7:00 pm EDT, October 13, 2020

‘Tower of Nero’ book review: Apollo brings the Camp Half-Blood Chronicles to a close

The Trials of Apollo: The Tower of Nero is the final installment in the 15-book Camp Half-Blood Chronicles. Here’s our review.

Note: Spoilers will be discussed in a separate section at the bottom of this article.

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Everything has led to this — in more than one way. Not only is The Tower of Nero the fifth and final installment in the Trials of Apollo series by Rick Riordan, but it’s the fifteenth and final installment in the Camp Half-Blood Chronicles, which includes the five books in the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series, as well as the five books in the Heroes of Olympus series.

Wow. Let’s just let that sink in for a moment.

Fifteen years ago, we were introduced to Percy Jackson and Camp Half-Blood, and since then, it’s been a wild ride of demigods and deities, monsters and mythology, and a whole lot of humor and heart. These books have always been for middle grade readers, but they’ve touched the hearts of millions, including plenty of adults like myself.

It seems strange that this quest has finally ended, and even though we don’t need to say goodbye just yet (more on that later), there is a certain finality to Tower of Nero.

Even Apollo’s journey has been long and arduous. Over the course of five books, we’ve seen him come to terms with his mortality, understand what it truly means to be human, and risk everything for demigods that he once thought were merely pawns on a chess board.

I will always love the original Percy Jackson series the most, but there’s something intensely satisfying about watching the god Apollo be thrown to Earth, forced to live as Lester Papadopoulos, and taught humility in the most effective way imaginable.

Seeing Apollo form friendships, learn what it means to be mortal, and irrevocably change as a person has been an emotional journey. While Rick Riordan never lost his sense of humor along the way, I’ve found Apollo’s fall from grace and subsequent path to self-awareness to be an extremely relevant story in which we’re able to see the entire range of what it means to be human, from the deepest, darkest pits of tragedy, loss, and sadness to the beautiful, wondrous peaks of love, friendship, and virtue.

In Tower of Nero, Apollo has already changed so much, though he has never lost that charisma that makes him so him. Riordan wonderfully balances his humor, ego, and several millennia of insane experiences with a sense of change that has been a long time coming. This book contains the very best of Apollo, and that makes it even more satisfying to read after all we’ve been through.

Apollo has not lost sight of the price this journey has already forced him to pay. Jason Grace has not been forgotten, and I was pleased by how often he was brought up, discussed, and remembered in Tower of Nero. Everyone is still mourning Jason’s death two books later, which only acts as a realistic reflection of life and the grief people feel for their lost loved ones on a daily basis.

But while demigods always carry an overwhelming sense of despair with them — it’s part of the job description — there is a wonderful sense of hope, too. Camp Half-Blood remains a sanctuary for demigods from all over the country and beyond, and we get a wonderful sense of that in this installment.

And although we meet some new campers in Tower of Nero, it’s the familiar faces that keep us coming back for more. Nico di Angelo and his boyfriend Will Solace play an integral part in this story, and my Tower of Nero book review would not be complete if I didn’t take moment for each of them.

As is to be expected, Will is a constant ray of sunshine (in more than one sense!), who perfectly balances Nico’s darker tendencies. I love his relationship with his boyfriend because he doesn’t want to change who Nico truly is, but he does want to support him and make sure he’s not falling off the deep-end. He’s encouraging without being controlling.

Will’s relationship with his father, Apollo, is also an interesting one. Will has plenty to be mad about, and Apollo has even more to apologize for, and yet, that doesn’t come between them. In fact, Will sees the effort Apollo is making, and he’s both proud and thankful for it. Apollo, for his part, is genuinely humbled by his son’s courage and good nature, and you can tell Will is one of the countless people who have opened Apollo’s eyes to what it means to be human.

Nico is very Nico in this book. As most fans probably do, I worry about him — both his physical health and his mental well-being. He struggles with a lot of demons, both internal and external, and although he has a good support system, he’s comfortable walking in the shadows and sometimes takes more risks than others think necessary.

