Trials of Apollo: The Hidden Oracle by Rick Riordan

apollo 1.jpgTitle: Trials of Apollo: The Hidden Oracle
Author: Rick Riordan
Genre: Fantasy
Publisher: Puffin
Published: 1st May 2017
Format: Paperback
Pages: 528
Price: $17.99
Synopsis: The first book in a breathtaking new series from Percy Jackson creator, Rick Riordan.
How do you punish an immortal? By making him human.
After angering his father Zeus, the god Apollo is cast down from Olympus. Weak and disoriented, he lands in New York City as a regular teenage boy. Now, without his godly powers, the four-thousand-year-old deity must learn to survive in the modern world until he can somehow find a way to regain Zeus’s favour.
But Apollo has many enemies – gods, monsters and mortals who would love to see the former Olympian permanently destroyed. Apollo needs help, and he can think of only one place to go . . . an enclave of modern demigods known as Camp Half-Blood.

~*~

I received the fourth book in this series to review – that came out prior to me receiving it so I thought I should read the first three so I wasn’t lost, as I have heard these are series that need to be read in order. Having not read the original series, I worried I would be lost there, but enough hints were dropped, and enough has been explained for readers new to this world through this new series that I didn’t feel I needed to – others may however, feel differently and that is okay.

Apollo has been cast out of Olympus – the exact event is hinted at and explained but possibly happened in the original series or the other series linked to these books, The Heroes of Olympus. Still, I did get enough backstory to understand without reading everything else.
In this series, Apollo has, as he did in some of the myths, upset Zeus (bad move). As punishment, Zeus makes Apollo a mortal as punishment for starting a riot at Olympus – a myth cycle Riordan has used here. Under the human name, Lester Papadopoulos, Apollo’s service is claimed by demi-god, Meg McCaffrey, and they are taken to Camp Half-Blood by Percy Jackson. Here, Apollo meets several of his demi-god children, and Meg finds out who her godly parents are – complicating her unfolding history more, much of which is deeply hidden until a crucial moment.
Here, they face many tests and trials – and investigate campers who go missing, and take part in a three-legged death race, and finally, face an enemy called ‘the Beast’. And so begins Apollo’s first task – to protect a hidden oracle, who has been hidden for millennia, so the Beast cannot control the future. The book ends on a cliffhanger, that will lead into the next book and his subsequent tasks as he serves demi-god Meg McCaffrey until his punishment is over – rather reluctantly at first, until he becomes quite fond of her.

This book has the right balance of fun and fantasy, adventure and myth. It manages to combine the myth cycles in a way that is interesting way that is accessible to those familiar with the myths, but also those who are not, and introduces them to a new world of research and interest. It will definitely appeal to teens and young adult readers as well, and is suitable for ages eleven and older, I think.

The Ghost by the Billabong by Jackie French (Matilda Saga #5)

Title: The Ghost by the Billabong

Author: Jackie French

Genre: Children’s Literature/Young Adultthe ghost by the billabong.png

Publisher: HarperCollins Australia

Published: 1st December 2015

Format: Paperback

Pages: 544

Price: $19.99

Synopsis: Hippies wear beads, demonstrators march against the Vietnam War, and the world waits to see the first human steps on the moon’s surface.

But at Gibbers Creek, Jed Kelly sees ghosts, from the past and future, at the Drinkwater billabong where long ago the swaggie leaped to his defiant death.

But is seventeen-year-old Jed a con artist or a survivor? When she turns up at Drinkwater Station claiming to be the great-granddaughter of Matilda Thompson’s dying husband, Jed clearly has secrets. As does a veteran called Nicholas, who was badly wounded in the Vietnam War and now must try to create a life he truly wants to live, despite the ghosts that haunt him too.

Set during the turbulence of the late 1960s, this was a time when brilliant and little-known endeavours saw Australia play a vital role in Neil Armstrong’s ‘one giant leap for mankind’ on that first unforgettable moon walk.

The fifth title in the highly acclaimed Matilda Saga, The Ghost by the Billabong is a story of deep conflicts and enduring passions – for other people, for the land, and for the future of humanity.

~*~

aww2017-badgeIn 1968, Jed Kelly arrives at Gibber’s Creek and Drinkwater, after running away from a family and a reform home where she was mistreated, and in search of her great-grandfather, Thomas “Tommy” Thompson, husband of Matilda Thompson, the owner of the Drinkwater property. Her presence is met with suspicion from Matilda, curiosity from Tommy, who has not seen or heard from his granddaughter, Rose, whom Jed claims is her mother, in many years, and acceptance from Nancy, Matron Moira Clancy and Nancy’s husband, Michael Thompson at Overflow and the kids and other occupants at River View, there for help with treatment therapies for a variety of disabilities. Here, Jed finds people she can talk to, though at first she is horrified when she is told about River View, her mind burdened and injured by the ghosts of her past from the reform home and the secrets she is hiding, and blaming herself for. In one inhabitant, Nicholas, she finds a shared love of books, science fiction, and with Tommy, she shares the delight he has in the Apollo missions to the moon. Escaping soon after Christmas 1968, and the ongoing investigation into who she is, Jed heads to Queanbeyean, where she witnesses the landing of Apollo 11 on the moon, before returning to Drinkwater and Overflow to face her ghosts and the secrets she has been running from.

Jackie French has set this fifth novel during the turbulent late sixties: hippies, the Vietnam War, the Apollo program, and a time when young girls like Jed felt lost and alone, when women’s rights and the argument that what happens behind closed doors should stay there is challenged – Matilda plays a prominent part in this novel, as do Nancy and Tommy as they help Jed in their own ways to find her place and family.

Jed is another voice that has been silenced – not only by expectations of society that are slowly at this time being challenged, but by her own family, the woman who was meant to protect her, and the authorities who took her step-mother’s word over Jed’s. Only in Gibber’s Creek does Jed find her voice at last, with the help of Nancy, and Matilda, eventually, who has not let her own voice be silenced since 1894 – for over seventy years. The series is heading into a modern world where most people can have their voices heard, yet there will always be those who will in some way, be silenced and seen as outsiders. In using these silenced people, or the outsiders, or even those less likely to be taken seriously, The Matilda Saga has given so many characters who would not normally be able to speak, sometimes even through fiction, a voice: women, orphans, the poor, Indigenous and the abused, the disabled and the lost – they all find a home with Matilda Thompson at Gibber’s Creek.

Moving into the latter half of the twentieth century, book six, If Blood Should Stain the Wattle picks up about three years after the end of The Ghost by the Billabong, and Nicholas’s departure to the mountains where his meetings with Flinty in book two, when he appears as a ghost from the future to her in 1919. Astute readers may connect this, or even those who have read the books in order.

Another great Australian story by one of the great Australian women writers of our time.