You'll laugh at the play-on-words, one-liners, and poking fun at pop culture and mythology. The rare mythical "yale" monsters are on the "endangered species list" and called, the "Harvard's," by Meg. Tofurky, frenemies, are just a few words that the author combines to draw laughs in stressful situations. His one-liners start from the get-go when Festus, Leo's mechanical dragon, burns down the Indiana flag. Leo scolds, "Whoa, buddy! ...We've talked about this. No blowtorching public monuments." The characters are opposite their myths which adds irony. For instance, Calypso who controls air spirits is afraid of flying. Apollo is opposite his god-like self as an unfit clumsy braggart who fears a mortal death. He gives specific mythical facts about yale creatures and admires their looks and capabilities thinking he'd take a video if they weren't trying to kill him at the moment, "I would have gotten millions of likes on Godtube!" It's corny. It's fun. It's entertaining.
Riordan tends to "tell" more than "show", which helps younger readers that might not always recognize the character development. This is written for young adults with a 16-year-old protagonist. There are not the usual mnemonics to remember the gods as found in his middle-grade Percy Jackson series. However, character development and motivations are spelled out and it allows for easier interpretation by readers who may not be as fluent as others.
When he first becomes mortal, Apollo shows little compassion for others - he always put himself first. Even when he recognizes when the gods are unjust, he can’t quite embrace being human. When Britomartis says, “Being a goddess, my needs take precedence” it might as well be Apollo speaking. When she sends them on a quest to retrieve her griffins before she’ll help them take down Nero, Apollo shows some recognition, “Oh, the injustice!” But later he vows that if he becomes a god he will never send “a poor mortal on a quest. Unless it was really important. And unless I was sure the mortal could handle it. And unless I was pressed for time…or I just really didn’t feel like doing it myself. I would be much kinder and more generous than this net goddess was being to me.” He’s unreliable at best. He's starting to think about what it means to be human but drifts into his self-centered ways quickly.
As a god, he thinks he’s better looking, has higher intelligence, and is perfect compared to humans. When in god form if he is bored, he kills people with no thought. He has to learn to value humans and not treat them as inferior beings. As a human, he starts to mock the gods and how they treat heroes. He doesn't appreciate the goddess Britomartis sending them on an impossible quest. When he wants to abandon the quest, Calypso muses, "Do heroes ever return empty-handed saying to the gods, we tried?" When Apollo is willing to sacrifice himself for Meg, we see he has embraced friendship and is starting to care for humans or at least one human. Guess he has to start somewhere. When Emmie calls him Lord Apollo and he says the title doesn't fit him, it shows his changing identity that is learning what it means to be human.
Riordan creates many diverse characters in his novels, some more successfully than others. In the Magnus Chase series, the brilliant character Alex Fierro, represents gender fluidity who is male on some days and female on others. Apollo is pansexual, which means his sexual choices are not limited by gender, and his thoughts are funny in his attractions he reveals for both males and females. His character is not as brooding as Alex but he does have flashbacks that show he once cared for the villain, Commodus, as a much as he could care as a selfish god. They both had overbearing fathers and inferiority complexes and he becomes a foil to Apollo.
The plot uses poetry throughout from good to bad haikus for entertainment: “four beheaded dudes / are too much for one nightmare/ Why me? Sob.Sob. Sob.” In addition to haikus, there are limericks, acrostic, and sonnet poetry that are explained to the reader. Again an example of telling and not showing is here as the reader gets a lesson in what makes it that type of poem. There is usually some snarky comment that is funny and a bad example to add laughs to the situation.
I turn to Riordan for a break in heavy reading. I know I'll laugh. I know I'll see diverse characters. I know I'll learn about some mythological character or creature I've never heard about and I'll see how he uses creativity and craft to make them his own. If you like his other books, you'll like this one.