The Burning Maze (Trials of Apollo #3) Review

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Book: The Burning Maze (Trials of Apollo #3)

Author: Rick Riordan

I love the Percy Jackson-verse and everything that Rick Riordan has created within it, but I have to admit that this book didn’t live up to my expectations. I would say it’s just me getting older and perhaps not enjoying the Rick Riordan formula as much as I once did, but I don’t think that’s it. I still enjoyed the classic Rick Riordan humour, I loved Apollo and watching all of my favourite characters go on quests, so it wasn’t that I didn’t enjoy it, it’s just that I was expecting…..more? From the second book, I was expecting something really exciting and for me, this book was definitely suffering from middle book syndrome, it felt much slower paced to me than the others, despite taking place over the same short time period and 400 pages for this book actually felt quite long, whilst usually Rick Riordan books fly by for me. Here is a short synopsis of the book:

Lester Papadopoulos was once the glorious god Apollo – now he’s an awkward (mortal) teenager stuck on earth, out of favour with Zeus, and without his powers.

The way out? A series of scary and dangerous trials, of course.

With two particularly scary and dangerous trial already under his belt, Lester must now journey to the Labyrinth – a burning maze that at its centre contains an Oracle whose puzzles may hold the key to a return to godly glory.

But The Labyrinth holds a far more deadly threat – the third Roman emperor, part of a group of three Roman rulers bent on death and destruction.

The mortal and immortal worlds won’t be safe whilst they live, and only Lester and his demigod friends have the power, bravery (and luck) to stop them . . .

So yeah, like I said, the pace in this book was definitely off. It’s strange, pacing is usually something Rick Riordan does really well, he’s good at keeping me on the edge of my seat, but this book definitely wasn’t one of his best when it came to pacing. There were some really great action sequences, the start was really intense with Meg, Grover and Apollo escaping through the Labyrinth from a bunch of strixes (these massive bloodthirsty owl type things) and there were some really great action sequences through the book as well, but for the most part, at least until about halfway through the book or so, it felt like they were just getting from point A to point B with nothing really at stake. I was glad he upped the ante in the second half of the book, but then I felt like things kind of fizzled out towards the climax. I hope that in the next book the pacing is slightly better because this definitely felt like middle book slump.

I still loved Apollo’s narration and his character development; he’s really facing human mortality and what that means and that’s quite an interesting turn for where his character is at right now. He’s still kind of useless when it comes to fighting and definitely reliant on his demigod (and satyr!) friends, but he’s definitely growing and having to face a lot of tough truths and that was good. The humour was still really on point and whilst I bemoan that the pacing was off, where there were action sequences, I loved how Rick Riordan combined them so effortlessly with humour.

Piper returns in this book, and whilst I have been down on her in the past, I actually enjoyed her in this book. It felt like Rick Riordan was allowing her to be her own character again rather than a copy and paste replacement for Annabeth, and I appreciated seeing her being given her own character growth that wasn’t intertwined with Jason. I forgot that Piper can actually be pretty badass when needs be and I honestly don’t think Apollo would have survived this book without her! Getting to see her face off against Medea again was definitely an unexpected highlight, I wasn’t expecting to see Medea back again, she’s definitely one of the better of Rick Riordan’s villains and her dynamic with Piper is electric.

I was so glad to see Grover back in this book and playing an active role in proceedings again, he was such a key part of the original Percy Jackson series, and was overlooked in Heroes of Olympus, so it was awesome to get to see him back again and involved in quests, plus his friendship with Meg was another unexpected delight!

I liked that we got to see more of Meg’s backstory in this book, it definitely helped her feel like more of a well rounded character, and I thought she really came into her own in this book. I will always have a soft spot for Meg, she’s such a vicious little thing and fierce girls have a way of worming themselves into my heart. Plus I love that she shows that children of Demeter can still be really cool. I also liked all the dryads in this book, Rick Riordan has a way of making even side characters memorable! I also loved seeing her friendship with Piper, it warmed my heart, almost like an older sister/younger sister type thing and I hope we get to see the two of them together again before the end of the series.

I have to admit, I think Rick Riordan overdoes it with the pop culture references, they suit Apollo as a character, but even I didn’t understand some of them, so I feel like they might fly right over the heads of the 9-12 audience this series is actually aimed at! I do love the additions of the little haikus at the start of each chapter though.

