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. . . .
What is The Burning Maze about?
In this continuation of Apollo’s human journey, the gang face the burning maze. The Labyrinth, a star in previous Riordan novels, makes a reappearance as its been hijacked by the team of evil Roman emperors working to take over. Apollo and Meg find themselves sheltering with Grover and a group of dryads who are fighting against the wildfires produced by the maze. Some old familiar faces also pop up to help Apollo and Meg in their journey to free the next Oracle.
I feel like all I really needed to type was “by Rick Riordan” and y’all were going to know exactly what this book was.
Tropes: Consequences Ahead
As with any book featuring Oracles and prophecies, the consequences of their quest is laid out ahead of time for the most part. The characters go into some dangerous situations knowing full well the dangers they might face. And of course, if you know some spoilers (as I did going in) you know that Riordan doesn’t always pull his punches….
Plot: A New Challenger Approaches!
Apollo’s series is setting up a group of antagonistic Roman emperors reincarnated in the modern world. This novel introduces the most dangerous of these emperors yet, as demonstrated by Apollo’s sheer fear and respect in describing the emperor in question.
I do enjoy Riordan’s way of blending serious issues and topics with the comedic characters and dialogue we’ve come to expect from his works. I still like Apollo–reading the first book, I found a lot of pieces of his dialogue were things I may well have said–but I also really enjoyed the exposition on Meg’s backstory we got. A lot of Meg’s life has already been revealed, but getting this piece of the puzzle was especially gratifying.
Maybe the shock value was lost on me because of seeing some spoilers in advance, but I found that the big moments that shook a lot of readers when the book was first released were almost disappointing for me. I really wasn’t emotionally invested in them, but perhaps that’s due to the sheer amount of distance that I accidentally put between reading the first two books in the series and finally reading this one…
I’m starting to find the world of Riordan’s ‘verse is shrinking. I’m not sure if this was just for this book, which so heavily featured return characters from the previous two series, but it was…meh? I didn’t really care to rehash the events of the past and learn “where they are now.” I was invested in this series for the new parts–Apollo and Meg and their quest specifically. Percy’s cameo in the beginning of the series was just as it should be, a cameo. But so heavily involving characters like Piper, Jason, Grover, and Coach Hedge felt like overkill.
Altogether I do still enjoy Riordan’s world. It’s been a long time since I’ve been immersed in the world of the Olympians, maybe even too long. I think these books might be the sort that should be binged all in a row, totally invested in the series as a whole as opposed to individual installments whenever time is available. It was definitely a bad idea to read this third book so long after reading the first two. I think maybe I’ll wait to continue this series until I have the time and resources to get my hands on all the books and read all the way from beginning to end, the way I did with the first Percy Jackson series.