Review | The Hidden Oracle by Rick Riordan

I feel like I have to review this book twice.

The_Hidden_Oracle

Summary

Six months after angering Zeus by supposedly causing the awakening of Gaea and the march of the twelfth legion on Camp Half Blood, the god Apollo finds himself in a dumpster in New York City. But he is no longer a god—Zeus has made him a teenage mortal. With flab. And acne.

This punishment isn’t new to Apollo, and he knows he must find a demigod master to serve in order to work out his sentence. Hoping for the famous Percy Jackson, he is found first by Meg McCaffery, a twelve year old demigod with a talent for turning fruit into projectiles.

Without his godly powers and with an inexperienced demigod, Apollo knows his only hope is Camp Half Blood. But the camp is once again in danger. Any communication has been impossible, the Oracle of Delphi has not returned, and demigods have been disappearing in the forest.

And for some reason, Apollo can hear the trees whispering to him.

Review

As mentioned above, I feel like I have to review this book twice: once as the beginning to a new series, and again as the continuation of the ever extending Percy Jackson universe.

As the beginning of a series, The Hidden Oracle is spot on. The plot is well constructed, with Riordan pulling from traditional mythology and history and making it modern. I will say, that this may be the most creative he’s been in this universe, considering how the antagonist isn’t formal mythology per se.

This is largely because of his choice of subject. I didn’t know Apollo had been turned into a mortal before as punishment, and therefore I have little mythological background to work on. Also, the change in perspective is rather refreshing. All of Riordan’s previous works have been about a protagonist’s rise to greatness. Apollo is all about fall and redemption. Rick balances this well, with Apollo bemoaning the loss of his powers while slowing growing as a mortal.

Which reminds me: the character development is spot on. I love how Apollo struggles with the concept of being human. How he can’t remember things, how he keeps expecting natural greatness and coming up short. Every emotional scene he has feels genuine because Apollo close captions what we inherently know to be the human experience.

Speaking of characters, the cast is spot on. Apollo’s children have unique personalities, and we meet more new campers. And then there’s Meg McCaffery.

Meg is an especially well developed character. Like most demigods, she has a rather tragic backstory, and Riordan balances the repercussions of her childhood with her defiant, blatant attitude. I’m excited to see more of her in the future.

As for the writing style, Riordan has sort of redeemed himself. There’s a sort of tone to the writing that reminds me of PJO: the story telling is going to be serious, but there will be jokes along the way. I could do with less references to things like Spotify and Groot, since that dates the novel, but it wasn’t bad.

As a start to a new series, The Hidden Oracle is promising. It sets up a well rounded protagonist, as well as a tone of serious story telling that I hope Riordan keeps up.

And now we get to the difficult part: reviewing this book as a continuation to the Olympian saga.

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Due to the spoilerific nature of this analysis, if you haven’t read The Heroes of Olympus series or The Hidden Oracle BACK AWAY NOW.

There are a lot of things in this book that work if it was the first of a brand new series.

Solangelo is spot on and a welcome addition to the canon ships. Healthy, mutual, and supportive, Will and Nico’s relationship has been long awaited in western juvenile adventure fiction. The best part is that it reads so easily—I definitely believe these two are in a romantic relationship, and that kind of representation is so rare. Do I care that I didn’t get to see the formation of this? Not really. I do care that Nico’s character development has been a rollercoaster, but he’s finally happy.

I’m also quite happy with Percy’s attitude towards the demigod world. He will fight when needed, but wants to move on, and that’s fair. Riordan used him sparingly, and for that I am grateful.

And Leo Valdez. Can I get a ticket in line please? I mean, I’m glad everything turned out alright, but did I really have to wait until this book? Sure, there are explanations, but I shouldn’t have had to wait this long.

On the flip side, the antagonists and their evil scheme were sort of the back burner for me. I cared much more about the characters in this novel than I did about the plot, which I hope will pick up in the next instalment. The plot kind of fails here, because without the first two series to back them up, the antagonists don’t really have much of an evil presence.

My point is that The Hidden Oracle in no way makes up for the mistakes in Blood of Olympus, because this is a new story. As a series, I feel like Heroes of Olympus should be able to stand on its own, which it sort of can’t now. Because a continuation exists.

That being said, I prefer a late explanation to no explanation at all.

Recommendation: Buy. Fans of Riordan won’t be disappointed with his third series in the PJO universe. With a new perspective and a promising premise, I’m looking forward to the next installment of The Trials of Apollo.

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