Zeus has punished his son Apollo – god of the sun, music, archery, poetry, and more–by casting him down to earth in the form of a gawky, acne-covered sixteen-year-old mortal named Lester. The only way Apollo can reclaim his rightful place on Mount Olympus is by restoring several Oracles that have gone dark. What is affecting the Oracles, and how can Apollo/Lester do anything about them without his powers? After experiencing a series of dangerous–and frankly, humiliating–trials at Camp Half-Blood, Lester must now leave the relative safety of the demigod training ground and embark on a hair-raising journey across North America. Fortunately, what he lacks in godly graces he’s gaining in new friendships–with heroes who will be very familiar to the fans of the Percy Jackson and the Olympians and Heroes of Olympus series. Come along with Apollo and Leo for what promises to be a harrowing, hilarious, and haiku-filled ride.
Rick Riordan announced that he would be creating a new series on his The Sword of Summer tour, where he announced the title of his new book. The cover and excerpt of the first chapter of this book were released on December 22, 2016.
Apollo, still as a human named Lester Papadopoulos, arrives in Indianapolis on Leo Valdez's dragon, Festus, along with Leo himself and the now mortal Calypso. Almost immediately after getting off the Indiana Statehouse, they are attacked by Nanette with her fellow Blemmyae on Washington Street, forced to leave Festus sleeping as a suitcase behind, and flee into an alley. A ghost wearing cheese-colored clothes assists them in running away to a circular plaza. Even though Leo attempted to fight back with a bulldozer, the trio is finally saved by an elderly woman named Hemithea, Emmie for short. She takes them to to the Waystation, a hidden refuge above the Union Station for demigods and Hunters of Artemis where they can take shelter.
There is a kids' room filled with sinister drawings on the wall. A strong woman named Josephine is in the grand hall working at a welding station. The emperor, referred to as the "New Hercules" according to Nero, took over the city last year, but his forces can't locate the Waystation. Apollo reveals to Leo that he actually made Hemithea and her sister, Parthenos, goddesses after fleeing their father, Staphylus, the king of Naxos and a demigod of Dionysus. But then the sisters both joined the Hunters of Artemis, and they actually wanted Artemis to save them. However, Emmie lost her immortality when she fell in love with and married Jo in 1987, Artemis forbids all love for her followers not just towards men. The cheese ghost turns out to be Agamethus, brother of Trophonius, the next Oracle. Agamethus had his head cut off by his brother and is now forced to communicate with a Magic 8 Ball. It is revealed that the children's room belongs to Georgina, Jo and Emmie's adopted daughter, whom Agamethus gave to.
Suddenly, Britomartis, goddess of traps and proprietor of the Waystation, appears. Apollo is not happy since she tricked him the past many times. She announces that the middle emperor has kidnapped her sacred griffins named Abelard and Heloise as well as many other mythical animals so he can use them in a celebration in three days. Britomartis insists that Leo stay behind, so Apollo decides to take Calypso to the zoo, where the griffins are held, the next day. If they succeed, Britomartis will tell them how to infiltrate the emperor's lair.
After having dinner and washing dishes, Apollo goes to bed. He has a dream where Trophonius and Agamethus as just escaping the treasury the built for King Hyrieus whom they also built the temple at Delphi for. But since Hyrieus had inspected it days before, he had traps set for the two men. Agamethus is greatly injured by a shower of stone, he wants Trophonius to kill him to avoid war against King Erginus. Trophonius doesn't want this, he prays to Apollo to save them, but since his father ignored him due to him becoming a thief he complies in cutting off the head of his half-brother. The dream changed to the headquarters of the emperor: Commodus. He chews out his Germani for letting Meg McCaffrey get away. His new prefect, Lityerses, slices their heads off and takes their place. Leo is not happy that Lit is back, recalling the last time he encountered him with his father, Midas. Apollo brings out the Arrow of Dodona from Camp Half-Blood who tells them they need to take the train to find Britomartis' griffins and use tater tots to free them.
Apollo and Calypso reach the zoo and avoid all the Germani Commodus sent with Lit. Calypso pulls Apollo into a café, they find griffin taters are well as "carnivorous horse" mix and "combat ostrich" cubes. Another flashback of Apollo's is triggered, he was sitting with Commodus in a tent during his father's military campaign. They talk about how he just wants to have fun fighting in the Colosseum instead of having so many duties until a Centurion informs him about the death of his father, Marcus Aurelius. Calypso snaps him out of it, Apollo still has feelings for Commodus. Apollo and Calypso manage to hold off Germani using poor archery and fake magic. But then they encounter Lit, only to be saved by Meg McCaffrey. Meg still believes Nero but she helps Apollo anyway.
