The series by charting the Greek myth of creation in Zeus, moving through the original Olympic gods and then, bridging the gap with outsider Aphrodite, on to the next generation with Ares and now Apollo. The inside cover that once featured a simple three-tier family tree has since evolved into a forest of demigods and heroes at Troy. In the midst of it all rests a bold name for one of the boldest gods: Apollo.
O’Connor tells the story of Apollo in a brilliant manner through the god’s half-sisters, the Muses. Each part is told in the style of the individual goddess. Kalliope uses poetic epithets like “Far-shooting Apollo,” Euterpe, Terpsichore, and Erato give power to their stories through the images of dance, and Clio, muse of History, supplies ample details and commentary. The Muses make an excellent structure to bring together the drama filled, myriad stories about Apollo.
Apollo is an especially complicated god, filled with passion as befits the god of music and poetry, although his loves tend to have brutal fates culminating with them turning into plants, such as Hyacinth and the laurel tree. Apollo is the god of healing as well as of plagues and great violence with his terrifyingly powerful bow, which the comic shows at work slaying the oracular monster Python, earning Apollo yet another patronage as he usurps prophecy. O’Connor notes that Apollo would later become a sun god, although originally he was more a god of light.
Through the course of the book, Apollo is born under dire circumstances as Hera curses his mother to prevent her from giving birth to her children by Zeus on dry land. Pursued by a giant serpent, she finally gains a reprieve as the island of Delos is summoned from the bottom of the sea, rising up to just a few inches beneath the waves. There Artemis is born easily, and then, after nine days of labor after, Apollo is greeted by the shining sun.
The rest of Apollo’s life follows with equal drama. He pursues women, literally in some cases, to little avail. He competes in a musical challenge with a mouthy satyr. His son Asklepios invents medicine and becomes such an effective doctor that he cures death itself, which unfortunately the gods cannot allow as they alone are meant to be immortal. No one who crosses paths with Apollo remains the same, and in many cases their lives are ended because of it.
With adventure, drama, and even some dark comedy, Apollo is an excellent read for any student of Greek myth as well as all those seeking good stories of the past. The rich tapestry of the Olympians series continues to come together as gods from previous books are shown continuing their own stories, giving touches to themes such as Poseidon’s love-hate relationship with his Olympian brother, Zeus’s constant infidelity, and Athena’s own dealings with a hubristic mortal, Arachne. Whether as part of the classroom or simply entertainment, Apollo is a must read.