The Sun and the Star by Rick Riordan and Mark Oshiro is a standalone novel about Nico di Angelo and Will Solace’s descent into Tartarus. What do we know so far?
The Nico di Angelo standalone novel has been on our radar for over a year now, but excitement about the forthcoming title has not waned. In fact, it’s only grown in the wake of a few more details coming to light.
Is it strange to say I know exactly where I was when the book was announced? I was sitting in my living room, watching a livestream of Rick Riordan’s virtual Daughter of the Deep book tour. He always does a fun presentation at every stop before answering questions and making announcements. This time, he revealed he’s been working on a new book set within the Percy Jackson universe.
This was a pretty big deal because after the Trials of Apollo series finished, he planned on going into semi-retirement and focusing on earning his doctorate in Celtic mythology. That meant no more Percy Jackson books for a while.
But then then everything changed when Hollywood
attacked called. After turning down his admission into Harvard in exchange for becoming an executive producer on Percy Jackson and the Olympians, he’s gifted us with not one but two novels set within the Percy Jackson universe.
I’ve already written a primer for the Riordanverse, which includes a look at all of Rick Riordan’s upcoming projects. I talk a bit about both The Sun and the Star and The Chalice of the Gods there, but since the former is coming out much sooner, this article is dedicated to breaking down everything we know so far and taking a guess and what we think will happen in this Nico di Angelo adventure novel. (Spoiler warning if you haven’t read Trials of Apollo yet.)
Entertainment Weekly got to announce the exclusive on October 6, 2021, along with exclusive artwork of Nico and Will.
The biggest shock, aside from finally getting a Nico di Angelo solo book, was that Rick would be co-writing the book with another author. In his October 7 blog post, he writes, “I have never co-written a novel with anyone. I have never invited another writer into the Percy Jackson world to do their own take on my characters in this way. But for the Nico and Will novel, this seems incredibly important, and Mark is just the person to do it! This is not a ‘ghost-writing’ or ‘assistant writer’ situation. This is a full 50-50 partnership in which we share equal credit and an equal advance, and I can’t wait for you to see the results. Already, Mark has amazed me with their beautiful writing about our favorite guys, Nico and Will. So very excited to continue the project!”
Mark Oshiro‘s credits include Anger Is a Gift; Each of Us a Desert; The Insiders; You Only Live Once, David Bravo; Star Wars Hunters: Battle for the Arena; and Into the Light (March 2023), in addition to several short stories across a variety of anthologies.
Needless to say, Mark has already proven themselves to be an incredible writer in their own right, just in case you didn’t want to take Rick’s word for it. Aside from that, however, Mark has also stated time and time again that they’re huge fans of the Percy Jackson universe, and of Nico and Will (aka Solangelo) in particular. I have no doubt in my mind that this fan-favorite character (and the fan-favorite pairing) is in good hands.
The implications of Rick having a co-writer could be fantastic for the Percy Jackson universe, as it could allow him to keep adding to canon while simultaneously taking on other projects, like his executive producer role for the Percy Jackson and the Olympians TV show coming to Disney+ in 2024. Put me down for definitely interested in any and all upcoming Rick Riordan books, co-written or not.
The process with the Solangelo book’s manuscript had Rick writing the initial outline, which Mark then expanded upon. Next, Mark wrote the first draft, which was then sent to their editor, Stephanie Lurie, who passed it onto Rick, so he could add his thoughts and refine the voice of the characters (since he was the originator, and all that). Then the book would be passed back and forth until both were happy with the final version.
