Being a teenager isn’t easy. Being a teenager in love, even less so. But when you also happen to be the son of Hades and your boyfriend is the son of Apollo difficult doesn’t begin to cover it. In The Sun and The Star (set in the world of Percy Jackson) by Rick Riordan and Mark Oshiro, Nico Di Angelo isn’t used to being happy. But since he’s started dating Will Solace he’s been feeling that way more and more often. However, as the son of Hades, happiness isn’t really in the cards and Nico has been waiting for the other shoe to drop.
And it does, in the form of a quest. A very persistent prophecy and a voice calling out to Nico in his dreams demand that Nico travel to the underworld for a rescue mission. You see, Nico and his friends left someone behind the last time they saved the world. And now it’s time to make things right. So Nico and Will set off. But the final line of the prophesy paints a dark picture of victory. In order to save his friend Nico will need to “leave something of equal value behind”. Will Nico be able to live with himself if he does?
[Warning: My review of The Sun and The Star contains some spoilers!]
No such thing as quiet time at Camp Half-Blood
The summer is winding down and the campers are leaving Camp Half-Blood until next year. But Nico Di Angelo and Will Solace have requested to stay at camp for the winter. They’re hoping for a nice quiet winter spent getting to really know each other. But of course, the Fates have something else in mind.
Nico has been hearing a voice calling him in his dreams for months now. He’s been trying to ignore it but he knows that eventually he’ll have to help his old friend Bob. Bob was an evil titian but during the last end-of-the-world crisis he was washed in the River Lethe and forgot who he was. When he emerged he was a new, happy, peaceful guy, helping Percy and Annabeth escape Tartarus and save the world. But as he was helping them he get left behind. Nico knows that the right thing to do is save him but Tartarus is nothing to sneeze at so he’s been putting it off.
But now Rachel Dare, the current Oracle, can’t stop repeating a prophecy. The prophecy is for Nico and it goes…
“Go forth and find the one who calls out your name,
Who suffers and despairs for refusing to remain;
There leave something of equal value behind,
Or your body and soul no one will ever find.”
Talk about ominous right? Especially the line about leaving being something of equal value being. That is what has Nico most worried. And of course, his boyfriend, Will, insists upon coming with him. It has “swap Will for Bob” written all over it in Nico’s mind. But there’s no way he’s going to do that. Right?… Right?
The child of Apollo meets the Underworld in The Sun and The Star
Nico is worried about more than the meaning of the prophecy when it comes to taking Will to the Underworld. Will is a child of Apollo, the Sun God. And he’s going to the one place where the sun doesn’t shine. The Underworld is already a difficult place for demigods, and there have been literally only three demigods to ever return from Tartarus.
But it will be extra hard for Will to be so deep in the Underworld because of his connection to the sun. Indeed, as he and Nico work their way through the Underworld looking for Bob, Will gets steadily weaker. Thank goodness for the advice that Annabeth and Percy gave Will and Nico before they left. By reminding each other of who they are and sharing stories of their lives the two are able to keep going.
Couples therapy or a trip to Tartarus, both work!
It’s obvious that Nico and Will care about each other a lot. But they have their issues (who doesn’t?). Nico grew up in the 1940s when feelings like he has for Will were unacceptable. So he still has a hard time dealing with the fact that their relationship exists at all. And Will loves Nico, but he sees the darkness in Nico as something to heal instead of something to accept. At first, it seems that the trip will destroy their relationship. Everything that one does hurts or annoys the other.
But as they venture deeper into Tartarus they are stripped down to their essential selves. And this allows them to really see each other for who they are. It causes all kinds of uncomfortable feelings, thoughts, and truths to surface. The boys will have to deal with all that emotional trauma. Will their relationship become even stronger or will they break under the pressure?
Normalizing gay relationships
What I really loved about The Sun and The Star was how normal Nico and Will’s relationship was. Like any teenage love, there was plenty of romance and sappiness, balanced by a (un)healthy dose of angst and fear. Nico might have been dealing with his homosexuality and the juxtaposition of how things were when he was young and how they are now, but most of the actual drama was about him and Will fitting together as two people, not as two men.
Nico is darkness and Will is light and finding a way for these two to coexist is to focus of their relationship issues. By not focusing on the gay aspect of Nico and Will’s relationship it made their whole relationship seem normal and acceptable. The problem is never that they’re gay, it’s that they’re the sun and the star trying to exist at the same time.
I know that some people still struggle to come out or with difficult feelings around their (or others) feelings about homosexuality. So of course we still need stories that deal with that aspect of same-sex relationships. But the more stories that we have where the relationship and personalities of the people in the relationship are the focus instead of the genders of the people, the more homosexuality becomes normalized and accepted in society.
I feel like Riordan and Oshiro did a very good job of that in The Sun and The Star. Of course, it’s not the first time that either of these authors have tackled LGBTQIA issues in their writing so their competency isn’t surprising, just appreciated.
Another great installment from Rick Riordan in the world of Percy Jackson
Rick Riordan is a very busy author. Since the first Percy Jackson book came out in 2005 he’s expanded Percy’s world through dozens of books across multiple series. For the latest addition, The Sun and The Star, he got some help from Mark Oshiro to really give Nico and Will’s relationship an authentic feel.
Some people may feel that this book is “aimed” at gay people but I don’t see any reason that everyone can’t enjoy this book. Will and Nico have some huge obstacles to work through, I mean a child of the Underworld and a child of the Sun aren’t coming together without some bumps along the way. But their problems are ones that we can all relate to. In the end, we all just want someone to love us for who we are.
My Rating: 8/10
The Sun and The Star by Rick Riordan and Mark Oshiro is available now! Will you be checking it out? Let us know on Twitter or in The Cosmic Circus Discord. And if you haven’t already, check out our Cosmic Cuisine for S’more cookies, inspired by this book!