The Percy Jackson series has been enthralling readers worldwide with its modern take on mythology, specifically on Greek myths. The first installment came out in 2005 and since then, author Rick Riordan has expanded the Camp Half-Blood universe to include Egyptian and Norse folklore. He’s now back on familiar ground with The Burning Maze, the third book in The Trials of Apollo.
In this latest instalment, Greek God-turned-teenager Apollo, known as Lester, faces his most daunting challenge yet – himself. Riordan still pits his hero and companions against monsters and malicious figures in mythology. But now, the character has matured because of his experiences in the last two books. His connection to characters like Meg and Grover has taken on new depth. Having them around to back him up as he goes into the Labyrinth to find a mysterious Oracle is an advantage. And yet, it also proves to be a source of internal conflict when hard choices need to be made.
The best Percy Jackson stories have this nimble way of writing pulse-pounding action and life-and-death situations. The Burning Maze is definitely no exception to that rule. It moves at the breathtaking pace that Riordan fans have come to love. This is not an easy feat, considering Riordan has written about 18 of these novels. With two more of these books to come, it looks like he’s just getting started! It’s impressive that he’s still able to come up with innovative ways to keep his characters in dire straits after all this time.
Much of the lion’s share of the appeal of this latest series goes towards developing the titular character. You need to read how the character was depicted as a god in the original Percy Jackson series to see how far Apollo has come. His understanding and empathy for humanity has grown in a similar way to Marvel’s Thor after being forced to become mortal by his own father. Yet, Riordan takes it further. Apollo’s newfound humanity acts as a double-edged sword when he needs to make choices between his quest and his desire to help his friends. The author stated in an interview with Hypable that Apollo’s challenges are as much emotional as they are physical. The Burning Maze drives that home with a major personal tragedy. It looks like Apollo’s issues with mortality will only get more complex beyond this halfway mark.
It may appear that this third book is emotionally relentless, but fans need not worry – Riordan still adds humour to relieve the tension at the right moments. He still has a knack for creating monsters and deities who come off as silly and vicious at the same time. What the Camp Half-Blood books do differently is show how these beings would adapt to this era in a humorous light. It’s now a common trope in entertainment to utilise Greek mythology because many people are fascinated by the larger-than-life quality of many of the characters. Aside from Percy Jackson, Sony’s God of War routinely draws intimidating Grecian gods and monsters for the main character to battle. In fact, its story revolves around Kratos, who is a demigod as well. He’s the son of Zeus and his mother is a Spartan named Callisto. Foxy Casino in their game Zeus God of Thunder depicts the King of the Olympians in all his glory. The game takes inspiration from the many stories of power wielding gods that have been told for generations. The deity is shown holding his signature weapon, a fork of lightning. Films like Clash of the Titans and Hercules, meanwhile, tap into the drama of the myths to fuel their plots. Riordan took a similar approach, but modernised the stories in his own unique way.
Such narratives originally have dark tones and the adventures are filled with fear and suspense. Riordan incorporated lighthearted sequences to show that his characters can also be carefree and fun-loving. The Burning Maze is yet another fast-paced and hilarious instalment that you won’t want to miss. Just remember to take a breather every now and then.
Can’t get enough of modern literature based on ancient mythology? Check out Ram – Scion of Ikshvaku by Indian literary pop star Amish. Early this year, we reported about Amish’s decision to reprint the book under a new title and cover, so now is a good time to pick up the book – the first in Amish’s acclaimed Ram Chandra series.