Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Book Review: The Dark Prophecy (The Trials of Apollo #2)

Release Date: May 2, 2017
Author: Rick Riordan
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Length: 432 pages
Source: Purchased Book

Zeus has punished his son Apollo—god of the sun, music, archery, poetry, and more—by casting him down to earth in the form of a gawky, acne-covered sixteen-year-old mortal named Lester. The only way Apollo can reclaim his rightful place on Mount Olympus is by restoring several Oracles that have gone dark. What is affecting the Oracles, and how can Apollo do anything about them without his powers?

After experiencing a series of dangerous—and frankly, humiliating—trials at Camp Half-Blood, Apollo must now leave the relative safety of the demigod training ground and embark on a hair-raising journey across North America. Fortunately, what he lacks in godly graces he's gaining in new friendships—with heroes who will be very familiar to fans of the Percy Jackson and the Olympians and Heroes of Olympus series. Come along for what promises to be a harrowing, hilarious, and haiku-filled ride. . . .



Protagonist: Apollo has overcome his trial at Camp Half-Blood and restored the Grove of Dodonna, now he and his new companions Leo and Calypso head to Indianapolis to restore another Oracle to help restore Apollo's god-deficiency problem. Honestly, out of all the first person POVs that Riordan has written, I have to love Apollo the best. That juxtaposition between his hubris and reality is hysterical and yet, it's that cold harsh reality that lets this newly mortal god have some real character development for probably the first time in four thousand years. What makes these moments of humility so great is that usually, it's because of the choices Apollo made as a deity, not his fragility as a mortal which adds some great depth and empathy to his character that doesn't seem like it would just all go away once, or if, he should ever regain his divinity.

World Building: Out of the two Trials of Apollo books, I'd have to say that the first one is better. It's not that this story isn't great, but the first installment had all of the things I was looking for, classic Greek myths that were recognizable to me, checking in with some of my favorite characters from the previous series, and seeing it all from the perspective of one of the most iconic Greek gods. Now this book technically hit all of those marks, but just not as well. The myths and history to this story were far more obscure and while I loved learning about new myths, there wasn't enough that I recognized to invest me in the story even more. Though I have to say that at least on the history aspect and the Roman Emperor we meet in this story I do like that Apollo had a more personal connection with him. As for checking in with old characters, this story, obviously, includes fan favorite character Leo Valdez, and his newly mortal girlfriend Calypso, as well as one other old character that I'll not disclose to keep their appearance more of a surprise. While Leo and Calypso did help out Apollo quite a bit, I felt that their role was more of an epilogue to their story than an actual contribution to the narrative of Apollo's trials. Plus, in the previous story, it was exciting to see a teenage mortal Apollo hanging out with his kids which didn't really happen here. Overall though it was still an exhilarating story set in a world of rich classic stories, myths, and history so it was still a home run, just not a grand slam.

Predictability: Since the influence for this tale; the myths, and history, is so obscure it was hard to find enough of a theme to see where things were going. In fact, even when I caught on to the main themes of this adventure, it the author does a fantastic job of subverting expectations to provide a wild and crazy ride filled with twists and turns that I wasn't really expecting at all. Now, there were still, of course, basic and grand vague things that I could pretty much count on happening or in some cases, not happening, that it wasn't like this story completely dumped all modern storytelling conventions and formulas in favor of a story that while shocking wouldn't be satisfying. I have to hand it to Riordan, he's been writing these books for a while and he really knows just which tropes and expectations need a bit of a twist to keep things interesting.

Ending: The ending this story is really where a lot of the subversion of tropes comes into play. Don't get me wrong, it's not an insane roller coaster ride, well not really, but it's more that after the first book in this series I had a set idea about how this story would end, on a grand vague scale at least, and while there were quite a few things that I was able to guess right, things still didn't go quite the way I had expected. The final climax was really amazing and had a ton of fabulous tension building everything up to a great head. Then we're treated to some foreshadowing of upcoming events and see just where this story will be going next and some clues to who we'll come upon in the next adventure.


So, I know I kind of ragged on this book for not being as good as the first, but it's still a stellar addition to this series. Apollo's character development alone deserves the five stars, but with an author that knows just how to formulate a story that will keep you on the edge of your seat without things becoming too chaotic, I mean, what more is there to ask for, plus the next book seems to have a huge load of potential.


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