They escape on the train and find a lot of captive animals near a training facility, including Abelard and Heloise. Other animals included ostriches dressed in armor-like clothes, Commodus trained them for combat. Heloise has an egg, Apollo and Calypso hum a lullaby that his parents used to sing to him and Artemis on Delos. But then Lityerses arrives, he reveals that when he and his father worked for Gaea, Midas got killed during his encounter with Leo Valdez but he managed to escape after being turned into a golden statue, now he works for the Triumvirate. Hearing Apollo mentioning how he gave his father donkey's ears only makes him angrier, but Calypso miraculously uses magic to make the whole place blow up so they can escape on the Griffins.
After returning to the Waystation, Britomartis tells him of the main gate to Commodus' palace underneath the Soldiers' and Sailors' Monument, they have to use the waterworks plumbing to get in otherwise they'd run into a death trap. They need to free the captives in the palace and find the Throne of Mnemosyne to cure Georgina. Apollo then passes out and has a flashback dream where he pretended to be Commodus' trainer, Narcissus and drowned the emperor under everyone else's demand. When he wakes, he plays music for Heloise who laid her egg.
Apollo takes Meg and Leo to the sewers where Commodus resides. On the way, Meg reveals that the third emperor is someone even Nero is afraid of, that's why Commodus is in between them, Nero also took Peaches away. Near the only entrance, they are attacked by the Carthaginian Serpent, but they managed to defeat it and enter the palace. During the battle, Apollo has a burst of power, he concludes his godly powers will come to him only when he needs it the most like at the Camp Half-Blood Forest. Deep in the sewers, they overhear Lityerses telling Commodus that they found the Waystation, they will have the rehearsal for tomorrow's naming ceremony now. Commodus plans to have the Waystation taken out before the real ceremony, the Cave of Prophecy is guarded. Meg used chia sprouts to guide the way, they encountered another blemmyae, even though they are overly polite they are very strong, but Leo and Meg kill him. Apollo attempts to tell the earpiece the blemmyae had that this was a false alarm before crushing it. The metal vault door the blemmyae was guarding contained a jail, they freed a hunter named Hunter Kowalski, a friendly Scythian Dracaena named Sssssarah, a Yoruba demigod named Olujime AKA Jamie and a scared Georgina who was sitting on Festus as a suitcase. Meg saw her pain recalling Nero's own abuse on her, they need the Throne of Memory to cure her. The alarms blared, Leo led the group back the way they came while Meg and Apollo look for the throne. Meg sensed it behind a steel door, Apollo uses oil of vitriol and other chemicals from the palace infirmary to melt it. The throne looked nothing more than a white chair.
Nonetheless, Apollo tapes to his back and they go on their way.
Unfortunately, they end up in the Lucas Oil Stadium where the rehearsal of Commodus' naming ceremony begins. Demigods, Cynocephali, blemmyae, Centaurs and Cyclops all watch in the gallery. The emperor, guarded by Germani and mortal mercenaries, announces that the city will be renamed Commodianapolis, he sent his minions to Trophonius who confirmed it will happen if he destroys the Waystation and sacrifices Apollo in his games. Meg says that something is here but soon combat ostriches and other animals surround them. After they hold everyone off, Commodus reveals a bound Peaches and plans to burn him with his racecar. After Apollo uses Livia the elephant to stop him, Festus arrives with the Thalia Grace and the Hunters of Artemis to save them all. Lityerses betrays the emperor so he beats him up, prompting Apollo to take him along.
