I have been following Rick Riordan’s Greek mythology books for a long time. Riordan is one of my auto-buy authors, though I hadn’t noticed until finishing The Burning Maze, the third book of The Trials of Apollo series, that my anticipation for the books may have waned a bit. I still love Percy and all the other demigods, but I let several books jump the line ahead of The Burning Maze, and instead of reading it right when it came out, I waited to read it until now.
(I’m trying an amended format on this review, since it’s a little long. The TL;DR bits are all in blue, so if you are so inclined you can skip to them and just hit the highlights. Let me know what you think of the format, so I know whether or not to keep doing it.)
Mild spoilers for all previous books ahead. Spoilers for The Burning Maze will be hidden at the end.
What’s it about?
Apollo—Greek god of music, the sun, archery, and a few other things—is being punished for allowing the events of the Heroes of Olympus series to occur. He has been banished in a wimpy, love-handled human form and tasked with rescuing five oracles from three evil Roman emperors (if you have read the previous books, you already know this; this is context). In The Burning Maze, he is searching for the third oracle with the help of his stalwart master Meg, daughter of Demeter. This time, amongst other things, Apollo and Meg have to deal with a section of the labyrinth that’s filled with fire, an evil talking horse, monsters with giant ears, and their darkest hour yet.
So who’s in it?
The Trials of Apollo series is, in a way, a victory lap for the various heroes from the Percy Jackson and the Olympians and the Heroes of Olympus series. In previous books, we’ve checked in with Nico di Angelo (and Will Solace), Percy Jackson (briefly), and Leo Valdez (and Calypso). Book three brings back way more familiar faces. Grover returns after a long, long absence. Piper McLean and Jason Grace are central, and Coach Hedge and his wife Mellie also join in on a few adventures. As always, there are also a few new characters.
I wrote in my review of The Dark Prophecy that different combinations of characters work differently, and I have to say that Apollo’s best team-up is still the one from The Hidden Oracle. Nothing beats the combo of Apollo’s sunny conceitedness and Nico’s dark snark. However, I think that Grover and Piper compliment Apollo better than Leo did. Jason, to be entirely honest, has always been kind of a nonentity to me. He’s a sort of boring golden child, and compared to characters like Percy, Leo, Grover, Annabeth, Nico, and Frank… he comes across as kind of blandly nondescript.
Jason is perfectly serviceable in this book, just as he is in the others, but if I had to hazard a guess, I’d say that Jason was the character the fewest people were looking forward to seeing again.
Piper is pretty cool. Like Jason, she was never my favorite, but she is Piper in peak form. She has some badass moments, some charming moments, and she is more in touch with her Native American side. At moments I thought Piper’s culture seemed a little overdone, like maybe Riordan was worried he hadn’t emphasized it enough in previous books, but overall I liked that it was a bigger element.
Grover is Grover, by which I mean awesome. I love Grover so much. I still miss early Grover, when he was awkward and anxious, but big time savior of nature Grover is good, too.
How does it stack up against the other two books?