Reviews

Review: The Burning Maze by Rick Riordan

TheBurningMaze

Goodreads – Amazon – Book Depository

CW’s: Violence, Death

Summary

The formerly glorious god Apollo, cast down to earth in punishment by Zeus, is now an awkward mortal teenager named Lester Papadopoulos. In order to regain his place on Mount Olympus, Lester must restore five Oracles that have gone dark. But he has to achieve this impossible task without having any godly powers and while being duty-bound to a confounding young daughter of Demeter named Meg. Thanks a lot, Dad.

With the help of some demigod friends, Lester managed to survive his first two trials, one at Camp Half-Blood, and one in Indianapolis, where Meg received the Dark Prophecy. The words she uttered while seated on the Throne of Memory revealed that an evil triumvirate of Roman emperors plans to attack Camp Jupiter. While Leo flies ahead on Festus to warn the Roman camp, Lester and Meg must go through the Labyrinth to find the third emperor—and an Oracle who speaks in word puzzles—somewhere in the American Southwest. There is one glimmer of hope in the gloom-filled prophecy: The cloven guide alone the way does know. They will have a satyr companion, and Meg knows just who to call upon.

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Trenn Kopie

A Review in TV Tropes

“Pain is an interesting thing. You think you have reached your limit and you can’t possibly feel more tortured. Then you discover there is still another level of agony. And another level after that.”

Let’s just say that The Burning Maze was a wild ride. It’s the darkest story of Riordan so far and definitely one of the best books he has written. I read this a bit later than I wanted to, so I had already heard everyone screaming and saying that this book was heartbreaking. I thought “How bad can it be?” … the answer? Very bad. I was not prepared for how much this book would wreck me even with the warning I had received … I really didn’t think I would be this affected, but here we are.

Now unto the Review! I tried  to do something different and I’m talking about the book with the help of Tropes that were employed!! I adore TV Tropes and have too often gone down the dark internet obsession hole, wasting my hours away scrolling through tropes, it’s quite addicting xD I have taken the short descriptions from the website itself and linked the page, so you know what I’m talking about! I thought it was quite a fitting idea for The Trials of Apollo as the books are full of humor and references 🙂

Unreliable Narrator

(https://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/UnreliableNarrator)

“In most narratives, there’s an element of trust that the person telling you the story is telling the truth, at least as far as they know it. This trope occurs when that convention is discarded. The narrator’s facts contradict each other. If you ask them to go back a bit and retell it, the events come out a little differently. It can be like dealing with a used-car salesman — there’s a real story in there somewhere, but you’re left to piece it together through all the lies, half-truths, and mistruths.”

If this isn’t APOLLO I don’t know who is. From the very beginning he has been an unreliable narrator and as this is 1st person and we’re in his head, it’s good to keep in mind. Apollo is very good at telling his story a certain way and trying to convince us his version is the only real one – obviously he is very subjective in his perspective, so we often see a discrepancy between what Apollo tells us and what really happens. I actually love that about him, because throughout the book his perspective is changing. Apollo undergoes massive character development and while he is still very, very unreliable he has his moments of truth when he is honest with the audience and himself. I live for these scenes as they are when we really see a different side of him that is not as arrogant and self-absorbed as in book 1. I can definitely see the change in him and generally love his character, even when Apollo is being cocky and arrogant. He’s one of my favorite unlikable narrators, especially as he has his good, selfless moments as well!

“It’s been my observation” I said, “that you humans are more than the sum of your history. You can choose how much of your ancestry to embrace. You can overcome the expectations of your family and your society. What you cannot do, and should never do, is try to be someone other than yourself.”

Break the Haughty

(https://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/BreakTheHaughty)

“In fiction, it’s dangerous to carry one’s head too high. What kind of character is used for this story varies; it can be anyone from a Jerkass to a Corrupt Corporate Executive. Extra points if the character has not only a high opinion of themselves, but also a low opinion of everyone else.

But unfortunately for them, they are usually so busy kissing their mirror they don’t see that the plot has a very special treat in stock for them that will thoroughly teach them the error of their ways right before our eyes.

