Saturday, January 21, 2023

Riordan tweaks his formula

Last year, I realized that I hadn't read Rick Riordan's Trials of Apollo. I'd been waiting until all five books had come out and hadn't noticed that had happened back in 2020. Well, I was pretty distracted into 2020.

With that said, I had doubts about the series. While I have enjoyed everything I've read by Riodan (and really hope our son gets into his writing), the Trials of Apollo broke too many of the paradigms of his work. Riordan's mythic books are urban fantasies where the ancient gods are real and the heroes are their children. If there's one thing a lot of the ancient gods were good at doing, it was having lots of kids.

The Trials of Apollo turns that idea on its head. Instead, the narrator and main character is actually one of those ancient gods, Apollo of the Greek and Roman pantheons. Admittedly, he's been punished by his father into being a mortal teenager so it's not that far off the formula. Still, I had to ask if it was really going to work.

Instead, I found the answer was it really worked. I don't think the series has the strongest plot of the mythic books but I do think it has some of the strongest writing. And, no, I'm not going to go into the plot. If you're interested, get the books out of the library the way I did.

Here's the thing. In most of the mythic series, the protagonist or protagonists are newcomers to the mysterious and magical other world that provides the fantasy elements of urban fantasy, Thus, they have to have lots of stuff explained to them and they have to ask lots of questions. It's a tried and true way of world building. but the Trials of Apollo are the third series Riordan has built around Greek and Roman mythology. If you're reading the Trials of Apollo, you've read Percy Jackson and the Olympians and The Heroes of Olympus. Or you like picking up random books in the middle of a series. Hey, you be you.

So, the reader doesn't need to be introduced to the setting. Individual myths or historical events, yes. But how the setting works? No.

Instead, we have Apollo, who is both a complete space cadet as well as an ‘I’ve Been Everywhere’ man, So he can be an endless barrel of exposition… when he doesn’t get distracted.

Apollo is also waaaaay more flawed than Percy Jackson. Or Annabeth Chase. Or Carter and Sadie Kane. Or Magnus Chase. Or- well, you get the idea. He starts off as a selfish jerk and many of the antagonists have justifiable reasons to hate him. He has a lot of growing to do.

(Amusingly, in his cameos, Percy Jackson seems to have outgrown going on adventures)

I will argue that the actual plot is a step down from being as epic as The Heroes of Olympus. And that’s because there is more of a focus on Apollo’s character growth. It is a different kind of story. 

So, The Trials of Apollo is Riordan doing something different. Which turned out to be really cool.

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