Plagued by recurring nightmares where a ghostly voice is calling out for help, the son of Hades Nico di Angelo must journey back into Tartarus in order to save a friend from eternal torment. But it wouldn’t be a Camp Half-Blood quest if he went alone, so joining him is his boyfriend, Will Solace. The Sun and the Star gives Nico his chance to shine (no pun intended) after more than a decade of being dragged along on other people’s adventures.
Co-written by PJO series creator Rick Riordan and Mark Oshiro, The Sun and the Star gives Nico his own quest. After months of dreaming of the Titan Bob (formerly Iapetus) calling out to him from Tartarus, he finally receives a prophecy that tells him that he must rescue the Titan. The prophecy also warns that he must leave something of equal value behind, so when his boyfriend vows to accompany him on his quest, he worries that he will be forced to abandon Will to Tartarus.
I will admit that I’ve not yet read the Trials of Apollo series, despite owning all of the books. They have languished on my To Be Read pile for years, and even knowing this book was coming out, I didn’t make time to read them. So I don’t know much about Will as a character, and as it’s been years since I read Percy Jackson and the Olympians or Heroes of Olympus, I consider this my first real introduction to the character, and to his and Nico’s relationship.
In general, I enjoyed the book. It’s important, especially in middle-grade fiction, to normalize both queer characters and conversations about sexuality. As such, I liked that Nico and Will’s relationship was such an essential part of the narrative, and that they realized that relationships take work. You don’t just choose someone and that’s it, you’re done. Relationships involve constantly choosing to be with a person, recognizing when you’re not being fair, understanding that they’re going to have a different perspective than you.
I think this is a vital lesson for teenagers in particular to learn; relationships can be easy, but sometimes they are hard. If it’s worth it, then you need to work through it.
The Sun and the Star is the literal personification of “the grumpy one is soft for the sunshine one”, which is one of my favorite fanfic (or literary) tropes. It also, sometimes to its detriment, reads very much like fanfiction. There were moments that felt very out of character, or not really in line with the tone of the series up to this point.
For example, there are a lot of pop culture references, when I don’t remember that really being a thing before. The point is that these books can take place at any time, and pop culture references date it. This book also gets a little more ham-fisted with its morals and themes, whereas I feel like the previous books gave the reader a little bit more credit to figure things out on their own. There are moments when I feel like it contradicted the series’ canon, and inflated characters’ connections to serve the narrative. (Were Nico and Piper really that close?)
Also, I don’t want to spoil anything, but there is a moment near the end that really squicked me out. I just really did not like it at all. No one gets hurt or anything, but it does center around consent and I just was not a fan.
But, as I said, I really did enjoy the book. It has a lot of the elements of classic PJO. We delve into Greek Mythology. We are encouraged to reexamine our perceptions of things. It is a little more light-hearted than I think the series has been so far, especially given the heavy material that it is exploring. But it has all the adventure elements and character moments that made me really fall in love with the series.
Nico has been through so much for as young as he is, and The Sun and the Star really gives him a chance to deal with his trauma, his insecurities, and his feelings of guilt. He shows a lot of strength and resilience and it’s so, so important to me that such a traumatized character is actually given a happy ending. You would not be surprised how often that does not happen.
If anything, this has finally inspired me to finally dust off my Trials of Apollo books.
And don’t forget that an all-new Percy Jackson book, Percy Jackson and the Chalice of the Gods, is scheduled to release this September!
Author: Jamie Sugah
Jamie has a BA in English with a focus in creative writing from The Ohio State University. She self-published her first novel, The Perils of Long Hair on a Windy Day, which is available through Amazon. She is currently an archivist and lives in New York City with her demon ninja vampire cat. She covers television, books, movies, anime, and conventions in the NYC area.
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