I’m not sure what to make of the Trials of Apollo series. I’ve really liked Rick Riordan’s other series Percy Jackson and Magnus Chase, and while there are plenty of shared features and characters, this series just doesn’t have quite the same fun factor.
The Blemmyae are probably the best villain assistants since the Minions, made especially entertaining by the fact that Riordan presents them as stereotypes of Midwestern nice/Stepford wives. Since I’m originally from Minnesota, I find it funnier than maybe I should the image of shapeshifting monsters obsessed with politeness and who call you ‘dearie’ while insisting that you need to die in a fairly painful fashion. Then there’s Lester-Apollo yelling “BEGONE foul Nanette!” early in Chapter 2 that just sounds silly. The additions of ghosts who can only communicate through a Magic-8 ball, griffins, and pair of retired Hunters increase the fun.
The less entertaining thing that really brings down the whole story is Apollo-Lester himself. He just bugs me, both for refusing to let go of the fact that he’s currently not god and that even when he says he’s sorry for how something painful in the past turned out, he doesn’t really seem to feel it. On a related note, the return of Meg is also problematic because there’s no real reason for how she escapes from Nero to get back to Apollo-Lester. Meg herself is also lacking in relatability because we never get to see inside her head the way we do with other characters. Given her background and current reality, she should be sympathetic, but she’s not because there’s no personal felling behind what she says and does. As these 2 are supposed to be the main heroes of the whole series, it really brings down the entertainment factor when they’re both disconnected from real emotion, or relatable in any other way.
I have wondered since I saw this is an earlier novel, but I question Riordan’s use of the word podex in a YA series. The glossary says, correctly enough, that it’s Latin for ‘anus’, except that the word typically was used more with the sense of ‘a**hole’ than ‘butt-head’. Admittedly, this comes largely from the likes of the Roman poet Catullus, who uses some of the ugliest/funnest Latin vocabulary you’re likely to find. I admit when I saw it come up again here, I found myself really wishing blemmyae were around to hear that, since I would dearly love to see how they would react to strong language. Maybe we could see that in the next installment of the series, please?