Warning Might contain spoilers.

Sequels are naturally difficult for the returning reader or viewer, because the story inevitably begins by undoing previous resolutions so the protagonists have obstacles to overcome. The first book in this series delighted me by evoking the style of the Percy Jackson books and being set in the same locales, with familiar characters. Three books later, however, it was no longer clear whether The Trials of Apollo could have a ‘good’ ending, short of a miracle. The best one could hope for was an end to the abundant devastation and trauma, which is what The Tower of Nero provides. (On a tangential note, returning to Percy’s home at the end only to find him gone was a clever feint, considering the symmetry it would have created with the beginning of the series.)

I would have enjoyed seeing Meg and Dionysus interact more. I think he enjoys having someone around who has no fear of him whatsoever, not to mention someone he can play pinochle with. The troglodytes are hilarious, including the way they put hats on Nico and the rest to make them look more civilized. Speaking of whom, Nico spends this book suffering as always… I’m glad he has Will—Apollo’s children are all so much better than their father—and real friends, and even Dionysus helping him personally, but life is never kind to him.

Piper deserves to be able to move on from the events of the series, but dedicating her section of the epilogue to a slightly voyeuristic scene of her kissing someone new leaves a sour taste in my mouth. It hasn’t even been six months. Couldn’t her new relationship have been something she hinted at or told Apollo about instead?

It would be remiss of me not to mention these lines, which forced me to pause until I could stop laughing:

Not being well prepared, I screamed and threw Gunther’s sword at him. By some miracle, the hilt hit him in the face and knocked him down.

THAT IS NOT NORMALLY HOW ONE USETH A SWORD, the arrow said.

My heart breaks when the Arrow of Dodona’s consciousness leaves it at the end, and it’s uncharacteristically sweet (well, perhaps not so uncharacteristically after all this) of Apollo to return to the Grove of Dodona afterwards to ensure its heroism was remembered. I didn’t expect to feel so much affection for an immobile arrow that hardly speaks except to insult the protagonist in a mélange of modern slang and malformed Shakespearean English, but I do.

The conclusion of the subplot about the oaths on the River Styx is quite an anticlimax after five books of foreboding comments. I suppose I don’t mind too much. Maybe there was no way to provide an adequate resolution and so it had to be deflated instead.

Passing observations as we say au revoir

Sadly, this is the last extant work in what I like to think of as Rick Riordan’s treatises on the fraught relationship between divinity and mortality… until such time as he adds to the canon, which cannot come soon enough for me. After all, Rachel lives across from the Twenty First Nome’s mansion, which only she can see, and she’s noticed Felix’s penguins. Moreover, I count four potential future plots:

Reading the five series[1] again has really given me an appreciation for how different the Greco-Roman, Egyptian, and Norse gods (at least) are from the idea of God with a capital g. They may embody different concepts, they may have dominion over many things, they may be able to split themselves and transform themselves, and they may have many more supernatural powers besides, but they are better described as superhuman—with an emphasis on ‘human’, as they are inarguably mirrors of humanity—than as omniscient or omnipotent.