the Little Red Reviewer

Percy Jackson and the Olympians, The Lightning Thief

Posted on: January 8, 2011

Ya’ll know I’m not a big fan of YA or kid fiction.  Well, I’d being interested in reading a lot more of it if it was all as good as Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson.

A friend lent me her boxed set of the first three Percy Jackson and the Olympians books, and I recently I finished the first book, The Lightening Thief.  Adorable, fast paced, funny, and wonderfully intelligent, I think I might like this better than Harry Potter.  And I’ve got the urge to pull out all my old Greek Mythology books from college and maybe watch Disney’s Hercules (James Woods as Hades? sweet).

Thinking he’s a normal kid, eleven year old Percy Jackson keeps getting kicked out of every boarding school his mom sends him to. It’s not his fault he’s dyslexic, a little ADHD, and horribly, unbelievable unlucky.  We find out rather quickly that Percy’s father is a Greek God, and for his own safety he is shuttled to Camp Half-Blood, where you got it – children who are half blood humans (also known as godlings) can safely grow up and learn how to use their powers. If they’re lucky, they might even find out who their immortal parent is.  

But of course it’s not as easy as that.  Just by being born in the first place, Percy has set off what could turn into World War Three.  Gods are blaming each other left and right and preparing for the final battle, and if Percy doesn’t find Zeus’s stolen lighting bolt fast, he’ll be the first corpse that Hades sends into battle. As with many traditional greek hero myths, Percy visits the Oracle, and is joined on his quest by friends and magical items.  Gods and demigods give him gifts and information, but continually warn him that every gift comes with a price.

If this was an old fashioned Greek hero myth, a la Clash of the Titans, our main character would kow-tow to the gods, and trust everything he hears. But this is America! This is New York! Percy has the advantage of not having been indoctrinated with the rules of Olympus for his whole life. He’s not afraid to tell Ares’ kids where they can stick it, or play fetch with Cerberus, or have a fireside chat with Hades.

The action in The Lightening Thief is well written and fun.  But it’s the way Riordan treats ancient myth turned modern that really brought this book to life for me.  Dionysus is a riot – a middle aged bitter man whose been tasked with keeping godlings from getting themselves killed.  Hades has mostly gotten over not being a permanent resident of Olympus, while Charon has acquired a taste for fine Italian suits and demands a raise, and Ares just wants war and destruction, he doesn’t care who with.  The god’s attitudes and personalities haven’t changed in millennia, and neither has the fact that to them, humans are but playthings.   Riordan has  really gifted his readers with a modernized hero myth of epic proportions. Percy survived his first trial with wit and courage, and I think he might just give the gods a run for their money.

Aren’t up on your Greek mythology? No worries, mythology is the one class at school Percy enjoys, and his new friends are happy to fill him in on why Athena’s children hate spiders, and what’s up with Ares and Aphrodite.

I expected Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief to be just okay, like most of the young adult stuff I’ve come across. I tend to like my fiction on the dark and tragic side, not so much on the feel-good or harmless side.  But this is Greek mythology – it’s rarely fair and often takes a turn for dark and tragic.  Will I read the entire series? I don’t know.  Will I be at least read the 2nd book? you bet.

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15 Responses to "Percy Jackson and the Olympians, The Lightning Thief"

Hmm, your review makes this sound good enough to buy: I love me some Greek mythology, and gods in the modern world. I was rather distrustful of the series since the first I’d heard of it was when the film adaptation came out (have you seen that, by the way?), but you might have changed my mind about it!

I read through the whole series and while I enjoyed the books very much, I don’t think they are better than HP. :)

Although, at this moment I don’t think any YA novel is ever going to be as good as HP. Or any fantasy as LoTR.
Hmm, this sounds very stubborn. ;)

When I heard about the movie adaptation I was a little cautious about the series; it sounded a bit ‘bog standard YA’ but by the sounds of it, it could be right up my alley. Mythology is a passion of mine so I may give this a shot. Thanks!

I haven’t seen the movie yet, and I wouldn’t go out of my way to watch it. I have a feeling they would make the action scenes longer and more action-y, turn Grover into pure comedy relief instead of just a little bit of comedy relief, and skip through all the smart stuff. :(

I told my husband I think I like this more than HP, and he was horrified. I already know most of these greek myths, so I instantly had a comfort zone with Percy Jackson. I didn’t have that kind of comfort zone with HP (and yes, I’ve read all the books and saw every movie in the theatre).

Hi Andrea,
So you found Rick Riordan. Many 10 year olds come into our bookstore looking for Homer’s Odyssey after reading the Last Olympians. The parents are shocked, simply shocked. What a great way to introduce children to greek mythology without having a teacher force it down their throats!
your mother!!!!!!

Hi Mom, thanks for visiting my blog! I wish these books had been out when I was in middle school. Would have made 9th grade English (Hello Homer’s Odyssey!) so much easier.

I really enjoyed reading this book so I’m glad you liked it too. I’m up to the third book of the series and the others have been just as good. Check out The Red Pyramid as well which is also by Rick Riordan. Very similar to PJ but Egyptian mythology instead.

I loved this book, and like you was a little surprised by how much. I think HP is more well written, at least the later books — I really admire how Rowling ages the complexity of the writing and the story as the characters age. On the other hand I’ve only read the first two of this series. Definitely reminded me of my love of Greek mythology.

Regarding the movie, I can’t say I was very happy with it. But then again I rarely am when it comes to movie adaptations (first one I enjoyed from the first viewing, without having to talk myself into it was HP and The Deathly Hallows).
I do wish as well Percy was there when we had Greek mythology in school. :)

Awesome review! I saw the movie and really enjoyed it, but keep forgetting it was a book. I love greek mythology and can’t wait to read this :D

This sounds like a great book….I loved the HP series and I think I will LOVE this one. Thanks for the wonderful review!

[...] heard about these books before I read Little Red Reviewer’s review of the first Percy Jackson book, but never felt inclined to try them before. I got the first book [...]

I really liked this book. My Greek mythology was a bit jumbled in my head from many years of mis-remembering. So, it was a delight to find something light and fun to refresh my memory and find a new set of characters to read about. After reading the book, I then watched the movie, which I thought was cute, and watched Clash of the Titans (2010), thoroughly indoctrinated I’m waiting to read the rest of the trilogy. But finish it I will.

Have you seen the old Clash of the Titans from around 1980? That one is so cheesy, but i thought it was much better than the new one, which i felt didn’t follow the mythology at all.

I haven’t yet, but would like to get around to it at some point. I have a low tolerance for 1980s cheese, and have to be in a certain mood, but I figure that is bound to happen at some point. :D

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