Percy Jackson and the Olympians, The Lightning Thief
Posted January 8, 2011on:
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.