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!).