The Trials of Apollo Book 1: The Hidden Oracle by Rick Riordan

This storyline of the series, which focuses on the now mortal god Apollo, is great in theory, but the first book is lackluster and inappropriate for younger readers.

trials of apollo

The Trials of Apollo Book 1: The Hidden Oracle by Rick Riordan. Disney-Hyperion, 2016, 376 pages

Reading Level: Middle Grades, 10-12
Recommended for: ages 12-15

Apollo’s pride and lack of discipline caused the Oracle of Delphi to fall to his deadliest enemy, Python. As punishment for his arrogance, Apollo was banished from Mount Olympus and stripped of his powers. When he wakes up in a New York City dumpster, he’s mortal, alone, and a target for his enemies. If that weren’t enough, his gorgeous looks have turned strikingly average and he even has a (gasp) bad case of acne. Apollo knows he must reclaim the Oracle in order to return to Olympus, but after a run-in with a dirty street waif, Meg, he realizes he needs help. Apollo and Meg journey to Camp Half-Blood for answers, but when campers begin to disappear, they soon realize they’re up against an enemy worse than any they’ve faced before.

Riordan’s latest Percy Jackson installment brings the story back to its roots: an adventure surrounding the demigods of Camp Half-Blood. What should have been an engaging new story, however, turned out to be poorly paced, tedious, and inappropriate for the middle grade market. The plot dawdles along until speeding toward an abrupt conclusion during the final chapters. Under developed characters function more like caricatures than real people. Apollo’s first person narration tiresomely portrays him as a spoiled, selfish character. The level of violence is too severe for younger audiences. Gone are the days of monsters evaporating in gold dust (as in the original Percy Jackson series). Rather, the human villain nearly claimed the life of several characters by making them into human torches. (Thankfully, all were saved).

Fans of Riordan’s work should also be aware of the focus on romance and sexuality. Apollo is bisexual. He seamlessly discusses his past loves, both men and women. He is thrilled that his son, Will Solace, has a boyfriend, and notes that “we gods are not hung up on such things.”

Riordan excels at giving a voice to those who feel different than the norm, and his books are beloved with good reason. In this latest novel, however, Riordan seems to be daring the reader to disagree with the ideas in the story and focusing primarily on sexuality and romance. There are other aspects of life that middle graders need to read about, understand, and relate to. That’s what made Riordan’s first Percy Jackson series excellent: themes of selflessness, friendship, family, and honor were explored with humor, grace, and beautiful writing. This story missed the mark and will likely cause many fans to bid farewell to Camp Half-Blood.

CautionsCharacter Issues (Apollo’s selfishness); Violence (physical wounds, human torches–see above, discussion of wars); Sexuality (Apollo’s professed bisexuality/homosexuality; a nude statue functioning as a villain); Worldview: Bisexuality and homosexuality portrayed as the norm.(See Above)

Overall rating: 2 (out of 5)

  • Worldview: 1
  • Artistic: 3

Categories: Adventure, Middle Grades, Fantasy

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  1. Michele on September 28, 2016 at 11:15 am

    Thank you for this review. My daughter is enjoying the Olympians series and I am so grateful to know about the cautions you have stated for this other series. I am very disappointed about the bi-sexuality. It is hard when children start to like an author or series and then the books become morally problematic! Thank you for letting us know!

  2. Abby Sessoms on March 14, 2017 at 2:58 pm

    Thank you for your opinion on this story. I have read the first book in this new series and I immediately noticed the change in Rick Riordan’s writing. I am very sad about the things he has chosen to include in his story and I think I am going to have to say goodbye to camp half-blood. I’m definitely still a huge fan of the Lightning thief and the Heroes of Olympus series, but the Trials of Apollo has put the brakes on.

  3. Nuh Uh Hunny on April 9, 2017 at 10:53 pm

    I think that us middle schoolers (in these days) might be, in actuality, more informed about homosexuality and the LGBTQ+ community than those of previous generations. I believe that sexuality and romance aren’t touched base on enough for it to be too much of a problem with you people because I am not affected by these things. You might think we are, but we aren’t. Or maybe i’m a millennial stuck in a 13 year old’s body. This book is just as much important and well written as all of the others, and I enjoy the humor that he has included as well as the basis on homosexuality. Why is it that homosexuality and bisexuality aren’t yet “the norm”, if it has been the topic of many a conversation in so many households and countries. Thank you for being a little bit inappropriate with your adulty know-it-all language so I could let out my bisexual steam.