This is it. This is the entire 5 book Series and I’m sure it has lots more in store for Apollo. This is all about Apollo and him being confronted with the error of his ways. Zeus’ punishment is designed to make him understand how self-absorbed, narcissistic and arrogant he is …. By turning him first and foremost into a ‘weak’ human without any of his special powers. Apollo thinks he is having a bad day when his father does not immediately take him back to Mount Olympus and he’s bound as a servant to a wild demigod girl … but it only gets worse from here. The plot has a lot in stock for Apollo and it’s not going to let go until the fully commits to being a different person. Each book gets more up close and personal with Apollo confronting him with his past mistakes and arrogant behavior. The Burning Maze was no exception. It made progress with Apollo though, as he constantly develops his character and even sometimes acts selfless. But he isn’t quite there yet, as there are 2 books left for his character Arc to come full circle. However, Apollo begins to slowly realize that he cannot stay the same person he was. Suffering befalling not only him but everyone else around him is serving a tough lesson, one that leaves Apollo completely devastated.

Trenn Kopie

Vitriolic Best Buds

(https://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/VitriolicBestBuds)

“When two people who are the very best of friends behave like the very worst of enemies.

These guys bicker constantly. They’re always sniping at each other. They snark relentlessly. They duke it out on equal terms, hurling insults at one another with prejudice. But underneath the verbal fencing is a rock-solid friendship that no Smug Snake could hope to chip at. Often, they have opposite morals, personalities, or fighting ability which is presumably the cause of the vitriol.”

I couldn’t quite find the right trope for Meg and Apollo’s relationship but this is pretty close. They are always snarking each other, especially coming from Meg who is more than ready to tell Apollo exactly what she thinks of his behavior. Oftentimes she makes jokes at his offense and has no problems hurling insults, especially as she is still his human master. Apollo himself often complains about that, but deep down both characters really care about each other. After some troubles in the past books involving lies and betrayal, Apollo and Meg are now a team – a chaos team, with Meg being competent and Apollo being a disaster that mostly needs saving – and a family. Meg is not generally good with expression emotions, but especially here we see little moments when it shows that she cares about him and Apollo obviously about her. Oftentimes the rotating supporting characters for each book also fit in. (Just look at Calypso and Leo in book 2) In general, I just really love how their relationship has already progressed over the last few books.

“Unbelievable,” I murmured. “After four thousand years, I am still discovering new things.”

“Like how dumb you are,” Meg volunteered.

“No.”

“So you already knew that?”

Fire Forged Friends

(https://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/FireForgedFriends)

“Whether hostile to each other, indifferent, or strangers, different groups must fight on the same side. All the way up to an Enemy Mine situation. Afterwards, they are no longer hostile and perhaps even actual friends. If they continue as enemies, they are Friendly Enemy.”

This would be our trio for The Burning Maze: Meg, Apollo and Grover, who joins the team. As for Grover this is definitely more the case of “stranger to friend” than anything else, as Meg and Apollo have already been ‘fire forged’ in the last two books, going from stranger to kind of enemies to friends. The three of them definitely undergo a lot of adventures and dangers in this book, as it tends to be the case. I actually loved their interactions, between Meg’s snark, Apollo’s cluelessness and Grover’s anxiety, it was a chaotic dynamic that I really liked to watch. Of course there are other old character besides Grover returning, like Coach Hedge and his family, which I loved, because he is one of my favorite characters  from the Heroes of Olympus Series! Then there are Piper and Jason, who also don’t really know Apollo in his current state. I loved getting to explore all these dynamics and see the trio grow through the book!

Snarky Inanimate Object

(https://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/SnarkyInanimateObject)

“Imagine an object, say, an inanimate object. Any inanimate object. Got that? Good. Now, imagine the characters in a show interacting with the object as if it were another character. That shouldn’t be too hard to picture, should it? Good. Now, imagine that object answers back. And it is snarky as all hell.”

This is obviously the Arrow of Dodona, my favorite comedic relief. The arrow has been around for a while now and it’s always funny to watch, as it is not pleased with Apollo at all. The thing is that it TALKS, yes a literal talking arrow, who is not happy to be ignored and generally gives the WORST advice, as it never quite seems to want to help Apollo. Their interactions are hilarious, especially as only Apollo can hear the arrow, so it must look so strange to everyone around him. Like I said, the arrow literally talks back 99% of the time and is content with snarking at Apollo, until he is tempted  to snap it apart. It also likes to talk in Shakespearean English, which makes the interactions even funnier to me! It definitely adds an extra layer of hilarious to the story.