Come January 2022, Rick was still working on his first pass through the book, stating, “As for me, I am spending my days in Tartarus, sunbathing by the River Phlegethon, doing regenerative yoga with the regenerating monsters, taking scenic hikes through the blistered, tortured landscape, and enjoying that fresh poisonous air with my buddies Nico and Will. It’s such a joy to work on the manuscript Mark Oshiro has written and adding my own voice to theirs. The book won’t be published until 2023, but wow, I think you’re going to love it. Inviting Mark into this world has been like getting to share my Lego set with a genius friend who can show me totally new ways to build cool stuff out of the same blocks! Stay tuned for more info…”
The specific mention of the River Phlegethon is interesting, as there are several important rivers in the Underworld, such as the Rivers Styx and Lethe, which have been prominent in this universe in the past. According to Percy Jackson’s Greek Gods, the River of Fire flowed from the Underworld and over the edge of the pits of Tartarus as a waterfall. It was designed to keep its victims alive so they could suffer forever, but some legends stated that the river could also burn away your sins, allowing you to eventually go free. Is this a clue to the plot of the book, I wonder?
On September 28, 2022, Rick wrote about the book on his blog in much more detail. We found out the title of the Solangelo book will be The Sun and the Star: A Nico di Angelo Adventure.
Pretty quickly, fans picked up on the reference to the last lines from the Titan Iapetus (aka Bob) in The House of Hades, which read, “Tell the sun and the stars hello for me.” This also plays on the fact that Will is a child of Apollo, the sun god. But if Will is the sun, does that make Nico the star? And if so, what does that mean!?
We also got the Sun and the Star cover reveal, which you can see below:
On the cover (by Daughter of the Deep artist Khadijah Khatib), we see Nico and Will, front and center. They’re clearly in the Underworld, surrounded by the noxious vapors Rick described above. We’ve previously seen a version of the Underworld with the House of Hades cover, though that depicted the Doors of Death. This is clearly a different structure, but whether it’s the way out of the Underworld, Hades’ palace, or something else entirely is yet to be seen.
The figures in the center are much more interesting, however, because their expressions and movements tell a story. Both look as though they’re mid-stride, with Nico’s coat whipping out around him. They’re holding hands, though Nico’s fingers aren’t laced with Will’s. Is he trying to pull away? The expression on his face is one of concern, and he’s pointing toward the doors ahead of them. Is he trying to tell Will to leave the Underworld, or is he explaining how dangerous their mission is about to get? Either way, Will looks much calmer than his boyfriend, and we can only imagine that whatever Nico is trying to say, Will’s answer is that he’ll be by his side, no matter what.
The official synopsis for the book reads:
As the son of Hades, Nico di Angelo has been through so much, from the premature deaths of his mother and sister, to being outed against his will, to losing his friend Jason during the trials of Apollo. But there is a ray of sunshine in his life—literally: his boyfriend, Will Solace, the son of Apollo. Together the two demigods can overcome any obstacle or foe. At least, that’s been the case so far…
Now Nico is being plagued by a voice calling out to him from Tartarus, the lowest part of the Underworld. He thinks he knows who it is: a reformed Titan named Bob whom Percy and Annabeth had to leave behind when they escaped Hades’s realm. Nico’s dreams and Rachel Dare’s latest prophecy leave little doubt in Nico’s mind that Bob is in some kind of trouble. Nico has to go on this quest, whether Mr. D and Chiron like it or not. And of course Will insists on coming with. But can a being made of light survive in the darkest part of the world? and what does the prophecy mean that Nico will have to “leave something of equal value behind?”
Nico will have to face demons both internal and external as his relationship with Will is tested to the core in this standalone adventure featuring two of the most popular characters in the Percy Jackson saga.
The line “can a being made of light survive in the darkest part of the world” also lends itself to the theory that Nico may be telling Will to leave the Underworld for his own safety. Of course, Will would never leave Nico behind to deal with this quest on his own, and I imagine this argument and the trials ahead of them will be the reason why their relationship is “tested to the core.”
The more concerning line, in my opinion, is that the prophecy states Nico will have to “leave something of equal value behind.” Prophecies are rarely straightforward, and though we’re led to believe this could be Will, I doubt that’s actually the case. Instead of a person, it could be something more abstract, like Nico’s memories, part of his powers, or a weapon of some sort. There’s always a trick and a twist, but unfortunately, we won’t know what it is until we get our hands on the book on May 2, 2023.
