The Dark Prophecy is the second instalment in Rick Riordan’s The Trials of Apollo (TOA) series, and part of the third series of book based in a world where the Greek Gods are real. In this particular adventure, the god Apollo, now made the mortal Lester Papadopoulos by Zeus, is to visit the Oracle of Trophonius and receive a new prophecy. Upon landing in Indianapolis he discovers the ancient emperor, Commodus, or the New Hercules, has taken over the city and the Oracle that resides there.
As is the nature of Riordan’s books, this novel throws the reader right into the thick of the action as Apollo, and his counterparts, Leo and Calypso, crash-land into a crowd of Blemmyae, a weird monster from ancient Greek times. The pace just keeps up from there. Riordan sets a blistering pace for this book, making it hard to put down and even when the story takes a break from the action, there is some mystery to be revealed or dream to visit. That isn’t to say this is a bad thing as the story is well placed out with breathers placed after many of the heavy action scenes and nothing goes unexplained.
Once more Riordan brings mythology to the modern world, new monsters and ancient emperors crossing the pages. With a wealth of myths to dive into Riordan’s world is richly imagined and the Apollo pictured in these pages, proud, egocentric and self-pitying, makes for a strong and believable, if not entirely likeable, lead protagonist. For this particular novel Riordan has brought history and myth together to form his narrative. He draws from myths, such as Trophonius and Hemithea, as well as the history of Rome, particularly the Roman Emperor Commodus’ rule, to weave together a tragic tale about Apollo and his past.
The first novel in the TOA series, The Hidden Oracle, also delved into Apollo’s past, however this book seemed to use this more in its favour then the first. The book places Apollo as the father or Trophonius and the ex-lover of Commodus. He also has connections to Hemithea, one of Artemis’ troupe of hunters, as he gave her immortality. All of this lends to what feels like a fully formed story, everything aligning up and one of the joys of reading was seeing Apollo face up to his past.
This novel also saw the return of Meg, Leo and Calypso. Characters that featured in the last novel, in Meg’s case, and the last series, for Leo and Calypso. It was good to return to these characters as it creates a more connected feel to Riordan’s world, but it is a wise decision on Riordan’s behalf not to let them carry the story forward. By choosing Apollo as the main protagonist he can move the story on in a direction different to the previous series.
As a novel for younger readers, this book is a beautiful example of representation. The novel is filled with characters of different ethnicities, different sexualities and different belief systems and it never treats them as anything other than the norm. It is Apollo’s old love affair with Commodus that drives the tension between the two, and the novel constantly discusses Apollo’s myriad of lovers. As far as representation goes, Riordan seems to have got it spot on. And the fact that this book is aimed at younger readers is even better, as it attempts to teach the importance of being true to who you are.
As always Riordan has put in his trademark wit. Each chapter is titled with a haiku and amusing metaphors, singing arrows and godly shenanigans fill this book. Unfortunately sometimes they tend to detract from the plot, the jokes coming faster than the previous series novels, but that is all put down to the narrator of the novel. Apollo can come across as an unlikeable narrator at parts, but this allows readers to appreciate it more when he does something selfless or owns up to his mistakes.
Overall, The Dark Prophecy lives up to its predecessor and if anything it feels like a more cohesive piece than The Hidden Oracle. It has all the Riordan trademark qualities; a heavy mythic tone, humour and believable characters, and is a solid addition to the world Riordan has set up.
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