Apollo is an Olympian God, son of Zeus, sister to Artemis. He is a dreamer, a singer, a poet, and destined to be the Sun God, golden and beautiful and prophesied to do great things. Apollo’s life has been carefully overseen by the zealous and jealous eye of his father. For daring to love another young man beyond what was proper, Apollo is sent to serve Helios, a titan of the sun whose chariot of horses Apollo now attends, the same titan Apollo will one day kill and replace.
It is there, in service to Helios, that Apollo meets a blinded, half-mortal hunter named Orion, son of Poseidon, who has been unjustly accused of rape and was blinded by the girl’s father. He has come in hopes that Helios will deign to heal him, but the titan refuses. Apollo, moved by Orion’s beauty and his hatred for Helios, attempts to save the young man’s eyes … and in the process, finds himself overcome with a deep, burning passion for the hunter.
This is Orion’s story, told through the words and watchful eyes of Apollo who is, it must be said, a most unreliable narrator. As an Olympian, he’s vain, proud, temperamental, narcissistic, and so very, very angry. He frets over his hatred for Helios, but makes no effort to either find peace with the titan or to actually challenge him. He just endures the beatings and the lashes of his whip and sulks and frets and broods. He snipes at his father, but does not face him. He reassures himself of how splendid he is, how marvelous, how wonderful … and if you don’t like Apollo in the first half of the book, you won’t like him in the second because, like all Greek gods, he is unchanging.
Apollo is Apollo, always and forever. While he feels sorry for himself for the death of his first lover, his emotions — shallow and poetic — feel more about his loss and his loneliness rather than anything to do with the young man in question. And once Apollo sees Orion, his attention is quickly turned in the hunter’s direction. This is not a character flaw, necessarily; it’s just who and what Apollo is. A god. He’s not mortal and doesn’t feel like mortals feel, doesn’t understand emotions the way mortals do. He is a god of passion and art, not love or loss or introspection.
The story is engaging enough, but I was more caught by how well the author portrayed Apollo, Zeus, and even Artemis. They are not human in any respect, being primordial creatures of id, shaped by human interpretations and desires. The relationship between Apollo and Orion is a bit slapdash, all surface and physicality with wild, intense declarations of eternal love and loyalty befitting an Olympian, but because it’s all filtered through Apollo, it’s up to the reader to determine if they fully take his words as truth, or interpret them into something else.
I enjoyed this book, but it might not be for everyone. It’s not a romance and it’s not even really a relationship, though there is one, and several sex scenes. But it’s more a character study of a character that will never grow or change or learn, not really. The constant posturing and the grandiose and flamboyant declarations of greatness that Apollo spouts can be off-putting, and if he weren’t a Grecian god, I might have found them to be too much or slightly on the side of caricature, but it fits for the being Apollo is. This is one where I’d suggest trying a sample first, if you’re on the fence. You’ll either enjoy the style and the prose, or you won’t. I certainly think it’s worth a read, especially if you ever went through a Greek mythology phase.