On the plus side, Rick made sure to address concerns about character deaths in The Sun and the Star, stating, “I can’t give away the plot of the book, but I can assure you that Mark feels just as strongly about these characters as you do. I am quite fond of them myself. What will happen exactly, I can’t say, but I would point out that fan worries are (almost) always overblown. People have been spreading rumors that Percy Jackson was going to die since 2005, and he’s still alive and kicking at the ripe old age of (checks notes) yep, still seventeen. Past that, you’ll have to wait and read the book!”
Okay, so that’s not a definitive answer as to whether or not these characters will survive (and neither is this Goodreads answer from earlier this year), but I’d be quite surprised if we lost one of them. There’s nearly a zero percent chance Nico will die (at least in my mind), and I think we’d all agree he’s been through too much to lose Will, too! I trust both Rick and Mark to deliver an emotionally resonant book with a satisfying ending.
When Mark Oshiro took over Macmillan Library’s Instagram stories, he also revealed that Will would be getting his own point of view chapters in the book, and said even though they struggled to write the character because of the lack of official canon, Rick did not. “Will’s stuff is so instrumental because of Rick, and Rick’s understanding of this character,” Mark says. This seems to be further proven by Rick saying we’d get plenty of Will and Nico backstory in The Sun and the Star.
In his October 9, 2022 blog post, Rick has stated, “I am not ruling out that we might see more adventures of Nico and Will sometime in the future, in some manner, but there are no immediate plans for that.” This is only because he has plenty of other projects going on at the moment, and, as always, it is also dependent on how well The Sun and the Star sells. At the very least, that seems to confirm that both Nico and Will survive.
In this same blog post, Rick says we will see other characters from the Percy Jackson universe. “Mark had a lot of fun concocting all sorts of juicy updates for other characters,” he writes, “which I fully endorse! For details, you have to wait and read the book.” (Though we did learn one update we can expect: In another Goodreads answer, Rick stated that we’ll find out Will’s sexuality at some point during the course of the novel.)
Fair enough! But this makes me wonder which characters we’ll most likely see in The Sun and the Star. As of right now, Nico, Will, Bob (and probably Small Bob), Rachel, Chiron, and Mr. D are the only ones confirmed by the synopsis, but there are plenty of other characters who could play a role. To figure out which ones may show up, however, we’ll have to talk about the last piece of the puzzle, which is what we learned at the end of The Tower of Nero.
Near the end of the book, Apollo checks in with Nico and Will, the former of whom tells him he’s been hearing a voice calling out from Tartarus, asking for help. He states that he thinks it is related to some unfinished business, and that it has to do with Iapetus, aka Bob.
We first met Iapetus in “The Sword of Hades,” in which Ethan Nakamura released him from Tartarus. Percy defeated the Titan and then dragged him into the River Lethe to wipe his memories, convincing Iapetus that his real name is actually Bob. We revisit the Titan in House of Hades, when Percy and Annabeth are forced to traverse Tartarus. Percy learns a hard lesson here, realizing that he had completely forgotten Bob since his first run-in. For his part, Bob slowly regains his memories, but instead of being mad at Percy, he realizes he was a bad person and actively chooses to make better choices in the future. It’s only because of his sacrifice that Percy and Annabeth are able to escape the Underworld. This is where we get the line, “Tell the sun and stars hello for me.”
“I feel like I should look for him, see if I can figure out what happened,” Nico says in Tower of Nero. “He might need my help. I don’t like it when people are overlooked.”
We now know, thanks to the official synopsis, that’s exactly what Nico will do. Unfortunately, Hades doesn’t want anyone to visit Tartarus. I’m sure we’ll also be seeing the god of the Underworld at some point, even if it’s just for a brief moment, either before or after Nico descends into the darkest part of this realm. Nico will likely use the troglodytes to find a way into (and out of) Tartarus safely so he can circumvent his father’s rule.
At the end of Tower of Nero, Rachel Elizabeth Dare whispers a prophecy to Nico and Will, though we don’t get to hear it at this time. Will says it doesn’t sound good, but it’s not like prophecies ever do. We’ll likely hear about it near the beginning of The Sun and the Star, which will inform the shape their quest takes. Considering both Nico and Will attend Camp Half-Blood, it’s no surprise that Chiron and Mr. D will be involved in an official capacity, as will Rachel, since it’s her prophecy.