“The arrow buzzed, no doubt trying to access Wikipedia. It denies using the Internet. Perhaps, then, it’s just a coincidence the arrow is always more helpful when we are in an area with free Wi-Fi.”

Trenn Kopie

WHAM Episode

(https://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/WhamEpisode)

“The point in a series where the story takes a sudden dramatic turn. Things will never be quite the same again. When advertisements tease you with words such as “The most shocking episode of the season!”, they’re probably referring to this. This is the episode meant to radically alter the status quo, and in doing so send a major shock through the viewership.”

Like I said, The Burning Maze is a wild ride and the plot gets so much darker. It definitely rivals the Magnus Chase books for darkest Rick Riordan work! I actually loved that, as it made the story so much more realistic. Bad things are happening and sometimes there is no happy ending, sometimes there is loss and betrayal and pain. This being the middle book, there is a significant shift in how things are. I cannot talk all about that (see spoiler section below), but things get real and messy and painful for our characters. There are shocking plot points that drive the story to be darker to a point where there is no return. Once those scenes happen, they set the tone for the next upcoming books, making us fear what might be ahead. I was getting very emotional especially towards the end, as this book stomped on my heart and makes me a bit afraid for the final book to be honest.

SPOILERS!!!

Killed Off For Real

(https://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/KilledOffForReal)

“In some kinds of stories, Character Death doesn’t carry much weight. Maybe resurrection is commonplace or some sort of magical alternate universe has a spare copy to borrow. Maybe the format of the showmakes any sort of death meaningless and temporary. Maybe for some reason people never die when they should. Sometimes, even in these stories, a character dies and they stay dead. No magical return from the dead, no rebuild, no retcon and no copout. They’re dead and they’re staying that way.”

Here we go, this is the dark thing that’s happening and that I luckily managed to avoid getting spoiled of. Jason dies, like dead – dead, no coming back. Sure there have been death before in the universe, but Jason was a major player in  the last Series, so to have him be gone forever is a huge blow. It’s what makes the plot shift from dark to even darker. Halfway through the Series as we already have our major death: things will never be the same now, especially not for Apollo. It’s highly hinted that him breaking his oath to the River Styx in the first and consequent books is somehow responsible for Jason’s fate, which leaves Apollo heartbroken and forever change. The promise Apollo had to make Jason “Remember how it was to feel human”, is what I think will give him the push to become a completely different person in the span of the next two books.

It was honestly heartbreaking to see Jason’s death. The scene itself wasn’t that bad, it was only later when I realized that there was no resurrection, no coming back. No magic tricks. The characters were all out of luck with nothing to do to reverse Jason’s sacrifice. Now finally Apollo saw what his actions can cause. And Piper … she was even worse off. In the beginning of the book we learn that she and Jason broke up, but that doesn’t mean she stopped caring about him. On that note. I actually liked that we see how the first love doesn’t have to be permanent. Not every relationship is like Annabeth and Percy, sometimes people grow apart and find their love elsewhere. It’s realistic and something that often gets ignored. There is also the fact that Piper and Jason were set up by divine forces and she had forged memories of how their relationship started which impacted them greatly. After the buzz of surviving the battle in the last Series died down Piper realized that they didn’t have relationship built on a solid history and ended it

It was still heartbreaking to see her suffer and go through the grief. I honestly have to say that the author managed to capture grief so well. It’s the most authentic portrayal I’ve seen ad that’s why I was emotional: I could feel the grief that the characters went through, the shock, the anger. The Five Stages of Grief were well presented and that’s what made this loss feel so real. Jason died so young and in the end that’s how it is, people die in the middle of the sentence with their future ahead and now utterly destroyed. It only really sunk in what this all meant when Leo came back after being absent for so long and asked where Jason was. That was literally the most heartbreaking moment of the entire book. Leo never got to say goodbye. His best friend, who he hadn’t seen for over a year, was gone now and there was nothing he could do to make up for the time. It’s heartbreaking. It’s unfair and so utterly real.

 

IN CONCLUSION: The Burning Maze was a wild ride and honestly the darkest book by Rick, Riordan to far. It was a shocking Series middle (is that even a word?) and surprised by completely turning the tables and shifting the entire atmosphere of the books with a few heartbreaking plot points. This is the point of no return and it was written so well.

Talk Kopie

Have you read the Trials of Apollo books? Who is your favorite character?

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