Top critical review
Riordan's Weakest Work Shows Promise at the End, but is it Too Little Too Late?
Reviewed in the United States on July 5, 2017
I wanted to love this book. I've been reading all of Riordan's mythology series' since the beginning with Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief but this one fell flat to me. Riordan for whatever reason is officially in a slump of epic proportions, arguably dating back to the first Trials of Apollo book. The heart and humor which defined Percy Jackson, the Kane Chronicles, Heroes of Olympus, and at least the first tome of Magnus Chase. There was a little bit of humor, but it was not the humor we typically get from Riordan. The jokes were simple and lacked the cleverness that defines Riordan's typical work. I will try to pick out some strengths, then address the most glaring weaknesses and end with a few more strengths.
First, I really enjoyed Apollo's growth. He started out as the spoiled god of the sun which defined his character in the first of these books. The fact that he did not grow is my biggest annoyance about the first book in the series, The Hidden Oracle. Finally, Apollo began to show some growth and began to recognize the value of humanity beyond just amusements for gods. It takes some very tragic occurrences for him to get there, but Apollo finally grows. The downside of that is that his growth takes basically until the end of the third act, so we get very little of the new and improved Apollo. Hopefully this growth will stick and salvage the final book in this trilogy. Another good part is the introduction of new mythologies, such as the Crete and Minoan gods who predated the Greek societies. I wish Riordan would have spent a little bit more time on these. He even introduced some African mythology in a potential hint for a new series, but that is also a negative so more on "Jimmy" a little later. Further, I love the villains in this series. Unlike previous series that Riordan has written, the antagonist is not a typical god, but former Roman Emperors. As a history buff I love seeing this new take on the series.
Now we get to the negatives, which are unfortunately prevalent. My first negative is that the story was very static. By that I mean that we did not have the typical quest that is so common in Riordan's works. We spend the entire book in and around Indianapolis. There was no goal that we could travel with our heroes. This particular format proved to be flat, static and boring.
I think one of the biggest minuses for this book was the overemphasis of gay/lesbian characters.Now, I loved when Nico DiAngelo came out as gay in The House of Hades. It proved to be a major positive for his character and the series. I am also gay, so I have no qualms with a gay character but Apollo's commentary on cute attractive males in complete overkill. It borders on being offensive. We don't need every time Apollo sees an attractive male for him to comment on their attractiveness. There are more subtle ways to do the same thing without making it seem like Apollo is attracted to every male he sees. Further, every significant new character in this book was either bisexual or homosexual. That's not necessary and again overkill. Emmie and Jo are lesbian parents to a crucial character. The same role could have been sisters with one having a daughter and the other a niece. I don't necessarily mind that they are a lesbian couple, but combined with Apollo's constant references to past boyfriends and cute boys it adds to the overkill. Worst of all, a new character was introduced who at first seemed to only be an object for Apollo to fascinate over, even earning the offensive title of loincloth Jimmy. The character, whose real name is Olujiame, is revealed to have a potential connection to other gods, from African mythology perhaps. I fear this is an introduction to the successor series to Magnus Chase. Don't get me wrong, I would love for Riordan to tackle African myths in about five years. But right now, I think he needs to take a break. His writing in this book just reads like he is bored and phoning it in. It is understandable since he has been putting out a book a year since 2005!
I want to close with a positive. The last fifth of the book is good. Best of all, Apollo and the reader understand an important message of kindness, understanding, empathy and compassion. If you can make it through the first 24 chapters or so there are some strong redeeming qualities that make up for some of the major problems that prevent this book from being among the greats of Riordan's career. I choose to believe that the books ending provides some hope for the future of this series and the Magnus Chase series.