published by Hyperion in May 2016
How do you punish an immortal?Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
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.
Series: The Trials of Apollo, Book #1 (spin-off of The Heroes of Olympus series)
The Story: Zeus holds Apollo responsible for the debacle that occurred throughout The Heroes of Olympus series and as a result, banishes Apollo to the mortal world... as a human. This is not the first time though that Apollo receives such a punishment and therefore, he knows the drill: find a demigod, pledge his servitude, accomplish required tasks and eventually, he'll regain his immortal status and return to Olympus. Except this time, Zeus must be really angry because Apollo retains none of his godly powers... even worst, he finds himself in the body of 16 years old Lester Papadopoulos, complete with acne and flab!
Apollo's streak of bad luck continues when he finds himself bound to Meg, a 12 years old demigod who seems clueless. In need of shelter and guidance, Apollo decides to head for Camp Half-Blood. However, Camp Half-Blood has its own problem: campers are disappearing...
My Opinion: I have to admit, when I heard that Apollo was getting his own series, I had my doubts. Let just say, Apollo hasn't been my favorite Olympus god in the franchise so far. After all, he's been behaving like you expect Apollo to: being narcissistic, egotistical and self-pitying. So really, I had no idea how Mr Riordan was going to pull it off... but of course, he did :)
Surprisingly, what won me in The Hidden Oracle is exactly what I feared the most... Apollo being himself! Usually, being narcissistic, egotistical and self-pitying is not a winning combination for a hero ^_^; However, it worked for Apollo because it gave him an unique and, quite frankly, refreshing voice. As much as I love Mr Riordan's writing and series, his heroes - Percy, Jason, Carter, Magnus - are starting to blend together. They all seemed to come out from the same mold... but not Apollo. What I saw as major flaws definitively set him apart and actually gave rise to some interesting and funny situations such as his belief that demigods are there to do his bidding and his despair at his new physique LOL. In addition, it gave him a lot of room to grow/change. You can behave a certain way when you're a god, but definitively have to adapt when you're human/mortal and in need of help.
For the most part, I enjoyed the story a lot as well. In many ways, The Hidden Oracle's purpose was to lay down the background information and set up for the rest of the series... and it definitively did the job because I'm really excited to read the next books and find out which trials await Apollo! :) What I like about this series so far is that Apollo's quest to recover his immortality is quite clear - he needs to restore the Oracles that many thought were lost. Also, Mr Riordan has come up with some very interesting and intriguing villains: 3 Roman emperors who have survived centuries because they believe themselves to be gods and have banded together to form the Triumvate. What makes them so dangerous is that they had years and years to amass resources and plot the fall of Olympus... and apparently, they are ready to strike. Apollo is definitively in over his head :) Previous series of Mr Riordan always felt a bit vague, readers never really knew in which direction the books were heading in; however, The Trials of Apollo is different and it's a welcome change.
What else did I enjoy about this book? First, I liked that most of the book took place at Camp Half-Blood. It was nice to stay in one place and get reacquainted with the camp. I think it allowed Mr Riordan to really focus on telling the story. I also really liked that there was no deadline. The characters are always rushed because they have to complete their quests by a certain date or else... And of course, they always make it ^_^; If that's the case, then do you really need a deadline? I don't mind one from time to time, but in every book? It eventually becomes wearisome. So I thought it was fun that there wasn't any in The Hidden Oracle. Of course, it's always fun to see old characters and we were quite spoiled in The Hidden Oracle :) Mr Riordan struck the perfect balance in my opinion. Give what the fans want, but without stealing the spotlight from Apollo... As if they could, LOL. Seriously though, I had fun seeing Percy, Nico and Will. Last but not least, it was awesome to see Apollo interact with his demigods!! LOL. How awkward it was, but lots of fun... and while Apollo is selfish, it's endearing to see that he does care for his sons and daughters.
As much as I enjoyed this book, there were a few minor flaws. I thought the story was a bit choppy at time, the transition between important events a bit awkward. It felt like parts of the book were the current adventure and other parts, to set up the series. The whole thing didn't feel quite organic... and except for the final showdown which was action-packed and fun, the book's adventure didn't captivate. There were also instances where some of the characters's decisions did not make sense ^_^; For example, campers are disappearing, but nobody is truly looking for them. Communication being down, but nobody really looking into it. It would have been fine if it was minors characters or minor events... but those were actually important and crucial! So it simply didn't make sense for me that it was being ignored. Finally, Apollo's new friend, Meg, was also not my favorite character. She was a hard to warm up to and just seemed off. We later find out why, but I'm just surprised nobody rang the alarm.
My Grade: A solid B+ read. It's been a while since I've enjoyed a Rick Riordan book as much as The Hidden Oracle. This book was a great mesh of the refreshing and the familiar and now, I can't wait till next May for the next book :)