In fact, that’s mostly what I want to talk about in this review, the overall series premise and style, but I do want to talk a little about this actual installment first.
So, this is the fourth and penultimate book in this series. Apollo and Meg have arrived at the Roman camp, and it turns out the Emperors have just attacked them, and they’ve suffered serious casualties. They find out that they will be attacked again in just five days, on Lester/Apollo’s birthday, and begin preparations for a battle in which they know they will be hopelessly outmatched. They also find out the Emperors have enlisted the services of another of Apollo’s old enemies, whose favorite trick is to create zombies essentially, and that is a very helpful thing in a battle when you can just turn your enemy’s corpses into your own soldiers. of course there is a prophecy and a quest, and literal deus ex machina. It’s all very rote at this point.
There were a couple of moments at the end where the book did impress me, and they were mostly centered on Apollo genuinely regretting his pasts mistakes, with two characters he wronged greatly a long time ago, and whom he has to face in order to complete his quest and save Camp Jupiter. But for me, the success of these scenes only highlighted how the rest of the series mostly doesn’t work for me.
The entire premise of this series is that Apollo was such a dick that even his father, Zeus (a major dick himself), noticed, and punished him by exiling him to live on earth as mortal teenager (a pimply, awkward one), presumably until some sort of lesson was learned. If you are familiar with Greek mythology, Apollo did do some truly heinous things that deserve real reckonings (and one of them is addressed in this book). But the entire approach of this series is that the teenaged Lester Papadopoulos version of Apollo is a harmless, goofy teenager with a dorky-ass personality. He snarks and blusters his way through his adventures, taking nothing seriously. He reads as an almost completely different character than Apollo. For obvious reasons, you can’t have a reckoning for one version of a character if the new version doesn’t connect to the old one. And for me, he doesn’t connect. There’s some token handwaving every now and then to teenaged Apollo remembering things he’s done in the past or people he’s met, but almost none of it every has any depth.
I think the main flaw of this premise is that Riordan wants to have it both ways. He wants this to be a redemption story about a god learning not to be cruel and callous, and he also wants that same god to be funny and likeable and harmless, right from the start. If teenaged Lester had been a fucking asshole from book one and gradually softened, this would be a different review, I think.
Anyway, all this to say, the formula of these stories is really starting to bore me, and since the main premise isn’t working for me for the most part (aside from those few moments that do), I think unless Riordan makes some significant changes, and/or stops writing stories about demigods, I’m probably for real not reading any more of his books after #5. There are just so many more books to read out there.
[3.5 stars rounded up for the ending, when Apollo actually faces consequences and has actual emotions regarding them]