I wished we had got to see what happened with Leo at Camp Jupiter, I get that wasn’t possible because it’s Apollo’s book, he’s narrating it and he wasn’t there, but I thought that might have actually been more exciting!

Rick Riordan does really well with talking weapons, first Jack in the Magnus Chase series and then the Arrow of Dodona in this, which delivers its messages in Shakespearean English, it’s utilised just enough that it’s still funny but doesn’t get frustrating.

I like how all the prophecies from the different oracles are delivered in different forms and I have to admit, this one was my favourite, them having to work out the prophecy via crossword clues? It was certainly different.

I wasn’t expecting the third emperor to be who it was, I won’t spoil anything by revealing who it was, but I was expecting someone else so I was quite surprised. I feel like this one, despite supposedly being the scariest was actually somewhat of a middle ground between Nero and Commodus-I actually found Nero scarier-or at least more sinister.

It was cool to see the Labyrinth again-The Battle of the Labyrinth was my favourite Percy Jackson book, so I was happy to see the Labyrinth returning here.

I can’t really talk about the major event of this book without talking spoilers, but all I really have to say on the matter, is that it didn’t have the emotional impact that I think was intended because I wasn’t overly in love with the character that it happened to anyway, but I will be interested to see the repercussions of this event in the next book and I definitely think it has raised the stakes for the rest of the books. These emperors are not playing around people!

This book was definitely suffering from middle book syndrome, but there is still a lot to enjoy in there, Apollo being ridiculous, Piper being cool for a change, evil emperors,  talking weapons, Grover’s return, Meg McCaffrey being a vicious little creature and I’m definitely looking forward to seeing what the fourth book has in store (though I just found out that I have to wait until next Autumn and I am not happy!) as we are teased for the return of one of my absolute favourite characters by the end of the book and the prophecy they are given is really intriguing, so I look forward to seeing how everything plays out as we head towards the climax of the series (is it just me, or have three years gone by really fast?).

My Rating: 3/5

BECHDEL TEST: FAIL-The fact that this is narrated by Apollo means that any conversations include him, so even though there are plenty of female characters, by the rules of the Bechdel Test, I have to fail it.

(This is an example of why the Bechdel Test does not always work, because there are several strong women in this series, but I have to fail it because they don’t have any one on one conversations that I can rate).

My next review will be of Louise O’Neill’s Only Ever Yours, the first book that I am reading in preparation for YALC in July (I can’t believe I’m doing YALC prep reading already!).

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The Dark Prophecy (The Trials of Apollo #2)

Book: The Dark Prophecy (The Trials of Apollo #2)

Author: Rick Riordan

I feel like my love of Rick Riordan is well known by now, literally, I will read anything this man decides to publish, I’d even read his shopping list, I’m sure he’d find a way to make it hilarious. I loved the first book in his latest series when I read it last year, so naturally I was really excited to read this book. I devoured it in just a week, which is pretty fast for me, but actually I didn’t enjoy it quite as much as the first one? It was still witty and hilarious and I loved Apollo but I did feel like it kind of lagged a bit in the middle? It just didn’t feel quite as exciting to me as The Hidden Oracle did, although the ending definitely sets up for a very exciting third book! Here is a short synopsis of the book:

The god Apollo, cast down to earth and trapped in the form of a gawky teenage boy as punishment, must set off on the second of his harrowing (and hilarious) trials.

He and his companions seek the ancient oracles – restoring them is the only way for Apollo to reclaim his place on Mount Olympus – but this is easier said than done.

Somewhere in the American Midwest is a haunted cave that may hold answers for Apollo in his quest to become a god again . . . if it doesn’t kill him or drive him insane first. Standing in Apollo’s way is the second member of the evil Triumvirate – a Roman emperor whose love of bloodshed and spectacle makes even Nero look tame.

To survive the encounter, Apollo will need the help of a now-mortal goddess, a bronze dragon, and some familiar demigod faces from Camp Half-Blood. With them by his side, can Apollo face down the greatest challenge of his four thousand years of existence?

I did have to look back to remind myself of what happened in the last book, because I honestly found myself a little confused at the start and you are sort of just thrown back into the action, so I definitely recommend refreshing yourself with the end of The Hidden Oracle! I wish authors put little recaps of their last book in the series at the front, it would be so helpful to those of us who don’t have the time to reread the previous book before the next one comes out!

