The Trials of Apollo: The Tyrant’s Tomb by Rick Riordan is a lesson on loss, grief, and the struggle to heal. Here’s our review.
This is the 14th full-length novel with the pantheon of Greco-Roman gods since Rick Riordan dreamed up Percy Jackson all those years ago in The Lightning Thief, and yet, every installation is a crazy, hilarious, emotional journey perfect for children and adults alike.
I’ve been reading these books for a long, long time, yet I’m not sure any book has made me cry harder or as often as The Tyrant’s Tomb. After the events of The Burning Maze, it’s hard to think anything could be harder than losing one of the main demigods, but Jason’s death was nothing in comparison to seeing those left to deal with the tragedy.
Every one of Riordan’s books is a perfect combination of humor and heart. The author doesn’t shy away from tough subjects, but he always manages to find enough humor to balance out those difficult times our favorite demigods must go through in order to be molded into the heroes they’re destined to become.
The Tyrant’s Tomb doesn’t lack humor. There are some wonderful laugh-out-loud moments, and Riordan’s trademark ridiculous portrayals of epic mythological creatures and stoic historical figures brings levity to what could otherwise be extremely boring subject material. (Seriously, keeping all those Roman emperors straight can be a nightmare.)
But jokes aside, Tyrant’s Tomb may be one of the most realistic books he’s done in terms of loss and grief. We love all these characters because they triumph over evil on a daily basis, but this novel took the time to show us just how much of a toll this has taken on all of them. War may be in their blood (and for some, that’s quite literal), but that doesn’t mean they enjoy bearing the burdens that come along with it.
Jason’s death was hard to watch in Burning Maze. The end of that book, and especially Apollo’s guilt over the situation, was like a leaden weight that wouldn’t begin to lift until the next book came out. To say I was worried about how Jason’s death would be handled in Tyrant’s Tomb would be an understatement.
Luckily, there was nothing to worry about. Rick Riordan lost a major character right along side of us. He knew that Jason’s death would have an impact on more than just those present on the boat when he was murdered. Hazel, Frank, Reyna, and Thalia were just a handful of those who would need to learn of and deal with the loss of their friend.
Each time someone new found out about Jason’s death, it was like another punch to the gut. They all had memories with him that we were witness to in other books. We lived right along side them; our relationships were forged in the same fire. Jason got the celebration he deserved, and even if you didn’t like that he was killed off, it’s hard to say that his death wasn’t handled with care after reading Tyrant’s Tomb.
If you’ve ever lost someone close to you, it will be so easy to understand the anger, sadness, and confusion these characters are feeling. I truly hope this book is able to help at least one child (or adult!) work through those emotions and come to terms with what they’ve experienced and what they’ve been feeling if they’re in a similar situation.
Amidst all the tragedy, Apollo is still learning and growing. Jason’s death certainly had an impact on him, but he’d been making leaps and bounds prior to this as well. He still has moments of arrogance and selfishness, but he’s genuinely become more and more endearing as this series has continued.
In Tyrant’s Tomb, Apollo must face more people from his past. He comes to terms with who he was as a god — a bully and a narcissist — and starts to truly embrace his humanity. You can see how this affects those around him, but most importantly, how it affects himself. Apollo sees the world different now and is all the better for it.
This installation, the fourth book in the Trials of Apollo series, takes place mostly in and around Camp Jupiter. We’re reunited with some of our favorite characters, especially Reyna, Frank, and Hazel. Quite a bit has changed since we’ve last seen the Roman encampment, but the demigods still feel very much the same, if not a little older and wiser.
Frank has always been one of my favorite characters, and he gets several shining moments in The Tyrant’s Tomb. It’s clear that he and the others have been through so much. Sometimes it’s easy to forget they’re still just teenagers.
Caligula and Commodus, not to mention the titular tyrant, are formidable enemies. It takes all of Apollo’s knowledge, wit, and strength to survive their onslaught, and he certainly could not have done it without the help of his friends and a few divine beings. Apollo is certainly learning a lesson in humility the hard way.
It will be another year until we get the fifth and final book in the Trials of Apollo series. The title will be The Tower of Nero, and it will take us back to the beginning. Both Apollo and Meg will have to face some of their greatest fears, and a character who is as manipulative, conniving, and dangerous as they come.
There are a few times throughout book 4 where Riordan talks about bullying. Meg endured it from Nero, and Apollo endured it from his father, Zeus. They’ve chosen to take that energy and put it back out into the world in different ways, though it’s clear those experiences have had a lasting impact on both of them.
Regardless, however, they’ll be coming face to face with Nero by the end of the series, and it promises to be a mental battle as much as a physical one.
I can’t wait to see how it all ends and, of course, what happens next.
The Tower of Nero will hit store shelves in the Fall of 2020.