A lot or a little?
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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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?
- Author: Rick Riordan
- Genre: Fantasy
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Princesses, Fairies, Mermaids, and More, Adventures, Brothers and Sisters, Friendship, Misfits and Underdogs, Monsters, Ghosts, and Vampires
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
- Publication date: October 6, 2020
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 10 - 14
- Number of pages: 416
- Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Last updated: May 10, 2021
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