The Tower of Nero – by Rick Riordan

   The Tower of Nero (Book Five: The Trials of Apollo) – by Rick Riordan, Disney-Hyperion, 9781484746455, 2020 

Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 5

Format: Hardcover

Genre: Fantasy

What did you like about the book? You might not believe that Rick Riordan can still pull magic out of his hat after 20 books, but prepare to be proved wrong. This is the final entry in the Trials of Apollo series and if you’re new to the sun god’s adventures, you’ll need to know that he’s been downgraded to a human teen named Lester Papadopoulos. Together with his companion Meg (daughter of Demeter), he’s on a mission to defeat Emperor Nero and save New York from a cleansing round of Greek fire. Reading this book, I remembered everything that’s great about Riordan: his books never devolve into a game of fetch, the stakes are always high with lives and limbs sometimes lost, and there’s characters with a range of backgrounds, abilities and heritages. Even though there are sad and serious moments, Nero manages to include plenty of the humor and snarkiness that we’ve come to expect from these books, a lot of which hinges of the disconnect between being an Olympian in theory while functioning in the body of an adolescent. Despite being on a hectic ride, Apollo takes time to think deeply about how he’s grown since his trials began and his connection to his human companions, especially Meg and Rachel Dare, is genuine. Riordan even manages to up the fun quotient with a group of man-eating supernatural cattle and a new underground race of allies, the hat-wearing, skink-eating troglodytes. 

Anything you didn’t like about it? No. It’s perfect. It does help to have read the first 4 in the series.

To whom would you recommend this book?  Anyone who’s a Riordan fan and wants to continue the series. I would actually say Trials of Apollo is better than Percy Jackson, Heroes of Olympus or the Kane Chronicles, putting it on the same level as my previous favorite, the Magnus Chase adventures. Although (spoiler alert) Jason Grace does die in Book IV, which I still have trouble accepting, Apollo is a great meditation on hubris and the power of transformation. The book closes with hints about the next series, which will star Nico di Angelo, son of Hades, in his own adventure at last.

Who should buy this book? Middle, high school and public libraries. As always, multiple copies will be necessary.

Where would you shelve it? YA fiction, in the fantasy genre area

Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? Yes, if you’re already a fan. 

Reviewer: Susan Harari, Keefe Library, Boston Latin School, Boston, MA

Date of review: December 8, 2020

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