The Hidden Oracle by Rick Riordan

The Hidden OracleThe Hidden Oracle

by Rick Riordan
Series: Trials of Apollo, #1

Hardcover, 361 pg.
Disney-Hyperion, 2016

Read: August 31, 2016


Only 361 pages? Riordan is taking it easy on his readers. And maybe himself.

Anyway, following the events of The Heroes of Olympus, Zeus is a little displeased with Apollo and demonstrates this by turning him into a human teen (read: YA/MG novel star) and casting him to earth. He appears to be fully human — not even a demigod like Percy and the rest. Speaking of Percy, as soon as Apollo figures out what happened to him and where he is, he makes a beeline for Percy’s apartment to get help. Smart move. Percy gets him to Camp Halfblood and disappears back to NYC to do homework.

Once there, Apollo begins trying to figure out what quest he’ll have to do to return his status to quo. Along the way, he’ll make some friends, get a better perspective on himself and his offspring (yeah, that’s not weird), and maybe go through some of that personal growth. Note that I said, “some” personal growth and “better” perspective — that’s not saying much, basically Apollo comes across as a teenaged-Gilderoy Lockheart with a conscience. Instead of the large number of missions that we’ve become accustomed to in these books, there’s really just one (plus the series-arc mission) — such a nice change.

A lot of people from the Percy Jackson and The Heroes series are name-dropped and discussed, not to mention the few that we see — there’s even a nod to the Magnus Chase series — thankfully, my favorite is one of those who shows up in the flesh. There’s also a good amount of in-jokes to please the long-time fans. But readers new to this universe shouldn’t be put off by any of this — it’s absolutely approachable, maybe even moreso than anything since The Lightning Thief.

This is told in the typical breezy style that characterized non-adult mystery Riordan novels, but given the different protagonist, feels a little fresher. A little briefer, a little change of pace — still full of that Riordan magic. The Hidden Oracle is a sold first-entry in yet another adventure in this world. Give it a shot.

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3.5 Stars

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The House of Hades by Rick Riordan

The House of Hades
The House of Hades

by Rick Riordan
Hardcover, 597 pg.
Hyperion Books, 2013

I guess I already said the essence of what I have to say about this back when I checked in midway. This is a fun read, but a tad formulaic. However, it’s Riordan’s formula, so he pulls it off very well.

Hades didn’t charm me as much as his book usually do, and I’m not sure if that’s just me, or if it was a flaw in the book. Part of it was knowing that there was one more book, no matter what victories the Campers scored, they were only going to set the stage for the ultimate battle. Even as I say that, I know that’s not the case — but a lot of it just felt like marking time until the final installment next year.

The central conceit of Riordan’s mythology books is that these kids — near-teens or teenagers — are beating various and sundry mythological creatures — from monsters, to nymphs, to Titans or gods — in a variety of contests, even in battles to the death. Which can be hard to swallow sometimes, if you stop and think about it. But this is a common thing even in the old myths — mortals outsmarting these types. Too many of these contests in Hades are resolved by the Campers goading their opponents into making an obviously stupid move. Once or twice a novel, they could get away with it. I should’ve written it down, but he used that trick at least three times (maybe four or five) — in any event, it was enough that I groaned at least twice.

I don’t want to come down to hard on this book, I did like it. I haven’t chuckled at an obituary like I did at the one included in this book in a long time (you were supposed to, I’m not that twisted). There were some great character moments, some good personal growth — most of which I can’t get into without getting really spoilery. But, in short — Frank’s growth (in every sense of the word) was fantastic; Percy (and to an extent, Leo) realizing some of his former blunders and broken promises — he really comes off looking far less heroic and more human (which ends up making him more heroic). I do wish we’d had a bit more Reyna, I think she was given short-shrift, but what she did was probably more important in the end than what happened in most of the book.

Leo Valdez, however, is the hero of this book (and he’s come close to being the hero of one or two others in this series). Riordan really makes him shine throughout. It’s a real pleasure to read every one of his scenes — whether he’s the point-of-view character for that chapter or not.

I’m looking forward to the final book in this series, I do fear that it’ll be the last Riordan series I read. Unless he returns to adult fiction, that is. I have one son that currently provides me excuses to read Riordan, but he’s getting a bit long in the tooth for these books and has pretty much decided this is it for him. Hopefully, we can get his little brother into them, so I can keep going.

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3 Stars