The Oracle of Trophonius
After returning, Georgina is placed on the throne of Memory. Trophonius relays a message to Apollo telling him it's time to go to the cave tomorrow morning. He also calls Georgina his little sister suggesting that she may be Apollo's daughter. Apollo and Meg drive to the Oracle of Trophonius with the guidance of the Arrow of Dodona. An entrance is guarded by Yales, beasts who literally can't be killed because they are endangered. Apollo drinks from the Fountains of Memory and Forgetfulness but Meg skips it to get away from the Yales and not act goofy like Apollo. Inside, Apollo has two visions, one of them is Leto trying to plead Zeus to bring Apollo back to no avail, the other vision is of Styx who warns him she is not finished with him. Apollo and Meg travel through the Bluespring Caverns until they find an island with the water filled with snakes. Apollo goes to the island to receive the prophecy but Meg becomes the petitioner when she sings to the snakes to try and save him. Trophonius mentally tortures Meg with images of her life that match her lyrics, including her father's death, much to Apollo's horror and distraught. Remembering the prophecy from the Grove of Dodona, he gives mouth-to-mouth resuscitation to ease her suffering. When they leave they see Nanette and some other blemmyae getting ready to blow up the oracle, it's a last resort of Commodus to get rid of Apollo. Per Trophonius' request, Apollo allows it but also tricks them into killing themselves thereby saving him and Meg as well. Peaches arrives with several Karpoi to help fight the blemmyae off and drive the two back to the Waystation.
Attack on the Waystation
The Waystation is under attack by Commodus's forces, Lityerses actually helps protect them. Apollo briefly shows his Divine Form causing Commodus to jump out the window and disappear. A funeral is held for Heloise and Thalia Grace reveals that the hunters are on a quest to look for the Teumessian Fox. Meg is placed on the throne and recites a long prophecy regarding Camp Jupiter. They make several theories about what it means: Ella the Harpy is currently reconstructing the Sibylline Books, the new moon is in five days and Mount Diablo is Devil's Mount in Spanish, Leo thinks the changeling lord is Frank Zhang, Meg realizes that she and Apollo have to go through the Labyrinth, but he doesn't remember much about the Erythraean Sybil. Leo leaves on Festus to warn the camp but Calypso decides to stay at the Waystation to prepare for their following school year there and practice her magic. Before leaving Apollo and Meg receive food from everyone, Agamethus appears to the former god who tells him he will look for Trophonius and take care of him before dissolving. As the prophecy states that "the cloven guide alone the way does know," Meg summons Grover Underwood from a tomato patch on top of the Waystation.
The prophecy (which was given in the form of a Shakespearean sonnet) was given from The Oracle of Trophonius through Meg while at the Waystation:
The words that memory wrought are set to fire,
Ere new moon rises o'er the Devil's Mount.
The changeling lord shall face a challenge dire,
Till bodies fill the Tiber beyond count.
Yet southward must the sun now trace its course,
Through mazes dark to land of scorching death
To find the master of the swift white horse
And wrest from him the crossword speaker's breath.
To westward palace must the Lester go;
Demeter's daughter finds her ancient roots.
The cloven guide alone the way does know,
To walk the path in thine own enemy's boots.
When three are known and Tiber reached alive,
Tis only then Apollo starts to jive.
Unraveling The Prophecy
- Line 1 claims that The Sibylline Books (which held the original prophecies of the Cumaean Sybil), currently being reconstructed by Ella and her eidetic memory, are in danger of being burnt.
- Line 2 means that this attempt would happen at the new moon, five days from the day of the prophecy, at Mount Diablo, San Francisco – near the location of Camp Jupiter.
- Line 3 refers to Frank Zhang and a dangerous challenge he would be facing.
- Line 4 hints towards the consequences of failure being dire and brutal; uncountable dead would fill the Little Tiber that flows at the outskirts of Camp Jupiter.
- Line 5 urges Apollo, God of the Sun, that his destiny lies in the South, where he must recover his Oracles.
- Line 6 means his path would be through the Labyrinth, where the part in Southern California is burning with the essence of Helios.
- Line 7 refers to the Caligula, the third emperor, owning Incitatus, the horse.
- Line 8 refers to freeing the Erythraean Sybil – who liked to use word puzzles and acrostics in her prophecies – from the captivity of Caligula.
- Line 9 declares that Lester, Apollo's wayward mortal form, must go to Caligula's palace, which turned out to be fifty connecting yachts.
- Line 10 is a reference to Meg finding her "roots"; her original home was Aeithales, Palm Springs.
- Line 11 claims that only a satyr – who later turns out to be Grover Underwood – knows how to traverse the way and can guide them.
- Line 12 means that Apollo shall walk in Caligula's Caligae to find the oracle in the Labyrinth.
- Lines 13 and 14, the last of the couplets, proclaim that only when Apollo knows who his three God-King foes are and manages to reach Camp Jupiter alive can he find his path to glory – and dance to the noble acoustics of victory. These will probably take him to his greatest triumph, facing the Python at Delphi.