I still love Apollo, perhaps even more in this book than I did in the last book. He is just so unashamedly himself, whilst still developing so much as a character throughout the book, seeing him grow to care for Meg and all of his other friends to the point where he would willingly sacrifice himself for them was just so lovely. Apollo has such a distinctive voice, compared to say Magnus and Percy who both sound rather similar and I love that. I like that he’s starting to see that being a human isn’t as worthless as he first thought and he seems to be growing to realise that immortality isn’t everything, whilst still retaining that narcissism and humour that I love.

I really enjoyed the dynamic between Calypso, Leo and Apollo and I actually would have liked to have seen more of it, we got it a lot in the first half of the book, but when he’s reunited with Meg, it kind of peters off, which I get, but I thought it was a shame because they were such a great group. I hope we get to see more of them together in the future. I particularly enjoyed the dynamic between Calypso and Apollo, I even kind of strangely ship them, I guess I like that kind of animostic relationship, I even liked them better than Leo and Calypso, who were honestly, kind of boring.

I LOVED Leo being back! Leo Valdez is one of my favourite demigods, he has so much sass and is just so much fun and I loved his dynamic with Apollo, the scenes when they were together had me laughing so hard. I hope that Leo remains a big part of the rest of the series, because he just brings such a fun dynamic to any group that he’s in.

The Waystation was so cool, I love the idea of a building that has a mind of it’s own! I would totally want to live there, it sounds like so much fun.

I liked that we got to see even more characters from Greek myths in this book, it always amazes me that 12 books in, Rick Riordan can still find new gods/goddesses/people from Greek and Roman myths to incorporate into his books. I love that I always come away from reading them feeling like I’ve learned something! I especially enjoyed the net Goddess, Britomartis, she was so funny!

I LOVED Emmie and Jo! It made me so happy to see cute, old, happy, lesbians, I swear, my cold heart warmed so much seeing these two together. I love the idea of two Hunters of Artemis falling in love with each other and leaving because they didn’t mind growing old as long as they could do it together. I would totally read a spinoff with Emmie and Jo because I’m sure they’ve had some crazy adventures in their time! It also made me really happy that there is now a character in the Percy Jackson universe that shares my name. Granted her full name is Josephine, not Joanne, but I’m taking it as a win!

The griffins were so awesome, flying on them sounds like so much fun. I also loved that Festus was back in this book, I’ve missed that mechanical dragon!

The humour in this book was definitely on point, perhaps not as good as in the Hidden Oracle, but I still laughed my way through pretty much the entire book.

There are an awful lot of characters coming back from the previous books now, and whilst I love seeing familiar faces, I definitely get confused with some of the more minor ones. Like Lityerses, I know he was in Heroes of Olympus, but I honestly couldn’t for the life of me remember him at first! I did appreciate that Rick Riordan had a glossary at the back, this helped me a lot when I didn’t recognise a name or a term that he used.

I did love the action scenes when they happened, Rick Riordan has a way of making his action scenes both exciting and hilarious and I love that, but I did feel like the pacing was a little off in this book compared to his other ones, they usually cover very little time (which this one did) and are pretty fast paced and parts of this book, particularly the first section, felt like they lagged. There also weren’t as many twists as the first book, for the most part it was very predictable, which meant it wasn’t quite exciting.

I did like the pop culture references in this, but I felt like the ones Riordan used in this book were a little older, and I didn’t entirely get all of them, so I’m not sure if the audience this book is aimed at would, as they’re a lot younger than me! Also some of the more recent ones will probably be quite dated in a few years!

I loved the new villain Commodus, even though I’m almost 100% certain that Rick Riordan picked him to be part of Triumvirate for the toilet humour! He’s kind of a comic, bumbling sort of villain, as opposed to Nero, who was genuinely scary and I liked the dichotomy between the two emperors. I’m looking forward to seeing who the last emperor is. I liked that he had a history with Apollo, it made the confrontations between them much more believable. I’m almost certain we haven’t seen the last of Commodus and that he will be back in future books.

I liked that we got to see the Hunters again in this book as we haven’t seen them in a while, and it was cool to be able to catch up with Thalia. Plus it felt natural that they would be involved at some point, given that Apollo is Artemis’ brother. It’s nice to know she hasn’t entirely abandoned him. I liked that it was established that no kind of romantic love at all is allowed in the Hunters, as that was a question I hadn’t even realised I’d had!

