New Percy Jackson book The Sun and the Star is a dark, hilarious love story

The Sun and the Star by Rick Riordan and Mark Oshiro. Image: Disney Hyperion.
The Sun and the Star by Rick Riordan and Mark Oshiro. Image: Disney Hyperion. /

In The Sun and the Star by Rick Riordan and Mark Oshiro, two of the most beloved characters in the Percy Jackson universe learn to embrace their darkness alongside their light and love.

A standalone novel, The Sun and the Star is a story about Nico di Angelo and Will Solace, the sons of Hades and Apollo respectively. The two have been officially dating for nearly a year when an epic, brutal quest into the depths of the Underworld exposes their dark sides and brings them closer than ever.

The book is co-authored by Riordan and Oshiro, an award-winning Latinx writer of science-fiction and fantasy young adult and middle-grade books often starring queer characters. It’s the newest story on the timeline and is set after the events of the Trials of Apollo series.

What is The Sun and the Star about?

Like previous Percy Jackson books, The Sun and the Star toes the line between middle grade (8-12) and young adult (12-18). But no matter the official recommended age range, The Sun and the Star is a thrilling and heartwarming read for all ages, even those well into their 20s and 30s.

There is, of course, a hefty bit of nostalgia here. A generation of fans have grown to love the world of Percy Jackson since the release of The Lightning Thief in 2005. Millions of people have grown up reading and loving this world of reimagined Greek gods and myths, and getting a breakout story featuring two beloved characters is a momentous occasion.

For those wondering about required reading before The Sun and the Star, the book is very much enjoyable even without being caught up on the world of Percy Jackson. The main story follows Nico and Will as they venture into Tartarus to rescue a friend in desperate need of help. Along the way, they both face demons (literal and inner) as their relationship is pushed to its limits.

As a child of Hades, Nico’s second home is the Underworld. He’s also been through so much trauma in his life that he often pushes people away for fear that they will eventually leave. Will is nearly Nico’s opposite. As a son of Apollo, Will is a literal ray of sunshine and a passionate healer. He also deeply cares for his “little ball of darkness” boyfriend.

But even as their relationship continues to grow, the darkness of the Underworld and the monsters of Tartarus test its limits by bringing out Nico and Will’s worst traits. In the end, these trials make Nico and Will’s love story all the more beautiful.

The Sun and the Star explores serious themes while keeping things light

The Underworld, and in turn Hades and Nico, have long been misunderstood. The world of the dead, its ruler, and the boy who was born of it have been considered “bad” throughout the Percy Jackson books specifically and in popular depictions of Greek myth in general.

The Sun and the Star rips apart the notion of a two-dimensional Underworld. Themes include the value of having empathy for even the most monstrous of beings and the importance of embracing emotions, even dark ones like grief, fear and anger. Having these darker feelings doesn’t mean someone needs to be “fixed” or healed; these emotions can and do exist alongside ones like love and compassion. The book tackles topics like like grief, PTSD, and LGBTQ acceptance in a way that’s understandable for younger readers and deeply affecting for older fans.

The book’s dedication reads, “To all the Nicos, Wills, Pipers, and everyone in between: this is for you. May you shine as bright as the sun and the stars.” It’s a touching dedication highlighting the importance of including stories like Nico’s and Will’s and Piper’s in middle-grade literature. The significance of having a book for younger readers starring two queer characters cannot be overstated. This is especially true during a time when public school libraries around the country are having books removed from shelves because of LGBTQ content.

In traditional Percy Jackson fashion, there are plenty of hilarious moments, cheesy jokes, and Easter eggs for longtime fans. You will never look at Cocoa Puffs, Care Bears, and Lil Nas X’s “Montero” music video in the same way again.

The core of The Sun and the Star is about balance. Finding lightness and humor in dark situations is a deeply human trait, as is struggling with our inner demons. These themes may be heavy, but they’re handled extraordinarily well in The Sun and the Star, which feels like an essential book for the age range it’s written for and older readers alike.

The Sun and the Star: A Nico di Angelo Adventure by Rick Riordan and Mark Oshiro is now available wherever you get books.

Next. All 10 Percy Jackson and Heroes of Olympus books, ranked worst to best. dark

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