Though he’s had his fair share of tragedies, Nico’s story, like many of the other demigods’ tales, is one of hope. While I’ll always wish for there to be more Nico content, this book is meant to be about Apollo, and I understand that our favorite son of Hades will have his own time to shine. At the end of the day, he truly wants to help people, and I think he’ll get that chance sooner rather than later. (See the spoiler section below.)

Luckily, Tower of Nero introduced a new character that surprised and delighted me. That is to say, I was surprised by how delighted I was to spend time with Luguselwa, Meg’s former trainer under Nero. I won’t spoil it here, but Lu’s story is interesting, to say the least, and I hope some day we can learn more about her.

Speaking of Meg, I can’t miss an opportunity to praise Rick Riordan for putting a spotlight on mental and emotional abuse, and showing the kind of lasting effect it can have on children and young adults. Meg has shown incredible strength throughout her journey, and Tower of Nero pushes her to the limits, allowing her to show us exactly what kind of person she’s become.

In a sense, Tower of Nero is not too different from the conclusions to the many other books Rick Riordan has written over the years. It has all his usual trademarks — zippy one-liners, epic battles, heroic sacrifices, quirky characters, and deep friendships — and yet this emotional journey feels just as satisfying as every single one of the previous stories I’ve read.

There’s something magical about these books that will always keep me coming back for more, and until the next novel is ready for our consumption, at least we’ll have all our old favorites to enjoy time and time again.

‘Tower of Nero’ spoilers

Here, I’ll list several of the spoilers from the end of Tower of Nero by Rick Riordan, including some speculation about what could coming next. Expect a more in-depth article about that soon!

  • Will & Nico: This is the most obvious place to start, since Rick Riordan is not being subtle about sending these two off on their own adventure. The author has spoken to us previously about wanting to write standalone novels about different demigods, and considering Rachel issued another prophecy at the end of Tower of Nero, I’d be shocked if this isn’t where he starts.
  • Meg & Lu: These two ended up taking in all of Nero’s wayward children, with Meg teaching them how to garden instead of how to chop people’s hands off. Lu seems to be working through the kinks of her new appendages, and I’m so glad she got a happy ending. As I said before, I’d love to see more of her, especially considering she’s of Celtic origin and could bridge the gap between this series and Rick Riordan’s upcoming series based on Irish mythology.
  • Percy & Annabeth: These two are going to college in California after spending some time in New Rome with Frank, Hazel, and the others. They’re not living together, but their relationship seems solid. While they each talked about what they’re majoring in (marine biology or aquaculture and environmental design, respectively), I felt there was a sense of purposeful vagueness so fans could envision their own future for these two.
  • Reyna & Thalia: Both of these powerful demigods are still part of Artemis’ Hunters, chasing the Teumessian Fox as it wreaks havoc wherever it goes. I’d also be happy with a standalone about either of these characters or the Hunters in general.
  • Piper & Shel: Piper is back home with her dad for the time being, and though she still has a lot to work through, both regarding Jason’s death and her own struggles, it seems Piper may have found someone new to confide in. Piper’s struggle with her sexuality and the pressure to conform to Aphrodite’s expectations have weighed heavily on her, and I’d love to see her journey moving forward.
  • Apollo: Lester Papadopoulos is no more. Apollo’s godhood has been returned, and he now resides in Olympus, though it’s clear he’s a changed person. I’d expect his relationship with the other gods, and especially with his father, to be forever changed as well, and I’ll be interested to see how that might effect future books set in this world.
  • Chiron & a crossover: This is perhaps the most exciting reveal in the book, but one that will require more in-depth discussion. Suffice it to say, for now, that Chiron had an emergency meeting with a severed head and a cat about a mutual problem. These two other characters are likely Mimir (from Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard) and Bast (from the Kane Chronicles). Could we be getting a huge cross-pantheon book or series? We can only hope!
  • A final note: If you, like me, are struggling with the idea of this being the end of the Camp Half-Blood Chronicles, I hope some of my above speculation reminds you that new books set in this world (and others!) will be making their way onto our shelves at some point in the near future. As Will says on page 377 of Tower of Nero, “No story ever ends, does it? It just leads into others.”

What did you think of ‘The Tower of Nero’ by Rick Riordan?

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