|Book Review: The Hidden Oracle by Rick Riordan|
|Book title||The Hidden Oracle|
|Series/standalone||The Trials of Apollo #1|
|Category | Genre||Middle Grade | Fantasy, Mythology|
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.
Rick Riordan has been criticized for making all of his leading male characters Percy Jackson clones. I love Percy, he’s one of my favorite character ever but I have to agree with the sentiment. I’m really tired of seeing a sarcastic goofy guy with laid back charm trying to save the world and I believe many will agree with me, we’re ready for something different.
I am happy to report that Apollo is the guy (err the god) who finally break Riordan’s nearly perfected checklist of a male lead. The funny thing is Apollo IS sarcastic and he makes everything into a joke. So in a way, he IS Percy. But there’s something really unique about Apollo’s POV and that is his status as ex-god. Percy, Magnus, Carter, Jason all are brave guys but deep down they are all clueless teens trying to discover themselves while trying to save the world (or filling the prophecy and whatnot). Now Apollo, he is OLD. Like thousands of years old. Yes he was being turned into a teenager, but unlike those kids Apollo has experience and in those thousands of years he is guilty of many many things – whether he admitted them or not. He was, after all, a god, who can turn a guy into a snail or destroy a city just by snapping his fingers. He is also super arrogant, in an almost endearing way that make you want to crush hug him (in that order). This is how his POV is unique. And it’s about darn time too!
My son Asclepius had become the god of medicine by the time he was fifteen, and I couldn’t have been happier for him. It left me time for my other interests. Besides, it’s every god’s dream to have a child who grows up to be a doctor.
Then there are the secondary characters, who I totally loved. The new sidekick is a little girl named Meg. She fulfilled all criteria for sidekick, she is a total badass who can take care of herself, she has mysterious past, and secret weapon. Her dynamics with Apollo, however, was a breath of fresh air because for once this was definitely not a romantic relationships. There was a line in a book who described their relationship perfectly, but I cannot quote it here because it’ll reveal major spoiler.
Plot and narrative
Apollo was punished by his dad and got turned into a 16 year old boy. The series, The Trials of Apollo, is exactly what the title said, Apollo trying to get Zeus to turn him back into his fabulous self, the sun god, the god of music and poetry, the patron god of the oracle, etc. To win Zeus’ favor, he has to undergo a series of trials (bad pun, sorry) and fix his mistake. Along the way, he tried to get some demigods to help him get to the only safe place for Greek gods (or so he thought), the Camp Half Blood. The problem was the camp itself was in trouble. A couple of demigods have gone missing, the communication with outside world was not working. Basically, they were alone and not able to call for help. Being a kind
person god that he is, Apollo trying to help solve the problem. Actually no, he was just doing that to get on Zeus’ good side. But that’s okay. What’s important is he’s trying to help.
“I raised my face to the heavens. “Please, Father, I get the point. Please, I can’t do this!”
Zeus did not answer. He was probably too busy recording my humiliation to share on Snapchat.”
Remember when I said that Riordan got criticized for keep writing the same character over and over again? Well, he was also being criticized for reusing the same prophecy-based “let’s go on a quest” storyline, at least for his Greek mythology books. The Hidden Oracle is Riordan proving he could write a great Greek
demigod story without the help of a prophecy. The story itself was quite simple but there were some twists there that caught me by surprise. It was near unputdownable, I had to finish the book in one day. Fortunately, it was not a huge book.
Adding to the awesomeness is the humor and banters. By now, Rick has somewhat become a master of blending jokes and actions, and The Hidden Oracle was Rick Riordan writing at his best.
This book also tries to tackle many issues most MGs shied away from. I won’t mention what they are, but don’t worry they are totally MG-appropriate and being written in the story in a totally inoffensive ways. Riordan is a proponent of diversity and I love how he’s now willing to take more risks of parents or schools possibly not allowing kids to read his books because of it. Some heavier themes that many kids have to deal with are also introduced in the story. And believe it or not, at one point I was nearly in tears. Nearly in tears. From reading a book about a sarcastic god. Who turned into a 16 year old boy with zits. Well, there’s a first for everything.
Should you give this book a try?
Fresh storyline + well-written POV + hilarious banters + support for diversity = YES
I thought I am done with Rick Riordan Greek myth stories, but The Hidden Oracle makes me excited for the sequels. I am way outside this book demographic but I still enjoy it a lot, and the messages it sent were universal.
To understand the story in The Hidden Oracle, you don’t need to have read the Percy Jackson series or the Heroes of Olympus series. However, I must warn you that this book contains many spoilers, including major ones, from the two previous series. So, otherwise you plan to never read those two, I would recommend to read PJO and HOO first.
4 stars (out of 5 stars)