Finishing The Trials of Apollo, it’s hard not to feel sad seeing Lester/Apollo’s journey coming to an end. While he isn’t quite as heroic as Percy or Jason, there’s a bit more humanity in how he approaches these mythological adventures. I’ve always loved the perspective of immortals, how they view their lives, lives of mortals and their past accomplishments and regrets. The Tower of Nero by Rick Riordanfeels like a perfect ending to a truly fun and exciting series.
Honestly I never expected Lester to become one of my favorite characters in Riordan’s books yet he’s really shined in The Trials of Apollo series. I say Lester rather than Apollo because his journey as Lester has changed him in a profound way. His adventure of growth and humanity makes him an endearing and a wonderful character and, surprisingly, rather relatable. I’m reminded of the saying how “courage is not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it” by Nelson Mandela and it really does apply to Lester. He never loses that fear, he never becomes a fearless hero on the level of Percy or Jason or any of the other demigods we’ve read. In a strange way, it makes him almost more human seeing how part of the moment to moment action is him overcoming his own fear and tackling the challenge to come.
What’s also quite amazing is how well developed the supporting cast of characters are and how well their utilized. Meg’s relationship with Nero is downright heartbreaking at times and the genuine care that Lester has for her is touching. She grows from being rather shallow to being a strong hero among the other demigods of Camp Halfblood. I’m a bit biased as Nico is one of my favorite of Riordan’s characters and he’s used pretty well throughout the novel. I’ve never been a fan of characters popping in and out of a story in a novel so to see them consistently contribute in meaningful ways is satisfying to see.
The action in The Tower of Nero never really stops and it’s hyper focused on the main goal which is a refreshing change of pace in Riordan’s novels. Normally there’s quests within quests that don’t feel completely connected to the main plot until the end but here it’s all focused on the series goal of stopping Nero and then Python. Lester’s quest is always front and center and incorporates everything that has happened in the previous novels to build up to this series’ climax. I really appreciate this as I was worried that the death of Jason Grace could have been a momentary thing, but it stays with Lester throughout his journey and never stops weighing on his conscience.
Unlike the previous series, The Tower of Nero takes time to settle everything amongst the cast of characters throughout the series. Normally we’ve seen the main heroes and some supporting cast have an after-story discussion, but in this finally we get a glimpse of everyone post adventure while also setting up some new adventures to come. Even things that were barely detailed in previous novels are wrapped up nicely allowing for a satisfying conclusion.
Surprisingly, The Tower of Nero brings in elements across the Percy Jackson universe I never expected to revisit. Without spoiling any surprises, it’s good to see that previous elements established in Riordan’s universe is still used in future installments and helps to make all the series feel connected. A genuine fear was that a few of the things that had occurred in The Hidden Oracle wouldn’t have been brought up again. It’s a thing I’ve seen in some stories where random worldbuilding is done to create a story moment but never brought up again. But thankfully the worldbuilding is consistent and constantly referenced rather than forgotten when it’s inconvenient. It’s more than just characters reappearing but also concepts and elements of worldbuilding that persist from book to book.
But the extended Riordan universe aside, the world building within The Trials of Apollo helps to, albeit slowly and carefully, bridge the pantheons of Greek mythology to other cultural mythologies. The trend is continued in The Tower of Nero and suggests that more series are in the future expanding the world of gods and demigods. I’m curious to see how Riordan handles pantheons from non-European cultures and how these hints are carefully constructed throughout this series makes me curious to see how he’ll tie all of them together.
Lester’s perspective throughout The Trials of Apollo gradually changes through each book, showcasing his growth all the way up to his final form in The Tower of Nero. But while this character development and growth is great to see, it’s not a drastic change book from book. Rather it shows a very subtle character development for Apollo in how his speech and thoughts become less selfish and more humble and reflective. But with that, the rest of how it’s written is pretty much the same as the rest of the series. Very well done and easy to read from chapter to chapter.
What Writers can Learn from this Book
Often times it can be a challenge to write a conclusive ending to a series let alone what feels like a conclusive end to multiple seasons. The Percy Jackson series and The Heroes of Olympus series all have their appropriate endings but feel like there’s always more to come. But The Trials of Apollo, with this final installment, gives what feels like a convincing end to the arc of the main cast. There’s been many books I’ve read that feel like the ending was either rushed or didn’t provide enough for the reader to let go of the characters and the story. But Riordan did a great job with The Tower of Nero in that it’s ending left a satisfying feeling that doesn’t need any further exploration. It’s perfect for finishing off the series and moving on to the next one.