Monday, May 21, 2018

The Burning Maze (The Trials of Apollo #3) by Rick Riordan

This action-packed story continues as the god Apollo learns what it means to be mortal and live as a human. The gods don't make friends or understand the idea of sacrifice. As Apollo goes through suffering and meets heroes that become friends he changes from self-absorbed narcissism to listening to his conscience and feeling guilty. Don't worry, he hasn't completely changed - he's still snarky and hides from danger now and then. When he sees the gods destroying the ecosystem he thinks of the time he was a god and didn't care about the earth being wrecked. Now he does care as he's living the nightmare, "I hate being mortal" he says. Apollo's character arc becomes more clear by the end of the book. The hero's journey for Apollo shows him being transformed by losing his powers and being mortal to learning what it means to sacrifice for others. When Apollo sees his hero friend giving his life to save others it hints that the god might truly change into a compassionate and good person. He slowly is the finality of death for mortals.

Apollo as the mortal, Lester Papadopoulos, is anything but godly with his acne skin and soft body. His 12-year-old companion, Meg, controls him through a curse and marches to her own beat picking her nose and wearing bright-colored clothes like a neon sign. This odd couple is endearing and currently continuing their mission to free five Oracles that have been side-lined by evil emperors trying to control Earth. Once Apollo succeeds he will be restored to Olympus as a god with all his powers returned. As time passes he turns more mortal and is losing most of his godly powers. The humor and tone are in the vein of other Riordan books. The introduction of new characters, such as the seven dryads who sound and move like a well-oiled Roman military legion even though they are few in number is a gas. "All Hail Meg!" is their mantra. Riordan's voice for the characters is distinct and well-done.

When the poets wrote about Odysseus, Greek narratives switched from immortal gods to mortal men showing heroes that suffered pain and death but lived life to the fullest creating legends of themselves passed on through generations. Riordan captures this switch in Apollo, an immortal god made mortal and pokes fun at the dysfunctional, self-centered stories about the Greek gods. Apollo is a modern hero in a tragi-comedy learning what it is like to be a human and heroic taught by semi-divine teens and mythical creatures. When he sacrifices himself not once but twice for his friends, he ends up being more human in this book than the previous ones. While before he only cared deeply for Meg, he is now learning to care for others.

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