Warning Might contain spoilers.

The first book in the series that I hadn’t read, and it’s unbelievably grim. There is so much suffering and loss. I don’t like what The Trials of Apollo does to Piper and her father. At least the Arrow of Dodona’s outrage and indignation at being unwittingly used first to kill someone and then to stab Apollo are hilarious.

Incitatus is a curious character. Granted, Caligula did have a favourite horse by that name, but to make him an immortal talking horse who does all of the dirty work and is feared by one and all is a bit much. The way the Meliai eliminate him (for The Meg!) is brutal too.

Jason has never been more interesting and empathetic than as a former symbol of perfection who finds he can’t keep things from falling apart and is defeated by that knowledge at first, then tries with sincerity to do right by the people he meets anyway. I never disliked him; I just found him lacking in personality compared to the rest of the cast. The Burning Maze illuminates his humanity as the whole of Heroes of Olympus could not. The moment where he takes Apollo by the shoulders and implores him—one brother to another—to remember being human is deeply affecting. Apollo’s reaction to hearing that Jason stood up to Zeus for his sake only compounds it.

Jason’s death shocked me. I was dumbfounded. It seemed inconceivable that Rick Riordan would kill off a (one-time) protagonist, and at the midpoint of the series at that. He’s hardly even in the story, just making it more unexpected, but he leaves a giant mark. I kept hoping some sort of miracle would return him to life. Crest’s death took me by surprise, too. I would not have thought it would matter so much to me, but it was rather sad. Tragedy heaped upon tragedy, all of it more affecting than I was prepared for.

Apollo’s story of how he took Helios’s place is anything but ordinary. It’s a moving and emotional tale. He may be the bombastic sun god, but every moment of his retelling is permeated with melancholy.