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Book Review

Hidden Oracle by Rick Riordan has been reviewed by Focus on the Family ‘s marriage and parenting magazine. It is the first book in the “The Trials of Apollo” series.

Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

Other Negative Elements


Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

The Greek god Apollo crash-lands in a pile of garbage in a New York City alley. Apollo knows that his father, Zeus, is punishing him, but his mortal mind can’t remember any details. The last two times he was punished with mortality, Apollo had to work for a demigod until he’d completed a set of trials and Zeus allowed him to return to Olympus.

Before Apollo can decide what to do, two thugs appear in the alley and attack him on the orders of an unknown boss. The thugs are coming at Apollo with a knife and a bike chain when a young girl appears. She is an orphaned demigod. She uses her power to pelt the thugs with garbage and chase them off. The girl introduces herself as Meg and claims Apollo’s service. The two set off to find Percy Jackson and seek his help.

Percy agrees to take them to Camp Half-Blood, where Meg can train with other demigods and Apollo can seek the help of his friends Chiron, the centaur camp activities director, and Rachel Dare, the current Oracle of Delphi. A group of plague spirits follows the trio, but they manage to defeat the spirits. After the fight, Percy returns home. Meg and Apollo continue through an enchanted forest. Apollo hears loud voices and feels faint. They make it to the camp just before Apollo passes out.

Apollo wakes up, and his wounds are treated. Then he is taken to speak with Chiron. Apollo learns that a number of campers have gone missing, and communication to the camp has stopped working, cutting the campers off from the outside world. They decide that the only way to return life to normal is for Apollo to take back Delphi from the snake monster, Python, a creature Apollo defeated in an earlier quest.

As they try to come up with a plan, Meg and Apollo join in with the daily training and activities of the campers. This includes participating in a three-legged death race. Before the race begins, Apollo sees a camper named Sherman wandering off toward the enchanted forest, appearing to be in a trance. Apollo and another camper manage to get to Sherman and lead him to safety before he disappears, too.

The incident gives Apollo an idea about what happened to the campers that disappeared earlier, but he doesn’t have a chance to tell Chiron before the three-legged death race begins. Meg and Apollo are paired up for the race and are released into the Labyrinth, a deadly living maze. They must find three golden apples and return to camp to win the race.

During the race, the Labyrinth takes Apollo and Meg to Delphi, where Python has taken residence. They hide and listen as Python and his master, a man called the Beast, discuss their plans. The Beast wants to control all the Oracles, and his next step is to burn down the grove of Dodona. Meg and Apollo escape undetected and return to camp to discover that two more campers have disappeared.

Rachel Elizabeth Dare arrives with news about a company called Triumvirate Holdings. Three unknown men run the powerful company, and Apollo is convinced that the Beast is one of them. Knowing the only chance to fight the Beast is to find the grove of Dodona and use it for themselves, Meg and Apollo go into the enchanted forest to find the hidden campers and the grove.

The pair comes across a geyser god, who knows where the grove is. Before they can convince him to share its location, myrmekes, which are giant ant monsters, attack them. Apollo fights the monsters, but Meg is captured. As Apollo is heading back to camp to regroup, Rhea, the queen of the Titans, appears. She tells him that the Beast is the Roman emperor Nero, who became immortal because he never faded from mankind’s memory — his notorious evil and cruel deeds kept him alive. She warns Apollo that Triumvirate Holdings is planning an attack on the camp.

Back at camp, Apollo warns the demigods about Nero’s planned attack before setting out to save Meg from the myrmekes. He finds Meg in one of the creatures’ nests, which also happens to be where the grove is hidden. After freeing Meg, the two stumble upon the myrmeke queen. Apollo still possesses some of his godly abilities and sings to the queen. The song garners her favor, and they are allowed to pass to the surface into a glade. There they find a gateway into the grove.

In the glade, they find the missing demigods tied up to large stakes and dosed with accelerant, ready to be made into human torches. Before Apollo or Meg can help them, Nero appears with two guards. Nero is Meg’s stepfather, and he uses her to command Apollo to open the gateway. Once the way is open, Nero starts a fire to destroy the grove. Apollo saves the unconscious demigods but can’t put out the fire.

