Friday 9 June 2017

The Hidden Oracle (Trials of Apollo #1), Rick Riordan

"Yep, that pretty much describes my life: because Poseidon"
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.
* * 
2 / 5

The Trials of Apollo: The Hidden Oracle is a new series set in the world of Percy Jackson. Whilst you probably don't need to read the other books to understand this one, I would probably recommend it, due to the number of references and reappearing characters. This book is easy to read and young teenagers will most likely enjoy it, but the narrating voice is terrible and the plot overly predictable.

"Zeus needed someone to blame, so of course he'd picked the handsomest, most talented, most popular god in the pantheon: me"

I picked up The Hidden Oracle knowing only that it was about Apollo, who has been made mortal by Zeus. I was expecting something brand new, not a rehash of Percy Jackson. More fool me. Percy Jackson himself is wheeled out within twenty pages and within fifty we are in Camp Half Blood and do not leave. This is a direct extension of the Percy Jackson world. If that's what you want, great! Whilst I admit it's quite nice and brings up a wave of nostalgia to meet Percy's mum and a few old characters like Nico and Rachel Dare, it seems a bit like a cheap rehash.

I'll start off with a positive. What was a bit refreshing was that the whole quest aspect felt a little different from the standard. It all takes place within the borders of Camp Half-Blood, so thankfully we lose the whole "five days to complete impossible quest" and "must be back before summer solstice/some festival/notable event" deadline. We have Apollo, tremendously absorbed in self-pity and lacking memories, trying to figure out how to appease Zeus to be made a god again, and then Rachel Dare, the oracle of Delphi, has lost her gift of prophecy.

"Things can turn out differently, Apollo. That's the nice thing about being human. We only have one life, but we can choose what kind of story it's going to be"
The main problem I had with this book, however, was Apollo himself. Not only is Apollo not really the same god we met in the original Percy Jackson books, the whole god-turned-mortal idea didn't really work. Apollo's narration is horrible, frankly. He's now a spotty, roughly sixteen year old boy with a bit of a belly. Apparently, his physique is his main concern. Apollo whines and moans and wallows in self-pity throughout the whole book; his entire arc is some sort of patronising self-congratulating dribble about how he comes to respect mortals because they know they're going to die. Not only is it irritating, it also feels a bit, I don't know, sacrilegious. 

The best bit was Riordan has swapped out his wacky chapter headings for badly written haikus, which is actually an improvement. Then there's Apollo's sidekick, Meg. She's an alright character; twelve years old and a daughter of a pretty cool and, until now, under-utilised goddess. Part of her story did genuinely surprise me, so Meg was a neat little addition to the story and one of the better characters. The story also takes place at Camp Half Blood during the winter, so there's only a handful of demi-gods, including Will Solace and Nico de Angelo, but mostly they're entirely new. Whilst Nico and Will's relationship was cute, it was cancelled out by the fact that Apollo, immortal god, kept commenting on how cute/hot fifteen year olds were. Even if he's in the body of a sixteen year old, that's pretty gross in my opinion.

"Oh, why does college have to happen to perfectly good people?"

I would recommend The Hidden Oracle to those who haven't read much of Riordan's work before, because after reading about fifteen of his books you become thoroughly aware of how mildly entertaining yet thoroughly repetitive they are, but to really get all the little references, you have to read all of the other Percy Jackson books (all ten of them). So I'm not really sure who I would recommend this to. Yeah, the idea is new, but the format is entirely recycled and the plot twists predictable.

So I guess I'd say the same thing about this that I did about Magnus Chase: if you aren't yet tired of Riordan's books, then you'll probably enjoy this. But you aren't missing out on much. I think I laughed exactly once, and it was a goddamn communist joke.

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