I liked that this book was again all set in one place, like the last book was in Camp Half Blood, as it allows for a different kind of story to the ones we’re used to in Heroes of Olympus and Percy Jackson, more mini quests as compared to the one large one.

The haikus at the beginning of each chapter were again a great addition, so Apollo, and they give you a little taste of what’s to come in the chapter.

I loved seeing Meg and Apollo’s relationship grow even more in this book, it’s clear he’s coming to really care for her and it’s great to see him go into all over protective mode when it comes to anything to do with Meg. I’m not sure if Meg is my favourite character, but I do love the side that she brings out in Apollo and I would like to see more of her backstory as I sense that there is more to tell there. She kind of falls flat compared to some of the other characters in this book.

It always amazes me how few days a Rick Riordan book covers, I think this entire book spans about a week? Yet so much happens in such a short space of time!

The ending was great, I feel like there’s a great set up for the next book, the “Dark Prophecy” of the title sounds like it’s going to lead to some interesting adventures and some familiar characters returning, and I can’t wait to see what happens next!

Whilst this book was not as exciting as the first one in the series, it was still a solid instalment, with some great humour, the return of one of my favourite characters, Leo, lesbians being adorable, Apollo being awesome and more adventures for our god turned mortal and his motley crew of heroes. I look forward to seeing what Apollo and Meg get up to next!

My rating: 3.5/5

I’m not sure what my next review will be as I haven’t decided what I’ll read next, I’m currently reading The Perks of Being A Wallflower, but it’s so short that I don’t think I’ll write a review about it, so it will be whatever I read after that!

 

The Hidden Oracle (The Trials of Apollo #1)

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Book: The Hidden Oracle (The Trials of Apollo #1)

Author: Rick Riordan

I was really excited when I first heard about this book because I knew it was going to be back at Camp Half Blood and hopefully featuring some familiar faces, plus Apollo has always been one of my favourite Gods, I love the way Riordan portrays him, he’s so hilarious, so I was really happy when I saw that this series was going to be all about him. I know some people say that Rick Riordan is milking the Percy Jackson world by doing so many series set in that universe but personally, anything he wants to write in this universe, I will read because I love this world and characters and this book was no exception. I loved being back in a world that is so familiar to me, these characters feel like old friends to me by now, though there are some new faces in this book. I cannot wait for the sequel now, May feels like so long away! How those of you who read this when it first came out have managed the year long wait, I do not know! Here is a short synopsis of the book:

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.

First off, I loved that this book had a map at the front of it. I’ve been wanting to see a map of Camp Half-Blood for years and now that we finally have one, I feel like I can picture the camp even better in my head than I did before, plus I just love maps, so I got ridiculously excited when this book started with a map!

I loved Apollo. I mean I really loved the glimpses of Apollo that we have had before in Riordan’s other books, but actually being in his head was a whole new level of hilariousness. I have always said that I prefer it when Riordan writes in first person, and this book was no exception, using the first person voice of Apollo was a stroke of genius. Plus because Apollo is a God, his voice sounds and feels a lot different that the demigod heroes of Riordan’s other series, his humour comes mainly from his self-obsession rather than sarcasm like Magnus or Percy. Apollo is a narcissistic asshole and he doesn’t bother trying to hide it (and I loved it!). Yet, despite him being incredibly narcissistic,  there is something inherently charming and loveable about him, and I loved watching his character develop through the book, realising that being a human is not so easy and that they do have something to offer definitely mellowed Apollo out a little, but without him losing his trademark humour (gosh the scene where he finds out he has acne is hilarious!). I loved how protective he was of his demigod children, and of Meg (who we will get onto later). I also liked how Riordan included some of Apollo’s heartbreaks in the book as well because it definitely helped making him seem more human. I actually hadn’t known that Apollo had been made mortal before in the myths, so that was pretty cool to learn.

I loved the little haikus at the start of each chapter as they gave you a hint as to what was going to happen and Apollo is the god of poetry so it worked really well there too.

