Review: The Tyrant’s Tomb (The Trials of Apollo, #4) by Rick Riordan

How do you tell a dream from a nightmare?
If it involves a book burning, it’s probably a nightmare.
Rating: ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ 💫 (3.5/5 stars)

What’s This Book About?

Genre: MG/YA fantasy (mythology)

Synopsis: In his penultimate adventure, a devastated but determined Apollo travels to Camp Jupiter, where he must learn what it is to be a hero, or die trying. It’s not easy being Apollo, especially when you’ve been turned into a human (aka Lester) and banished from Olympus.

Apollo’s journey to restoring five ancient oracles and his godhood now takes him to Camp Jupiter, where the Roman demigods are preparing for a desperate last stand against the evil Triumvirate of Roman emperors. Many old friends will need Apollo’s aid to survive the onslaught.

Unfortunately, the answer to their salvation lies in the forgotten tomb of a Roman ruler… someone even worse than the emperors Apollo has already faced.

It may finally be time for Apollo to call home. But will anybody on Mt Olympus pick up?

What I Thought:

Despite being my least favourite instalment in the ‘Trials of Apollo’ series, this was still pretty enjoyable – I think it’s harder for Riordan to write a bad book than it is for him to write a great one!

The main issues I had with ‘The Tyrant’s Tomb’ were similar to those I had with ‘The Dark Prophecy’ (book 2): namely inconsistent interest/scene-engagement and a few too many corny jokes. (I’d say it was about a 40:60 ratio of actually hilarious jokes to somewhat lame ones.) It was a real mixed bag with the scene-energy levels. Some were incredible, stand-out scenes that were either incredibly action-packed, highly emotionally charged, or just plain hilarious. Scenes that I would have expected to cry at – and I did at similar moments in previous instalments – only made me feel sad in a muted, rather dull way, while on the other hand I ended up literally tearing up at completely unexpected moments. It also didn’t make sense to me that (highlight for spoilers) Frank wasn’t killed, despite his firewood combusting. Attention was drawn to the strangeness of the fact, and how it made a previous tragedy all the more unfair, but it still didn’t sit right with me. (Perhaps we’ll find out more in ‘The Tower of Nero’?)

I also don’t know what it says about me that my favourite parts of the book were when Apollo/Lester struggles with the crushing weight of his guilty conscience following his godly history of extremely questionable behaviour. Maybe I’m just sadistic? Some chapters were absolutely electric with tension and fast-paced twists, and I’d positively thrill with how powerful these demigods and former deities are. (That’s a big reason for why so many of us enjoy superhero movies, right?)

I let loose a guttural roar – a song with only one note: pure rage, and only one volume: maximum.

…And then other chapters, such as the ones near the end (after the climax) were far less memorable. I often found myself scan-reading just to get to the next ‘important’ (aka interesting) scene. The very end perked right up though! It was very intriguing, especially regarding the next segment of Apollo’s prophesied journey. I’m excited (and scared) to find out the rest of it in Book 5!

To offset what so far seems to be a rather dour review, here is…

A List of Things I Liked:
– the platonic relationships. Meg and Apollo’s friendship, as well as (highlight for spoilers) Artemis’ genuine and deep-running love for her brother Apollo. It was also great that Riordan emphasises the importance of platonic love – it’s not always about romance!

“If I had a denarius for every time I got that question…Why does a strong friendship always have to progress to romance?”
Reyna’s storyline. I won’t spoil anything, but her big break was refreshing to read. Reyna’s truly an excellent role model!
– the appearance of a Ptolemaic god, which I don’t remember seeing in a Riordanverse book before, and I think Riordan portrayed the cultural hybridisation quite well. (Now I want to go revisit my old lectures on Ptolemaic Egypt!)
– the world-building, as always, is richly done. At one point, you can see that Riordan’s considered how Apollo’s role as the Sun God fits into global time zones!
– the tasteful handling of issues of abuse and cycles of violence, through Meg and Apollo’s experiences with abusive fathers (Nero and Zeus, respectively).
[E]ven back when I was a god, I had been bullied – only the bully had been my father. I should have known better than to share the pain.

Although I had some problems with it, ‘The Tyrant’s Tomb’ was still a good read, peppered with some great moments! I did find it a little funny though that we barely spent any time inside the titular Tyrant’s Tomb!

Thanks for reading! Are you a fan of the Riordanverse? Let me know any thoughts below!

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