    • Alysha on April 20, 2017 at 6:18 pm

      Nuh Uh Hunny,
      Thank you for feeling free to let us know your opinion. We here at Redeemed Reader wanted to take some time to formulate a response. First of all, I am a middle school and high school teacher, and I agree with you that a vast majority of students are more informed about the LGBT community. I’ve had many discussions about homosexuality with my students. I try to encourage an atmosphere where they can talk openly with me, but that they know my responses will reflect a Christian worldview. Some of my issues with Riordan’s latest novel were based on his focus on romantic relationships above those of friendship, respect, and teamwork. Many books these days focus on romance to the exclusion of other important attributes that growing minds need to think about. As far as homosexuality not being considered the “norm,” we here at Redeemed Reader believe that the “norm” is defined by Scripture and not our society’s standards. Scripture, in turn, is the word of God, who created us, loves us, and knows what it takes for us to thrive as individuals. That’s why we say that homosexuality and bisexuality fall outside Scriptural created norms. But we all fall short of the norms of God’s law in some way, and we all need his forgiveness and love.

    • Gee on August 20, 2017 at 11:49 pm

      EXACTLY!!! If being us lgbt people have to put up with having straight romances shoved down out throat you can cope with a couple lgbt characters. It’s not like reading aboutique lgbt characters is gonna turn ur kids gay, I’ve been reading books about straight people all my life and I’m still the gayest guy to ever exist

      • Janie on August 22, 2017 at 5:44 am

        Gee: “shoved down our throat” is an interesting choice of words, since you yourself are presumably the result of a straight romance. It’s not that we can’t cope with gay characters, but we’re about letting parents and older kids know what’s in a book so they can make an informed decision about whether or not to read it.

  4. Tian Li on June 14, 2017 at 9:08 pm

    I actually found Apollo’s character refreshingly different. He is indeed selfish and narcissistic and self-centred, and that’s why he’s being punished. He’s learning to care for those around him. That’s important. Anyway, Apollo has always been bisexual; read up on the myths surrounding him. The Ancient Greeks were more accepting of that than you are. I live in a highly conservative country, and in my school, Rick Riordan’s books are possibly more popular than Harry Potter; they feature a diverse number of powerful children near the students’ age, and one of them’s Chinese. When I asked them what they thought of Apollo, they told me he was endearing, funny, and they loved the book. They weren’t bothered by the bisexuality, even the most Christian of them (“I forgot Nico was gay, hahah”). The LGBTQ+ students I know we’re beyond pleased, of course. They felt accepted by their favourite writer. They could relate to Apollo’s fancying this boy, that girl, etc. I think that’s brilliant. Children shouldn’t feel shunned just because of who they love. I think your worldview is outdated.

    • Janie on June 15, 2017 at 10:30 am

      We appreciate your measured, reasonable tone. We’re coming from different perspectives, however. At Redeemed Reader we strive to interpret contemporary children’s literature through the lens of the Bible, which we see as God’s revelation to us. We’re well aware of the ancient Greeks and their many contributions to society, but they had their faults as well. Of course kids love Rick Riordan’s books–they’re funny, exciting, engaging, and full of interesting factual information. We’ve reviewed his earlier books quite favorably. But we don’t see him as a reliable guide when he reinforces certain cultural norms that go against God’s obvious design for human bodies and his revealed will for human sexuality. Our worldview may be outdated, but it is also eternal, given by a God who loves us and desires the best for us. We don’t shun children because of who they love. We would just like to help Christian parents point their children toward a better, more fulfilling, much longer-lasting love.

  5. Fiona on July 17, 2017 at 7:04 am

    I’d like to offer my opinion on this debate. I am a Librarian in a Christian school in Australia. I’m pleased to say we are quite liberal in what we put on our shelves, far more so than a lot of other Christian schools, which is unfortunate. I believe that our students should be given the opportunity to read books that don’t necessarily agree with our Christian worldview. They should be given the opportunity to question what they believe and reading an opposing or challenging viewpoint can help them solidify what they do actually believe, rather than turning them away from it. Reading a book with a homosexual character is not going to change their sexual preference, but could teach them a lot about empathy. I attended a Christian schools seminar today. The speaker said that 60 – 80% of young people turn their back on their faith, post school. He attributed this in some degree to the fences we build around our students. We tell them what they should and shouldn’t believe and don’t give them the opportunity to truly explore what their faith means to them or what it looks like. The trials of Apollo is and will remain on our shelves.

    • Janie on July 17, 2017 at 10:18 am

      Fiona, we appreciate your comments and hope you’ll continue to visit our site. I hear your concerns about how up to 80% of young people from Christian homes turn away from the faith–that’s a great concern of ours, too. One reason we at RedeemedReader focus on secular books (as opposed to books with an explicit Christian message) is that we WANT Christian parents and teachers to expose their children to various points of view, yet always with Christian truth in mind. We’re after discernment, not indoctrination. Riordan’s later books actually come across as indoctrination–the message is, How could a reasonable person not accept homosexuality or gender fluidity, especially in this day and age? Our kids need to know what is being passed off as reasonable in this day and age, AND how to answer it biblically. That is true compassion and empathy. It could be beneficial for a kid to read The Trials of Apollo with that approach in mind, but parents and teachers need to know what’s in books they don’t have time to read. That’s our job.