Book Review — “The Trials of Apollo: The Dark Prophecy”

Rick Riordan has hit another home run with his latest book. The man who made Greek, Roman, and Norse mythology fun to read has released his second book in The Trials of Apollo series, The Dark Prophecy, where we watch as the Greek god Apollo tries to regain his godly form while occupying the body of a teenager named Lester.

Riordan has written multiple books using ancient mythology to tell new exciting stories for kids, and rather than coasting on his first popular character, Percy Jackson, Riordan has used that popularity to expand his own growing mythology. The Trials of Apollo focuses on how Apollo, the Greek god survives the trials and tribulations of being stuck on Earth, while facing off against three evil immortal ancient Roman emperors bent on world domination.

In The Dark Prophecy, Apollo and company which includes Leo Valdez, a main character from Riordan’s past series The Heroes of Olympus, as well as a freed Calypso, land in Indianapolis in search of a lost oracle. One wouldn’t expect a story involving ancient Greek and Roman characters wouldn’t take places in Indiana, but Riordan plants the story from page one in the city and never leaves.

In Riordan’s ever expanding world, ancient Greek and Roman gods, monsters, and characters of all types can appear anywhere. Riordan establishes the story and creates such lovable characters, you never question why Emperor Commodus would want to rename Indianapolis after himself, or how ancient monsters like Cyclopes and Griffins appears. You are too hooked by the story that you just route for the good guys.

I have been a long time reader of Riordan’s and each time I pick up one of his new books, I never expect it to be as good as his first The Lightning Thief. Each time I have opened up his new book and turned to the first page, I wonder when his ability to charm me and bring into this magical world will fail. I have yet to experience this. With The Dark Prophecy, Riordan has once again written a highly enjoyable adventure story that any kid and adult will enjoy.

I think Riordan’s success comes from the personality that he injects his characters with. The Trials of Apollo series is narrated by the god Apollo himself, and one may think Riordan would duplicate his narrative from past books, but he doesn’t. Each page has not only the focus of the book but we also see and laugh at the off track side notes that Apollo makes about his thousands of years of experience, and the many pop culture references that Apollo alludes too would make an adult reader smile, and any kid curious to find out what Apollo is talking about.

As fun as it is to watch Apollo struggle in his human form, it’s the character of Meg McCaffrey that helps the story along, acting as the conscience to Apollo as well as traveling companion. To the passionate Riordan reader you see notable characters of past books, like Leo Valdez and Thalia Grace, but they are not the main characters, the focus is all about Apollo and Meg.

Apollo is bound to Meg based on their meeting in the first book in the series The Hidden Oracle. Their relationship is complicated and hilarious to watch. Meg can literally command Apollo to hit himself in the face, and he would have to obey.

The villain of the story is perfect. Emperor Commodus, the vain young Caesar of Rome, whom Apollo was friends with thousands of years before, is trying to destroy the Cave of Trophonius an oracle in Indiana. Apollo and Meg must receive a prophecy from the Cave of Trophonius and avoid being killed by Commodus and his legions.

Nobody stages modern day warfare with thousand-year-old weapons and technology like Rick Riordan. Whether it is crawling through a cave or fighting it out in downtown Indianapolis, swords, arrows, and even the occasional elephant is used with great skill as Riordan weaves his ever-growing tale.

Riordan is very good at making a three hundred page book involving Greek and Roman gods a fun enjoyable rest from the daily grind of life. His commitment to challenging his readers, which are mostly kids by using complicated characters from the past and making them come alive is a credit to his talent.

The one problem about finishing a Rick Riordan book is that you need to wait several months for the next one. Thank the Greek and Roman gods that he started publishing two a year. October is only five months away. That seems like too long to wait to explore Riordan’s literary world.

Bill Gowsell
Bill Gowsell has loved all things Disney since his first family trip to Walt Disney World in 1984. Since he began writing for Laughing Place in 2014, Bill has specialized in covering the Rick Riordan literary universe, a retrospective of the Touchstone Pictures movie library, and a variety of other Disney related topics. When he is not spending time with his family, Bill can be found at the bottom of a lake . . . scuba diving