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

Very few authors hold as much sway in the middle grade (a different class from young adult, by the way) fantasy community as Rick Riordan. Any story where a child finds out they are the child of a god in any real-world pantheon owes its inspiration to the Percy Jackson books and all their sequel series. 

Percy and his friends return for the Trials of Apollo series, except the main character is not another child of a god, but rather a god: Apollo, the Greek god of the sun, medicine, archery, and more. 

The Trials of Apollo, Book 1: The Hidden Oracle (Trials of Apollo, 1):  Riordan, Rick: 9781484732748: Amazon.com: Books

Apollo, the Greek god of the sun, falls from Olympus as a human teenage boy. Stripped of his powers, godly beauty, and immortality, Apollo meets up with Percy Jackson (son of Poseidon) and a street girl named Meg (daughter of Demeter). They make their way to Camp Half-Blood, where demigods have been disappearing. With only a few stragglers left, Apollo and the remaining demigods try to solve the mystery behind the disappearances, and stop the first step in a very powerful enemy’s plan for world domination…

The charm of Rick Riordan’s stories lies in telling epic adventures and saving the world, but with a humorous touch. If you have watched the Nickelodeon classic Avatar: The Last Airbender, or even any MCU movies, it’s got a similar vibe. You have an eclectic cast of kids (in this case, children of gods) with supernatural abilities banding together to save the world, while their personalities clash in humorous and endearing ways. Each demigod is a distinct and memorable character in their own right, and you cannot just pick one favorite.

The books never try to be completely serious. There is drama and the stakes are high, but the demigods actually acting like kids and learning to work together endears you to them and their adventures. I really wish that this series was around when I was younger because I love any story that makes kids feel like they are capable of doing awesome things.

It’s almost surprising that no one talks about Rick Riordan’s books the way J.K. Rowling’s books are. Everyone talks about which Hogwarts house they belong to, but why does no one talk about which Greek god they might have had for a parent? Which Greek god might they attribute their personality traits or skills to? I know the Rick Riordan fandom is already huge, but it deserves to be just as big, if not bigger, than the J.K. Rowling fandom.

Like, come on, guys! Come even further out of the woodwork and put Harry Potter’s crown on Percy Jackson!

In case it wasn’t obvious, I have a soft spot for Rick Riordan’s work and how much it has inspired me. I like the Harry Potter books fine, but maybe for once, we can draw attention to another literary universe with endearing characters, creative storylines, and great emotional payoff.

If you’re coming to the Trials of Apollo series without having read any series before it, you might be a little bit lost. After all, there are three other series in chronological order before this one. You’ll get the idea behind what Camp Half-Blood is and the adventures its campers have had, but you’ll enjoy it a lot more if you know the full context. 

We have an enjoyably hilarious and selfish protagonist in Apollo, whose narcissism is thankfully more charming than annoying. Unlike some selfish protagonists I’ve read (I’m looking at you, Dylan from Geek Charming), Apollo is actually likable. He has a soft spot for his demigod children, although he’s not the most attentive father. He doesn’t completely disregard things at an inconvenient time. He actually has some integrity about him that keeps you rooting for him. 

As always, the demigods are memorable and it’s still cool to imagine kids learning skills like healing and archery in preparation for awesome adventures. In that regard, it would almost be cooler to go to Camp Half-Blood than Hogwarts, because it’s a summer camp, not a school, and you learn awesome supernatural talents based on who your godly parent is. 

I promise that’s the last time I crap on Harry Potter in this review, so don’t any Potterheads come after me for daring to say their beloved series is just okay.

If I did have one little nitpick about this series, it would be that Apollo’s emotional growth might be happening a little too quickly. It’s good that he matures by the end of this book, but there are four more books in this series (to my knowledge). Exactly how much emotional growth can Apollo have across that much story? Who knows.

That doesn’t mean I didn’t love this book and didn’t barrel through it like I did the other books in the Riordan universe. Best bet that I’m anxiously looking forward to getting the second book and continuing Apollo’s adventures!

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