In The Tower of Nero, Rick Riordan delivers a breathtaking and deeply emotional story as the conclusion to his Trials of Apollo series.
From the Blurb:
It’s time to face the final trial….
The battle for Camp Jupiter is over. New Rome is safe. Tarquin and his army of the undead have been defeated. Somehow Apollo has made it out alive, with a little bit of help from the Hunters of Artemis.
But though the battle may have been won, the war is far from over.
Now Apollo and Meg must get ready for the final – and, let’s face it, probably fatal – adventure. They must face the last emperor, the terrifying Nero, and destroy him once and for all.
Can Apollo find his godly form again? Will Meg be able to face up to her troubled past? Destiny awaits….
The book begins like many of Riordan’s others with Apollo and Meg being ambushed while travelling. Once captured, the pair gain a new ally in Luguselwa who betrays her team and escorts them to the safety.
This is where Apollo’s emotional maturity, and character development truly comes to light. Where in the first book, he turned up on Sally Jackson’s doorstep without a second thought, he’s reluctant to bring trouble to their door after all that’s happened. This reflection on his own actions and how they’ve affected the people around him is constant through the book. He’s more cautious, respectful, and cares deeply for his friends and children. The closer the book moves to the climax, the more Apollo looks back on his life and sees it in a new perspective, vowing to be better as a god this time around.
His friendship with Meg changes as well. Over the course of the six months they’ve been together, their relationship has deepened past her ordering him around and sarcastic bickering between the two, to a deep bond.
Meg has also changed over the series, she’s matured far more than any 12 year-old ever should in that amount of time. While she’s still fun, and more prone to fight rather than ask questions, there’s an underlying sadness in her the closer she gets to confronting Nero. Her friendship with Luguselwa also delves into how she grew up, but it’s her current friendships that allowed her to open up and accept help without suspicion.
In this last book, Riordan brings his readers back to familiar territory as Apollo and Meg travel to Camp Half Blood to team up with old friends. When Will, Nico, and Rachel complete the team, the audience gets to see how they’ve grown over the years. Will and Nico have fallen into a comfortable relationship dynamic, with Nico being more confident, outspoken and far more comfortable with himself than we’ve ever seen him. Will keeps being the ray of sunshine (quite literally in certain situations) of the group, whereas Rachel is just as Dare-ing as she was back in the first PJO series.
In terms of plot, The Tower of Nero is just as fast paced as any of Riordan’s books. Once at Camp Half Blood, our heroes only have 48 hours to take Nero down before he acts on his ultimatum, so everything happens fast. However, I never find the action overwhelming, as there are plenty of comedic or dialogue scenes to balance it out.
Going into The Tower of Nero, I found it very interesting that Riordan chose to take Nero and Python down in a single book, as opposed to dedicating one book to each. But I think that was a good idea as each villain compliments the other.
Riordan’s writing has been adapted to this last book. As always, it’s full of funny quirks and puns, with each chapter title containing a comedic haiku that gives some insight into the story. As the story progresses, the tone of the writing shifts to reflect Apollo’s own introspection and all he’s learned in the past six months as a human. Riordan also forgoes the romance, choosing instead to emphasize how important friendships can be for a person. Both Apollo and Meg emerge as different people from having been friends; Apollo is a better person while Meg is able to begin the healing process after escaping from her abusive home.
Domestic abuse is at the core of the series and The Tower of Nero delves into the psychological effects that can have. While the book is told through Apollo’s POV, his insight allows the audience to understand what Meg is going through as she prepares to confront her abuser and how that might affect her. He also reflects on the dynamics of his own family, how they compare and contrast with Nero’s household. Considering the plot, Riordan treats these heavy subjects in a respectful manner that also makes them accessible to a younger audience.
Overall, I enjoyed The Tower of Nero very much. The nostalgic elements combined with the action and character development make for an excellent conclusion to the series. I look forward to whatever Rick Riordan has planned next, as there are hints of a new story in the making.