four thousand-year-old life. His bisexuality is not heavy for young adult readers. Riordan draws much of his humor on pop culture and anachronistic references. I wonder if it will date the book in the future or if some of the humor will be lost? Not that it matters. He uses other comedic techniques that keep me chuckling throughout the text.

The suspense and action are done well as always. While Meg's goddess mom is discovered, the reader never knows her dad's identity. The goofy geyser gods were funny along with Apollo's corny poem poking fun at "Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night" by Dylan Thomas and "For Whom the Bell Tolls" by John Donne. If Riordan had written his poem in a villanelle like Dylan Thomas, I would have been really impressed. Just kidding. I had to write a villanelle for a college English poetry class and it took me forever to write a crummy one. The geyser criticizes Apollo's poem (who, by the way, is the god of poetry) and instead asks for a jingle like the Oscar Meyer Wiener song. That's more like Riordan than a villanelle. The end is a cliffhanger with lots of unanswered questions making me anxious to read the next book. Another hum-dinger!

5 Smileys

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