Review: The Tower of Nero

Warning: SPOILERS!

Tuesday, November 3rd, 2020: The Tower of Nero

INTRODUCTION Published and released to the public just last month, October 2020, The Tower of Nero is written by Rick Riordan and makes up the last of the Trials of Apollo, a five-book series that follows the events of The Heroes of Olympus (2010). Nero takes place immediately after The Tyrant’s Tomb, book four of the series, and it is rumored to be the last book in the Percy Jackson (PJO) universe—although, of course, Riordan himself has said that he might revisit his iconic characters in the near future. 

SUMMARY The Tower of Nero concludes the story of Lester Papadopoulos, the Greek god Apollo cast down to Earth as punishment for his misdemeanors, and Meg Mccaffrey, daughter of the goddess Demeter. Following an epic battle between Roman emperors Caligula and Commodus back at Camp Jupiter, the duo makes their way to New York, where Lester hopes to finish their quest of recovering the ancient oracles and become an immortal deity once more. They reunite with their friends at Camp Half-Blood, and together they hatch a plan to take down the last emperor—a man by the name of Nero, whom we have all hated collectively since day one. 

But things aren’t so simple. They can’t just rush into Nero’s palace and expect to take him and his entire army of ancient Greek monsters down, especially when the emperor has threatened to blow up the entirety of New York with greek fire—pervasive green fire that cannot be put out with water. And, even if Lester somehow manages to defeat Nero and send him back to a deep, dark corner of Tartarus where he can cry himself to sleep, there’s still the matter of Python, Apollo’s ultimate nemesis, who has settled in at the Oracle of Delphi ever since the war against the giants. Will Lester succeed and become Apollo, god of the sun, again, or will he fail miserably? Between Python and Nero, he certainly has a lot to do. Will he emerge successful, or die trying?

REVIEW I would give this book a 6/10. I realize, of course, that I may be in the minority here. Just about 98% of Riordan’s audience seems to have enjoyed the latest and (possibly) last installment in the PJO universe. But I was let down in so many different ways. For one thing, it has been strongly implied that Percy would be making a major appearance in the story (on Riordan’s official website at readriordan.com). I thought he would be at-hand at Camp Half-Blood, ready to help Lester one last time. But no! He had already taken off with Annabeth and Grover on their way to Camp Jupiter, and the only time the readers actually get to see him in person is at the very end of the book, in what I believe comprises one of the most cliche moments in the history of literature.

That’s only my first complaint. The entire book, in my opinion, is riddled with things that don’t make sense—plot convenience, in other words. The prime example would be the troglodytes’ minimal character development; one moment they’re hostile and ready to devour Lester and the gang from Camp, and in the next they’re risking their own lives to fight against the emperor Nero. Sure, they might have been fighting for a common cause, but the fact that they changed their attitude so quickly seems too advantageous for the main characters to be believable. 

And then there’s the ending. I’ve already mentioned the cliche involving one Percy Jackson and Annabeth Chase, but that’s not even the worst part. In my opinion, the last straw was Piper McLean’s new—er—acquaintance. I believe it undermines her relationship with Jason in such a way that the storyline just becomes weird. To be clear: I am not criticizing whom she was with in any way—just the fact that she gets romantically involved with someone else after Jason’s death seems wrong. I was okay with their breaking up in the third book, but Piper was doing what she was doing in this one changes everything. 

There’s also the matter of Apollo’s little conclusion. I felt it was a little cliche as well, and I think it would have been best to end the story with his reunion with Meg. 

But—I’m no expert. Maybe you should read the book and decide for yourself.