The Hidden Oracle by Rick Riordan
Series: The Trials of Apollo
Genres: Action/Adventure, Fantasy, Young Adult
Maturity Level: 2
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How do you punish an immortal?
By making him human.
After angering his father Zeus, the god Apollo is cast down from Olympus. Weak and disorientated, he lands in New York City as a regular teenage boy. Now, without his godly powers, the four-thousand-year-old deity must learn to survive in the modern world until he can somehow find a way to regain Zeus’s favour.
But Apollo has many enemies—gods, monsters and mortals who would love to see the former Olympian permanently destroyed. Apollo needs help, and he can think of only one place to go… an enclave of modern demigods known as Camp Half-Blood.
Apollo’s a jerk,
Which I think’s hilarious.
Please Zeus, not acne.
I was surprised by how much I enjoyed The Hidden Oracle, and by how fresh it was. Riordan’s Magnus Chase series was kind of disappointing in how similar the tone was to the original Percy Jackson series. But in Apollo Riordan has found a unique voice once again.
Apollo was delightfully full of himself. His arrogance and self-obsession gave the book an even sillier tone than usual. He gave an inside look at what it might be like to be a Greek god, and how a god might view us puny mortals. And it was fun reading about characters we already know, like Percy, from Apollo’s point of view.
Like any Rick Riordan book, this one was fast-paced and fun. It was dripping with sarcasm and dry humor, my favorite type. The new characters were interesting and unique, especially Meg, a powerful street urchin with an affinity for trash and growing things. And while Percy and other oldies were thrown in as cameos, with the occasional inside joke from another series, this book stood very well on its own.
My favorite thing about The Hidden Oracle was the character growth of Apollo. Character development has never been a strong suit of Riordan’s, but he really showed what he was capable of. Apollo starts out, as I said, arrogant and concerned with no one other than himself. But as the book progresses and he experiences what it is like to be human, Apollo becomes attached to his children and friends and starts to become concerned with more than just himself. By the end of the book he actually risks his life to make things right, and begins to feel guilty about the casual way he risked the lives of demigods in the past.
My least favorite thing about the book was that everything was a little … heavy handed. So, after the way the Heroes of Olympus series ended, we knew addressing gay relationships was pretty much inevitable. Which is fine, awesome, great, PERFECT. However. We already did the “It’s okay to be gay!!!!!!” thing. We had the coming out scene, the general acceptance, the whole shebang. So in this book (in my opinion) thee best way to handle it would have been to just let it be.
There’s this great moment when Apollo sees Will (his son, weird) and Nico together and he says, “At this point you may be wondering how I felt seeing my son with Nico di Angelo,” and you’re thinking here it comes. “I’ll admit I did not understand Will’s attraction to a child of Hades, but if the dark foreboding type was what made Will happy…” And it was PERFECT. The best blend of dad joke and preaching in the history of middle grade fiction. I was singing hallelujahs in my head. But could he leave it there? Oh no. He has to go on. Address it. Explicitly say that the gods don’t care, instead of just showing it throughout the book in Apollo’s actions, words, and thoughts.
That’s what I mean by heavy handed. It started to feel preachy. Like I was being lectured. It looses the light-hearted tone of the book. Plus, guys I live in a SUPER conservative Christian area. Currently the parents let their kids read these books, but if the wrong parents get their hands on this book and read those paragraphs, we’re talking about banning ALL of Riordan books. If he just kept it subtler the dummies might not notice, and we could continue educate their kids. (That being said, there’s a reason the Magnus Chase series isn’t on my classroom bookshelf. And it’s not because I don’t like it.)
All in all, fun, silly, exciting, the works. Uncle Rick is always a safe bet. I recommend for middle grade readers and high schoolers (and adults!) alike. Have fun.