Suddenly a group of dryads runs from the grove and sacrifices themselves to put out the fire. Apollo tries to talk to Meg after the revelation that she’s been working for Nero, but Meg runs away. While in the grove, Apollo receives a prophecy about another Oracle who is in danger.

Apollo and the freed demigods make it back to Camp Half-Blood in time to see a Colossus made in the image of Nero attacking the camp. The battle seems almost lost when Percy Jackson arrives and helps give Apollo the opportunity to create a plague arrow and shoot it into the Colossus’ ear. The giant sneezes and his head comes off, winning the battle.

Apollo tells the campers about the prophecy he received in the Glade of Dodona. A demigod named Leo and an ex-goddess named Calypso agree to go with Apollo on his mission to save the Oracle of Trophonius and find Meg.

Christian Beliefs


Other Belief Systems

This book presents a reality where the gods of mythology are real and use their magic to influence the events of our world. Greek mythology is the focus of the novel with gods such as Zeus and Hades. The children of these gods are known as demigods. The demigods are gifted with magical powers that correlate to their god or goddess parent. Humans and demigods pray to different gods.

Sacrifices, worship and prayers are what give the gods their power and allow them to continue to exist. This same principal allows the most notorious Roman emperors to become immortal and survive for centuries.

The past and the future for the gods and demigods revolve around prophecies and the Oracles who provide the prophecies. Prophecies not only shape the future, they allow it to happen.

A demigod dies prior to the beginning of the novel, but he manages to come back to life and escape the clutches of Hades. It is believed that the Titan Prometheus created mankind out of clay.

Authority Roles

Zeus is the king of Olympus and Apollo’s father. He punishes Apollo by taking his immortality away and sending him to Earth without his memories or powers.

Chiron is the centaur director of Camp Half-Blood where the young demigods go to learn how to control their powers. Apollo seeks Chiron’s help and advice as he tries to figure out how to get his god status back.

Nero takes Meg in after he kills her father. He becomes her stepfather. He takes advantage of her youth and vulnerability to twist her mind and emotions so that she is completely under his control. He manipulates her to the point where she can’t tell that Nero is evil. Meg betrays Apollo and the others because of this manipulation.


Two teenage thugs beat up Apollo. They kick him in the ribs and the head until he blacks out. When he comes to, they hit him over the head with a bag of garbage. The attack leaves Apollo bleeding and in pain.

The demigods take part in a training exercise called the three-legged death race. The demigods pair off in teams and two of their legs are tied together. They enter a deadly labyrinth and must find three golden apples before returning to camp. Anyone who makes it back alive is considered a winner. During the exercise, a boy’s leg is sawed off. Beyond the mention of the blood on the camp doctor’s scrubs, the injury is not described. The last time the exercise was held, a boy had his arms sawed off, but they were successfully reattached.

Apollo and the demigods battle a number of different monsters and use weapons including swords, arrows and spears. Blood is mentioned in relation to a number of minor and a few serious injuries. A grain spirit bites off the head of a plague spirit.

Nero is an evil man who tortured Christians when he was the emperor of Rome. Apollo remembers a dinner party Nero hosted, where he burned Christians as torches to light the gathering. Nero commands one of his guards to fall on his own spear to prove that his followers are completely loyal. He stops the man just before the guard kills himself.


Two teenage demigods are in a homosexual relationship. They hold hands and touch each other affectionately. Apollo mentions that he has had many lovers both male and female. One of Apollo’s children was born of a relationship he had with a man. No details are given about how the child was conceived by two men.

A colossal statue that looks like a naked Apollo attacks Camp Half-Blood. No descriptions of the statue’s body are given other than to say that it was modeled after Apollo’s perfection.

Discussion Topics

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Additional Comments/Notes

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Episode Reviews



Readability Age Range

9 to 12


Rick Riordan






Record Label



Disney Hyperion, an imprint of Disney Book Group


On Video

Year Published





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