The Hidden Oracle: The Trials of Apollo, Book 1

Book review by
Carrie R. Wheadon, Common Sense Media
The Hidden Oracle: The Trials of Apollo, Book 1 Book Poster Image
Worthy addition to the mythological world of Percy Jackson.
Popular with kids

Parents say

age 11+
Based on 7 reviews

Kids say

age 10+
Based on 30 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Having the Greek god of music, poetry, healing arts, prophecy, and plague as narrator takes the reader in a number of fascinating directions. Apollo complains that his mortal form makes him forget a lot, but we're still treated to tidbits on musicians and artists he says he's influenced (he was briefly a member of the Village People), periods in history he's experienced, myths he's responsible for (with much about his mother Rhea and the tragic end to his romances with the naiad Daphne and the discus thrower Hyacinthus), and more. Each chapter begins with a haiku (teaching about a form of poetry). We also learn about the very worst emperors of Rome who fed Christians to the lions and made them into human torches.

Positive Messages

Thanks to Apollo's god-to-human transformation, you can go really deep here, thinking about how absolute power and constant adoration can lead to too much pride, conceit, and a dangerous lack of caring for the struggles of us mere mortals. And on a lighter note, some geyser spirits well-versed in advertising-speak remind us of all the marketing influences out there.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Apollo is a tough sell at first. He's conceited, proud, used to everyone catering to his every whim, and totally willing to punish or even kill off anyone who doesn't. His transformation into Apollo the mortal takes time but is remarkable. He begins to stop thinking of himself first, he wants to help mortals more than himself, and he begins to accept responsibility for his own faults and for problems he caused.

Violence

Many fights, some against other humans with a broken and bloodied nose, the rest against magical mythological creatures including myrmekes (humongous ants that really put up a fight), a giant walking statue, deathly looking spirits carrying deadly diseases. Many teens are injured and healed, luckily for them, by children of Apollo -- one leg is reattached. Some teens are kidnapped and almost burned as torches, with talk of how Christians died that way in Roman times and were fed to the lions. Teens disappear, and one girl is carried off by giant ants and wrapped up as food for later. A mention that two satyrs die of wounds and that a main character's father was killed. Dryads sacrifice themselves to stop a fire with mentions of the great fire of Rome and how tens of thousands of people died. Mentions of Apollo's godly life include his sadness over the loss of past loves, especially the loss of the discus thrower Hyacinthus, killed by a vengeful wind and a discus to the head.

Sex

Apollo remembers past loves, male and female, with talk of how one of his present children has two fathers (reminding readers of how in Greek myth children could sprout from parents' heads or even from godly sweat on a handkerchief).

Language
Consumerism

Nas, the Village People, and other musicians discussed. A Neil Diamond song keeps the bad guys away. Plus Snapchat, Xbox, Call of Duty, YouTube, Oreo, Prius and VW, Wikipedia, and more get quick mentions.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Hidden Oracle is the first book in a series that's a spin-off of a Percy Jackson spin-off series. Did you follow that? The Percy Jackson and the Olympians series came first, then the Heroes of Olympus. It helps to read them both before digging into this first book in the Trials of Apollo series. The storyline picks up after the war at the end of the Heroes of Olympus, and many old favorite characters make cameos or are mentioned. And, for extra credit, reading the Apollo chapter in Percy Jackson's Greek Gods helps when our "suddenly mortal and very unhappy about it" narrator Apollo recounts key moments of his godly life. There's a lot to learn about mythology here and, on a deeper level, about how a god like Apollo can get corrupted by power throughout his long, immortal life -- the humbling experience of being mortal makes him so much more likable by the end of the book. Expect much of the same kinds of fantasy violence in this story as in past series. Giant ants and a massive automaton statue do the most damage. Teen campers are kidnapped and almost set on fire. Healers in the Apollo cabin take care of injuries, even reattaching one leg, and some tree spirits sacrifice themselves to stop a fire. Apollo mourns lost loves, male and female, including the discus thrower Hyacinthus, who was killed by a discus thanks to a vengeful wind spirit.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written bykblank321 April 26, 2017

Parents need to know more than is stated in this CSM review

This series deals with issues of human sexuality including homosexuality & bisexualism. Common Sense Media - this is something that "Parents Need... Continue reading
Adult Written byLia C. December 19, 2017

Let kids read about LGBT heroes!!

This book is not about sexuality and it is hardly addressed compared to the focus on plot; it's just part of some of some characters' lives. Still, to... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byLunargirl May 11, 2016

Amazing and worthy sequel...

The Hidden Oracle is the eleventh installment in the best-selling Percy Jackson/Heroes of Olympus/Trials of Apollo series. Apollo starts out as an arrogant, inc... Continue reading
Teen, 17 years old Written byMeggem May 21, 2016

Definitely worth a read. Or two reads. Or ten!

I have been a fan of Rick Riordan's books for years now, and his newest addition does not disappoint. In fact, if I am being perfectly honest, The Hidden O... Continue reading

What's the story?

You know Zeus is extra mad at Apollo. Not only does he punish him with a mortal life, he also lets him fall to earth into a pile of New York City garbage and watches as he's beat up by a bunch of thugs and saved by an impetuous tween demigod girl named Meg who eagerly accepts his servitude as payment. At least Apollo knows where to go in New York for help: Percy Jackson's place. After some fresh clothes and mortal food, Percy offers to drive Apollo and Meg to Camp Half-Blood on Long Island. Apollo is sure Chiron will know what to do. But Chiron has his own problems: Campers are going missing, and the Oracle has gone silent. Demigods can't undertake a quest to find the campers until they get a prophesy -- from the silent Oracle. Apollo knows that back in his godly days, he was the one to blame -- he didn't defeat the monster Python at the Oracle of Delphi when he had the chance. Now in his mortal form he has no chance at all against the monster -- or a purple-suited man ominously named the Beast who seems to control Python. The Beast has connections to his new demigod friend, Meg, and an evil corporation that's out to destroy the demigods and eventually the world.

Is it any good?

Striking his usual stellar balance between mythological monster battles and character growth, humor and pathos, this start to a spin-off of a spin-off series doesn't disappoint longtime Riordan fans. And you need to be a longtime fan to follow along. The storyline picks up where Heroes of Olympus leaves off and references the other books and their main characters often.

THE HIDDEN ORACLE treats us to Riordan's familiar formula but a very different kind of narrator. Apollo sure is a self-obsessed annoyance to start, not at all like instantly relatable and funny Percy Jackson. He comes around quickly enough for the reader to root for him but only after a few trials suck the wind out of his sails. (It also helps that Zeus sticks Apollo with the mortal name Lester Papadopoulis and a face full of teen acne.) Lester/Apollo also sports some special talents that, even watered down in mortal form, make for some truly curious combat options. The power of a Neil Diamond song has never been wielded so successfully before, and -- finally -- being the god of plagues is good for something.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about what near absolute power did to Apollo's conscience over the centuries. What's he like at the beginning of the book? How is he after a taste of life as a mortal?

  • The geyser spirit Apollo meets is pretty funny and pretty annoying at the same time. How does that character demonstrate the pervasive power of marketing messages?

  • What did you learn about history and mythology so far in this series? Does it make you want to know more?

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