Gods and Goddesses
- Lester (Apollo)/ Still human; thanks for asking/ Gods, I hate my life
- Headless guys and gals/ Not loving the Midwest vibe/ Oh, look—a cheese ghost
- My last performance/ Some old lady drops the mic/ And kills everyone
- No building should be/ A secret from Apollo/ Or drop bricks on him
- Tell you a story?/ Or I could just, like, pass out/ And twitch on the couch
- Oh, Magic 8 Ball/ Epic fail at prophecies/ Leo's ear's on fire
- I chopped those onions/ With my own ex-godly hands/ You'd better eat them
- Lovebirds arguing/ Trouble in Elysium?/ I'll just scrum these plates
- Of course it's a trap/ With her, it always is one/ Trappy McTrapface
- Scrubbing toilets now/ At least there's a great reward/ Leftover tofu
- Four beheaded dudes/ Are too much for one nightmare/ Why me? Sob. Sob. Sob.
- I sing of taters!/ Chili, sweet potato, blue!/ Why? Ask my arrow
- Fast-food restaurant/ My life goal is realized/ Any fries with that?
- Yeah, we got the skills/ Fake hexes and shooting feet/ Teach you 'bout pancakes
- Drivin' the green train/ I'm all like, Choo-choo! Choo-choo!/ Can't catch me!— Oh, poop!
- Son of a Midas/ You, sir, are a stupid-head/ Here, have an ostrich
- To the Waystation/ Meg McCaffrey eats my bread/ I cry godly tears
- My dear Commodus/ Commode is named after you/ Hail, Toilet Caesar
- Call me Narcissus/ Today I'll be your trainer/ I'll also kill you
- Pedaling in style/ Leg irons are fashionable/ Cue the screaming god
- Get me a legion/ And about six tons of rocks/ Need to kill a snake
- I wax poetic/ On the beauty of sewers/ Real short poem. Done
- So amaze! Such name!/ Sssssarah with five S's is/ Still two syllablessssss
- Science can be fun/ Squirt those toxic chemicals/ Anywhere, really
- Big birds are evil/ They charge me with razor legs/ I die and it hurts
- I tip my hat to/ The excellent elephant/ Let's be besties, 'kay?
- Destroy me a roof/ Bring with wenches with winches/ We're so out of here
- Belching stinky smoke/ What gene pool did you come from?/ Wait. What? (Insert scream)
- Carrot-peeling god/ Tofu stir-fry is good, but/ Needs more ígboyá
- Lester, slap yourself/ Oh, for just one night without/ Looking like a fool
- Start with a C chord/ Not all the keys, Meg. C does/ Not stand for Chaos
- Pretty fuzzy cow/ So cute, so warm and vicious!/ Squee! Can I kill him?
- Feeling groovy, I'm/ Drowning, freezing, snake surfing/ Life is good, Batman!
- Meg takes a solo/ Scares away her audience/ Good job, McCaffrey
- Man, I hate my son/ A real arrogant jerkwad/ Nothing like his dad
- Mind your p's and q's/ When you are arming bombs or—/ SPLAT—trample jelly
- Your favorite fruit?/ I hope you didn't say grapes/ Or apples, or figs
- Waystation damaged/ Commodus will pay for this/ And I don't take cash
- During this standoff/ No flash photography, please/ Oops. My bad. Ha-ha
- Shakespeare, don't bring that/ Iambic pentameter/ Up in my face, yo
- Prophecies don't mix/ With Tofurky and biscuits/ Just give me dessert
- Pancakes for the road/ Need a guide for your journey?/ Check the tomatoes
- Leo Valdez and the Quest for Buford is included in the Indian version of the book.
- The book is dedicated to American novelist Ursula K. Le Guin, who had a major influence on Rick Riordan and taught him that rules change in the Reaches.
- On page 241 of the paperback version, Apollo states that he had met Indra, the Vedic god of storms, at some point in his years of godhood, and was searching for vindaloo on a late-night road trip.
- On a page in the book, Apollo calls the grain spirits something that references to the three wise monkeys.
- Part of Chapter 23 is called ¨So amaze! Such name!¨ It is a parody of a Doge meme.
- People from the state of Indiana are incorrectly referred to as 'Indianans' in the book when the proper term is 'Hoosier".
- Counting the Grove of Dodona, this is only book of the "Trials of Apollo" that is not named after a location.
- Rick Riordan's website