I liked the small appearances by Percy in the book. Could I have done with more? Probably but I could always do with more Percy! But I was happy enough with the scenes we got, after all, this is Apollo’s book, not Percy’s. I loved getting to see his mum again (because I love Percy’s mum, she’s awesome) and the fact that he’s getting a baby sister made me so happy! I can tell that Percy’s supposed quiet year is not going to last long at all though. Our favourite demigod will be back and getting into some trouble during this series. Poor Percy, his idea of a quiet year never quite works out! I also liked the small Magnus Chase tie-in with the mention of Annabeth and it was nice to hear what all of the other demigods were up to.

I really liked Meg. I have read reviews that said they found her irritating and I can kind of see why but I enjoyed her character, she was feisty and kind of prickly and quite a complicated character because you can tell she knows more than she’s telling throughout the book. I appreciated that she was a daughter of Demeter (not a spoiler, it’s revealed pretty early on) who was actually pretty strong because they’ve classically been portrayed as quite weak in Riordan’s other books. I also loved seeing her relationship with Apollo develop through the book from him finding her irritating to grudging respect to genuine caring. I don’t want to spoil anything about Meg’s backstory, as it would be a bit spoilery, but I will just say that I found it incredibly sad. I was shocked by the way her story ended in this book and I hope she’s okay in the next one!

I loved Harley, the young son of Hephaestus, he was so cute, he’s only 8 and you just want to give him a big hug (and then run away really quickly because the kid is dangerous!).

I really liked the storyline of this book because I got to learn a lot about the Oracles and the Roman Empire, things that I didn’t really know about before. That’s one thing I always love in Rick Riordan’s books, that I always learn something new about mythology that I never knew before! I did feel however that the story was a little slower paced than I’m used to from Riordan’s books and whilst there was still lots of excitement, I would have appreciated maybe a slightly faster pace. I did love being back at Camp Half-Blood and getting to explore new settings like the Woods, which played a much larger part in this book than they ever have before. I also loved the return of camp activities, the three legged death race through the Labyrinth (which I wasn’t expecting to return so that was pretty cool) was awesome!

I wasn’t expecting to see Rachel Dare in this book either and I probably should have considering that she is one of the priestesses of the Oracles and I really enjoyed seeing her back, since I like her a lot more now she isn’t chasing after Percy! I hope to see her more in the other books of the series.

The villains of this book were completely unexpected and I loved how Riordan weaved the events of this book so neatly into his other two Greek/Roman mythology series and how it seems like all the events of the past 10 books (10 books, it seriously doesn’t feel like it has been that many!) have been building up to this. I get the sense that this series is going to be heavily Roman focused which I like because I don’t know so much about Roman mythology but I hope there are still some Greek mythology references in there too!

I found the new gods that we hadn’t seen before that were introduced in this really funny, I especially loved Rhea as I wasn’t expecting to see her in this book and she was so hippy and chilled and feminist and she made me laugh so hard! I hope we see more of her later in the series!

I also really liked seeing more of Will and Nico, they make such a cute couple! I love the casual way sexuality was treated in this book, Apollo is clearly bisexual and it’s no big deal and Nico and Will are so cute and the fact that they are both guys is also never made a big deal of. I look forward to hopefully seeing more of their cute couple-ness in the next few books of this series.

The final battle was absolutely hilarious, it was quite a surprise really because the battle scenes are usually the one serious part of Rick Riordan’s books but this one was so funny, I laughed a lot the entire way through. In fact all the fight scenes in this book were pretty funny!

There were some surprises through the book, all of which I thought were pulled off really well. I particularly liked the last one as a favourite demigod of mine made an appearance and it seems like they (I don’t want to ruin the surprise and say who, so I’m not even going to use gender specific pronouns) are going to play a big part in the rest of the series, which makes me really happy because I think that this demigod and Apollo interacting is going to be hilarious, from the little scenes we got to see at the ending of the book, our new main group of heroes have a lot of potential.

Basically, this book is hilarious, with a great new main character in Apollo, an interesting, even if slightly slow plot, a return to the world that we all know and love and some cameos from beloved characters as well as some great new characters and villains. I need the second book of this series right now!

My rating: 4/5 (I took a mark off just because I found it a tad slow in places)

My next review will probably be of my next read, the sequel to A Darker Shade of Magic, A Gathering of Shadows, as the e-ARC I am currently reading, Stealing Snow, will not be released until October, so if I finish it soon I’m going to wait a while before I publish the review.