Rick Riordan: The Trials of Apollo – Review

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The Hidden Oracle, The Trials of Apollo, Rick Riordan. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

“Zeus needed someone to blame, so of course he’d picked the handsomest, most talented, most popular god in the pantheon: me.”

– Apollo 

This might be my favourite Riordan book.

I was actually disappointed with his last one – The Sword of Summer – and I began to question in my review if it was finally time for Mr. R. to take a step back from these books about Greek, Roman and Egyptian gods. The conflicts were similar and the teen “voices” had begun to blend into one.

Magnus Chase could just as easily have been Percy Jackson.

But then RR had to throw Apollo into the mix who stands out because he is not a teenage boy. Well… technically, he is in this book. But he’s actually an age-old immortal who has been cast out of Olympus by Zeus and turned into a regular human teenager. His voice, however, not to mention his snark and humour, are that of a selfish, narcissistic, hilarious asshole.

Truly, this book is so refreshing! Apollo doesn’t even pretend he’s a do-gooder; in fact, it’s clear from the beginning that he’s out for himself and views humans as “meat sacks”. Imagine his horror when he discovers that not only is he human, but he also has acne and flab.

“Is anything sadder than the sound of a god hitting a pile of garbage bags?”

– Apollo

Of course, there’s a whole lot of godly drama going on too. You don’t get to be an old god like Apollo without making a LOT of enemies. But this mostly stood out to me as being the funniest book Riordan has written and that’s really saying something, given that all his books are defined by his trademark snarky humour. Pure entertainment.

Apollo is the Gilderoy Lockhart of this world and it is hilarious. There’s a nice bit of schadenfreude to be had when this self-obsessed god finally gets what he deserves and has to rely on Percy Jackson for help. And yet, there is something undeniably lovable about him too.

On that note, many familiar characters come in and out of this book. You don’t have to have read the other books to understand and enjoy this one, but it does contain spoilers for the main series and the characters.

This, for me, stood out amid a sea of similar stories and characters. I’m still not 100% sure I would want to read any more books that focus on teenage demigods (we’ve kind of been there and done that, in my opinion), but I will definitely see Apollo’s story through to the end.

“It warmed my heart that my children had the right priorities: their skills, their images, their views on YouTube.”

– Apollo

Jonathan Stroud: Author of the Week

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Jonathan Stroud, Author. Credit: Jonathan Stroud’s Facebook Page

Jonathan Stroud Fan Club is here. Please, sign up to begin!

That’s right, Jonathan Stroud, who will also be our Author of the Week! That’s right, six days and six book reviews! Because, as we all remember, on the 7th day, the Good Lord Above (TM) said we should rest.

Now Jonathan Stroud’s been a man about town sort of author, dabbled in a little bit of every kind of writing before he really hit his stride (in my professional opinion, as a world famous published author) with the Amulet of Samarkand and its introduction into the Bartimaeus series.

Meet Nathaniel who has been adopted into a Magician’s family. Magicians are conniving, backstabbing, ruthless people who rule over the Commoners through the use of their “magic,” which is actually enslavement of magical beings (read Demons, or the politically correct term: Spirits) who are forced to reside on earth and bound to the will of their master. Aside from the obvious political and social metaphors present, Jonathan Stroud actually does do some inventive and ingenious things (unlike, say, me:)

  • A Magical System Like No Other: There’s no better way to make a magic system stand out by casually subverting all the other systems out there. The magicians don’t do much themselves and the Spirits they command have an excellent mix of specific powers (shape changing for one) and other vague ones (like Detonations, Convulsions and Fluxes??) Don’t get me wrong; there is magic in this book, just not the way you expect it to be with wavy wands or powerful swords and flashy smoke or rabbits who disappear into hats.

Actually there might have been a rabbit who did disappear into a hat. We’ll get back to that.

  • The Alternate Universe Which We Aren’t Sure of When It Happens: Harry Potter is most definitely set in the 90s, and Percy Jackson inhabits a time-wrap universe where everything happens according to one structured book timeline with everything else fixed in the real world. The Bartimaeus Series on the other hand, has a lot of real stuff (like cars,) and hints and mentions of world history that Stroud’s made up to fit the story. England, for example is still an Empire with its colonies (who might be rebelling hehe…) and Europe has a bunch of Old-World Powers who try to be rivals of the British Empire (TM.) So we’re fairly grounded about what’s happening and kinda sure about when it’s happening but we have no concrete idea of what’s already happened: except through some tidbits that one can infer from if they’re really paying attention.

As they say: show, don’t tell.

  • Characters Whom You Want to Alternatively Root For And Punch in the Face: Stroud’s made some fantastic characters before, but the Bartimaeus Series had a whole gallery who stand out with elan. Boy magician Nathaniel, his master Underwood, his soon-to-be-nemisis Simon Lovelace, and mysterious rebel leader Kitty Jones alongside perhaps the wittiest character to grace the pages of a book ever: Bartimaeus himself. Wise-cracking, permanently offended and injured by his work, and relentlessly commentative, Bartimaeus is that little voice inside our head that makes thing bearable.

Except he’s, like, funnier.

The Bartimaeus Series needs to be read. By everyone. Ever. But I’ll settle for the 13-17 that is its target audience. But hey – don’t let me convince you. I’ll let Stroud do some convincing of his own.

That did it. I’d gone through a lot in the past few days. Everyone I met seemed to want a piece of me: djinn, magicians, humans…it made no difference.I’d been summoned, manhandled, shot at, captured, constricted, bossed about and generally taken for granted. And now, to cap it all, this bloke is joining in too, when all I’d been doing was quietly trying to kill him.

— Bartimaeus, The Amulet of Samarkand (Book One of the Bartimaeus Series)