Rick Riordan's love affair with Greek and Roman gods and demigods would continue in "The Dark Prophecy", the second book in "The Trials of Apollo" series. Some readers might wonder why the author chose Indianapolis as his setting. It was a horizontal landscape with hardly any eye-catching mountain peaks in the distance. They must read several chapters until they would come across Apollo's observation about the metropolis reminding him of Peloponnese.
Peloponnese is a large peninsula in southern Greece, separated from the northern part (of the country) by the Gulf of Corinth. The first Olympic Games were held in Olympia, located in the western part of that region. The southeastern part of Laconia was once the home of the Spartans. You may be thinking why Riordan haven't introduced King Leonidas and his men. The Olympians were insufferable, wanting all the attention for themselves. They rather let the demigods do their dirty deeds for them. (That's what children were for.) At this point, fans could be suspecting that the saga involving Greek and Roman demigods wouldn't end after the publication of the final book of "The Trials of Apollo". There are tens, if not hundreds, of interesting characters that turn Greek and Roman myths into a literary masterpiece. "The Trials of Apollo" series provide samples, turning the demigods (that are introduced in "Percy Jackson and the Olympians" and "The Heroes of Olympus") into recurring characters.
Thalia Grace, the daughter of Zeus who joined the Hunters of Artemis, would be seen in several chapters of "The Dark Prophecy". It wasn't possible for the punk teenager to appear in more pages, as this series was all about Apollo. As the title would suggest, the god of the sun confronted unresolved issues involving his children. As (human teenager) Lester Papadopoulos, he was forced to eat humble pie.
Saved by the bell
Apollo, Leo Valdez, and Calypso got a hostile welcome in the thoroughfares of Indianapolis. Blemmyae, a tribe of headless people with faces on their chests, were disguised as ordinary citizens. The emperor ordered the capture of the trio. Luckily for the three, these hideous characters were surprisingly polite to the fault. There won't be time to ponder about it if Riordan was thinking of someone in particular. They seek refuge in Waystation, which was managed by Emmie and Josephine. Apollo recognized these two middle-aged women right away. (Hermithea and Parthenos jumped off the cliff after their father, King Staphylus of Naxos, wanted to kill them. Apollo granted them immortality.)
There was another reason behind the structure's existence in the Midwest. The Cave of Trophonius was located on the outskirts of the city. Trophonius was Apollo's (demigod) son, who was turned into an oracle after his death. He would terrify those who seek him, and for a (bitter) reason. The then young demigod was forced to kill his half-brother, Agamethus, after a failed attempt to raid King Kyrieus' treasury. Apollo didn't answer Trophonius's plea (to free Agamethus), so it was a grudge encounter between the two.
The oracle was described as an island in the middle of a subterranean lake. Water moccasins covered the surface, and they were like spaghetti left too long in boiling water. Snake would be seen in Biblical verses and legends, but some readers may be reminded of a memorable episode in "The Hobbit". Riordan would keep his modern update on Greek and Roman myth very entertaining through references to pop culture. As a matter of fact, Commodus, the son of Marcus Aurelius, was described as the Justin Beiber of antiquity.
Some chapters of "The Dark Prophecy" were outrageous while others were painful and somber. Apollo, who couldn't live without the spotlight, would find himself in the headlines for the wrong reasons. Everyone wanted his head, but some goddesses were intervening in the sky. His twin sister was one of them. (The Hunters didn't really come to Indiana to look for Teumessian Fox, which once ravaged the city of Thebes.) Lester couldn't have survived the Cave of Trophonius without the possible help of Three Fates. It turned out that his good looks (or shameless flirting) somehow helped him. What was also special about this book was Riordan's introduction of exotic monsters, which may or may not be a cause for debate.
For instance, Apollo, Leo and Meg McCaffrey, (demigod) daughter of Demeter, encountered the Carthaginian Serpent outside the emperor's palace. (It was found under the Soldiers' and Sailors' Monument, the largest monument in Indianapolis.) It was a 120-foot snake that emerged from the River Bagrada in North Africa. (Roman General) Marcus Atilius Regulus and his troops confronted the huge reptile during the First Punic War, prompting some skeptics to wonder if the snake was really that big and long. It would be hard to tell. Then again, it seemed similar to the gigantic squids that terrified conquistadors. Whether it was an accurate or exaggerated account, this provided the adrenaline rush that turned the book into a roller coaster ride.
It won't come as a surprise if some readers finish the book in a day or two. They would be eager for "The Burning Maze", the third book in the series. Apollo and Meg will travel to the Southwest, where they must seek the Erythraean Sibyl. It's another ancient (Greek) oracle, who issues her prophecies in acrostics (or word puzzles). She might be a distant relative of the Sphinx. The duo will also meet the third emperor in the triumvirate, whom Apollo didn't like him at all. If Commodus brought him deep pain, then this one may do worse.
One year is a long time to wait (for the next book), so read (and reread) those chapters on second chances, demigods who want to know what it's like to be a high school student, and instances of dumb luck. Some people (or gods) don't deserve it, which Apollo would realize the hard (and exhausting) way.