In fact, when the short story “Percy Jackson and the Sword of Hades” was re-released on January 10, 2023, we got to read the first chapter of The Sun and the Star, which included Nico, Will, Austin, Kayla, Chiron, and a brief glimpse at Mr. D. While we didn’t learn what the prophecy entailed exactly, that quick look at what’s to come showed us how much Nico is obsessing over his dreams and the voice calling out for his help—and how much Will doesn’t want to talk about the possibility of heading to the Underworld.
Chapter 1 merely set the scene and made us privy to Nico’s innermost thoughts, including his feelings for Will. There’s still some self-doubt in Nico’s mind, but it looks like he’s trying hard to accept his relationship with his boyfriend of one year, as well as the happiness that comes from their time together. Though I can’t say for certain, several mentions of struggling to make a choice feels a bit like foreshadowing, and I wonder what decision Nico will have to make and how much it could change the trajectory of his life forever.
Aside from that, we can make a few guesses as to what other characters might show up in this book. Apollo, Will’s father, is a good guess, though I would imagine we’d seen him in the beginning or the end, to either provide some form of help or to check up on Will when everything is done and over with. We could even see Hermes, the only god who can travel freely in and out of the Underworld. Perhaps he’ll bring Nico and Will a message from one of their godly parents or a demigod friend.
Considering Solangelo is heading to Tartarus, I also wouldn’t be surprised if they checked in with Percy and Annabeth to see if they have any advice for how to navigate this treacherous area of the Underworld. Then again, maybe Nico doesn’t want to get them involved. Percy, in particular, probably feels plenty of guilt over Bob’s fate, and I can imagine him willingly sacrificing his future to help out a few of his friends. (That is his fatal flaw, after all.)
Whether Nico visits with the other Heroes of Olympus has yet to be seen, but there is one demigod who has a better chance than the others: Piper McLean, daughter of Aphrodite. Someone got their hands on a The Sun and the Star chapter sampler, which revealed that the book is dedicated to “all the Nicos, Wills, Pipers, and everyone in between.” This could, of course, just be a reference to the fact that Piper is queer, but I also wouldn’t put it past Mark (or Rick) to want to check up on Piper in a book with a queer couple at its helm.
During that same IG takeover, Mark also told us that sampler booklet contains the first five chapters of the book, which is roughly the same 10,000 words he used to audition for the role of co-writing this book with Rick. That means the initial setup and intent of the book has been the same throughout the entire process, and I find that pretty exciting!
What I find most exciting, however, is who else Nico and Will might come across in the Underworld. Since they’re going to Tartarus, the list is fairly limited (at least when it comes to people they want to see), but if the two end up in other areas of the Underworld, they could visit some fallen demigods from the past. Jason Grace would be the main attraction, of course, as his death is the most recent and Nico has ties to him from the Heroes of Olympus series, but we might also stumble across his sister, Bianca, or even his mother, Maria. Nico also has a connection to Daedalus, which would not only be an interesting cameo but also a clever ally to have by their side.
Beyond that, pretty much every character is on the table, both dead or alive; it simply depends on which ones serve the story best. However, it seems as though Mark has done all they can to include as much as possible in The Sun and the Star. Coming in at 480 pages, there’s no doubt this will be another fantastic and detailed addition to the Percy Jackson universe.
Oh, and if you wanted one more inventive to check out this book, Mark said in his IG takeover, “No one, not one fan, has gotten even remotely close to where this book is going. Some people have guessed a few things that are gonna be in there, but in terms of the literal entire last half of the book, no one is even a stone’s throw close to what this book is going to do. And I am very excited about that.”
‘The Sun and the Star’ publishes on May 2, 2023.
Pre-order The Sun and the Star by Rick Riordan and Mark Oshiro from Disney Books, Bookshop.org, Book Depository, or Amazon. You can also add it to your Goodreads list.