The Tower of Nero: The Trials of Apollo, Book 5

Book review by
Carrie R. Wheadon, Common Sense Media
The Tower of Nero: The Trials of Apollo, Book 5 Book Poster Image
Apollo's exciting quest ends with help of quirky sidekicks.

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age 9+
Based on 4 reviews

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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

Having the Greek and Roman 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 periods in history he's experienced (his knowledge of the Celtic/Gaul people), and mythology he remembers, including time spent with his son, Asclepius, god of medicine, and his history with the Gray Sisters -- Tempest, Anger, and Wasp -- who now drive a cab in New York City. Each chapter begins with a haiku (teaching about a form of poetry) and Dante's preferred meter, terza rima, is explained. The glossary titled "Guide to Apollo-Speak" is more than 16 pages long now, up from 12 in Book 3.

Positive Messages

Deep thoughts on being human vs. being immortal. A human builds on pain and tragedy, overcomes it, and learns from it. To be human is to move forward, adapt, to believe in your ability to make things better. Apollo remembers something his son, Asclepius, god of medicine, told him about helping those with disabilities: "You can help them if they ask. But wait for them to ask. It's their choice to make, not yours." Strong bonds of friendship endure and strengthen through many trials.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Apollo's transformation over five books is impressive. In Book 1 he's whiny and haughty and feels sorry for himself for being dumped on Earth in human form. He doesn't care much about mortals. By Book 5 he is willing to sacrifice himself and his immortality completely for his friends and all of humanity. He realizes he will never go back to being who he was and doesn't want to. Other characters are of many races, straight and LGBTQ. One demigod character fights the big final battle in a wheelchair.

Violence

A young boy is forced to cut off someone's hands. That isn't graphic, but there's much detail about treating the wounds afterward. There's also a gory description of someone stabbed in the eye. Causalities in a battle from swords, arrows, knives -- mostly the bad guys. One scene with gunfire, but guns aren't used in battle. Men are burned and knocked out, another is crushed in an automatic door. A woman is thrown off a roof. Rampaging, murderous mythical cows give chase. Apollo gets many bloody injuries. He's stabbed, poisoned, his nose is broken, he's nearly crushed and drowned. Twelve kids are repeatedly threatened and manipulated by their foster father, Nero, who also makes many threats to blow up New York City and poison people with a gas that would lead to a painful death.

Sex

Some LGBTQ kissing. Apollo mentions affairs he's had as a god with both women and men.

Language
Consumerism

Mountain Dew used in healing -- somehow -- and mentioned often. Diet Coke and Yoo-Hoo get many mentions, too. Some talk of the Star Wars movies and snippets of old pop songs. Social media platforms named.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Rick Riordan's The Tower of Nero is the fifth and final book in a series that's a spin-off of a Percy Jackson spin-off series. The Percy Jackson and the Olympians series came first, then the Heroes of Olympus. It helps to read them both before digging into 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, like Percy, Piper, Nico, and Will. 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. A lot is thrown at readers in the way of ancient history, Roman terms, and Greek and Roman characters, so thank goodness for the long glossary at the end of the book. Like the other stories in the series, there's a huge battle near the end with causalities, mostly bad guys. Expect some gore when a boy is forced to cut off someone's hands, but more when the wounds are treated than the actual act. There's also a gory description of someone stabbed in the eye. Apollo gets many bloody injuries. He's stabbed, poisoned, and his nose is broken. He's also nearly crushed and drowned. Twelve kids are repeatedly threatened and manipulated by their foster father, Nero, who also makes many threats to blow up New York City and poison people with a gas that would lead to a painful death. All other content is mild by comparison. There are numerous mentions of name-brand beverages, especially Mountain Dew, and there's some LGBTQ kissing. Apollo's personal transformation over five books is impressive. In Book 1 he's whiny and haughty and feels sorry for himself as a god trapped in a mortal body. By The Tower of Nero, he's willing to sacrifice himself and his immortality completely for his friends and all of humanity.

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Teen, 13 years old Written bySomeone101 November 13, 2020

YAS ITS OUT!

The book is here. Finally. It was SO GOOD. Make sure to read the other books first though or you'll have very little knowledge on what's going on. A l... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byThalia Grace October 25, 2020

AMAZING YAY YAY YAY

It was WONDERFUL. Hilarious and had endings for really everyone, BUT there was a cliffhanger!!! SO Nico and Will WILL HAVE THEIR OWN SERIES!!!!!!! (maybe. I ho... Continue reading

What's the story?

In THE TOWER OF NERO: THE TRIALS OF APOLLO, BOOK 5, Apollo in mortal "Lester" form and Meg are trying to get back to New York City on Amtrak without getting spotted by monsters. But it's not the two-headed snake in a business suit they need to worry about -- he's just a commuter -- it's a horde of Germani soldiers that storm the car. Nero's people have found them. Just when they think they'll be dragged to his tower, a giant Gaul soldier named Luguselwa (Lu), head of the Germani, stages her own kidnapping and whisks them off the train to safety. Apollo's not sure he trusts Lu, especially after she tells them the only way to save New York City is to turn themselves in to Nero. Otherwise he will blow up everything around his tower with masses of Greek fire. If they're going to be the bait, they'll need the help of Camp Half-Blood; Apollo's seer, Rachel Dare; and subterranean-dwelling troglodytes who live for lizard soup and festive hats.

Is it any good?

Fans of the whole Percy Jackson universe will be satisfied with this finale that mixes impossible prophesies, big battles, and quirky mythical creatures. Rick Riordan has upped the quirky factor with the troglodytes who live below ground, accept only the best dead lizards as offerings, and think anyone not wearing loads of hats is uncivilized. It's hard for the tension to ratchet up too much with these guys in the mix. Which is good, because Nero is pretty awful. Dwelling on his manipulative parenting and desire to destroy, destroy, destroy the whole story would feel more like a Christopher Nolan Batman movie, not a Rick Riordan novel.

Like any quest story, the hero must face peril alone in the end -- Apollo's enemy of thousands of years. Humanity is at stake, Apollo's own mortality is at stake, and he's still a puny mortal who seems to have no chance of winning. Readers will enjoy this nail-biter finish and true fans of the Percy Jackson books will like the long, teary wrap-up filled with favorite characters.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Apollo's transformation in The Tower of Nero and the whole series. Who was he in Book 1? Who is he at the end of the series? Do you think he'd ever choose life as a mortal? What has he decided about mortals by the end of the series?

  • There are many fantasy stories and series about immortals (gods, vampires, the elves of Middle Earth) or mortals who strive for immortality (Voldemort, Sauron, Nicholas Flamel). Why do you think this is such a common topic? What do we as readers learn about our own humanity through these characters that we don't learn reading about plain old mortals?

  • If you could pick another god for Zeus to punish on Earth, who would be next? Why? What do you think their mortal form should be?

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