After the success of Harry Potter, there seemed to be a mass influx of young urban fantasy novels. Especially ones that stared a young boy unaware of his difficult, yet ultimately fulfilling, destiny. So, I feel that we dismiss a lot of these types of books, probably fairly.
But every now and then one cliché sounding story about a young boy on his road to discovery comes along that is so good it almost makes me feel bad about Harry Potter. I mean, it’ll never be that big. A part of me doesn’t think it deserves to be. But I still feel that people will unfairly dismiss it because of its similar style and set up.
Percy Jackson and the Olympians by Rick Riordan is nothing short of a work of genius.
It takes common modern childhood afflictions (ADHD and dyslexia) and turns them into signs that you might be a demigod. The main boy, Percy, has been kicked of every school he ever attended and seems to be a magnet for bullies and trouble. But he is still a good kid.
The series of books is based around the idea the ancient Greek gods are real and still thriving today. But they have left Greece. They follow the heart of western civilization and so now they reside in the USA. Mount Olympus is on the 600th floor of the Empire State Building. The underworld is in Los Angeles. And on Long Island is a little place called Camp Half-Blood. But let’s start at the beginning.
The Lightning Thief
I picked up this book because of the interesting cover (yes, I judge books by their cover, that’s really the only thing they got going for them before you read the backs), but I bought the book because of its chapter titles.
“I Accidently Vaporize My Pre-Algebra Teacher”
“Three Old Ladies Knit the Socks of Doom”
“A God Buys Us Cheeseburgers”
That alone sold me on the book and the rest of the series.
This book is hilarious. The main characters are real, and have very flawed depths. And, my favourite part, the author has done such a good job of modernizing the old Greek stories. What would the gods and monsters look like today, what would they act like? Well, Poseidon would be super tan surfer-dude, and Ares would be a motorbike driving jerk. Medusa would sell statues for gardens, and poor Cerberus would be a lonely dog in want of an owner who likes to play catch.
In this first book, Zeus’ master lightning bolt has been stolen and everyone seems to be blaming Percy Jackson for it, although he didn’t even know about the Gods at the time of the theft. Either way, it’s up to him and his friends Annabeth (a daughter of a mortal man and Athena), and Grover (a satyr) to get the lightning bolt back to Zeus before the summer solstice, and time is running out.
The Sea of Monsters
The second book has the borders of Camp Half Blood failing, monsters are invading, and the Gods are refusing to acknowledge that anything is going wrong in the world. And Percy’s best friend, Grover, has disguised himself in a wedding dress to stop a Cyclops from eating him. The humour and adventure continue and more is revealed about the prophecy that is haunting Percy’s every step.
I like how this book brings up the issue of inter-relations. When one of your parents is a Greek God, you have a lot of brothers and sisters and cousins. Most of them less human than you are. Also, the idea of mortal flaws is brought up in this one and I am again reminded of how expertly Rick Riordan has weaved themes and stories from ancient Greece into this modern day setting.
Favourite chapter titles: “I Play Dodge Ball with Cannibals” and “We Hail the Taxi of Eternal Torment.”
The Titan’s Curse
In this one, Annabeth disappears and Percy sneaks off on a quest that isn’t his in order to make sure she is safely returned to camp. Grover gets the clue he’s been looking for, and the Hunters of Artemis join the fight. Three new (well, sort of) demigods team up with Percy, who are they and how will they affect the prophecy?
This one introduces my favourite character, Blackjack, a black Pegasus. He’s just awesome. And the dynamic between the virginal hunters and Percy is hilarious. But I guess my favourite part of this book is how it really questions the asshole things Gods and Heroes are known for. In the previous books it has been made very clear that the Gods are jerks and they do jerky things, this book really brings up the fact that humans can be just as awful. That’s what makes the Greek Gods so interesting, on some levels, they are only human.
Favourite chapter titles: “The Vice Principal Gets a Missile Launcher” and “I Learn How to Grow Zombies.”
The Battle of the Labyrinth
Ok, so I’m only on chapter two of my re-read, so I don’t quite remember everything that happens in this book. I know they suspect their enemies of trying to invade camp using The Labyrinth and the main characters venture in to try to stop them from finding Ariadne’s string, a guide through The Labyrinth.
Other than that, Percy meets another sibling who wants to kill him, Grover finds what he’s been looking for and is disappointed, oh and Percy’s personal life gets a little complicated...which upsets me.
What I remember about this book the most is how clear it is that Percy has grown since the first book and yet is still relatable to the confused eleven year old discovering the world of half bloods and monsters.
Favourite chapter titles: “Nico Buys Happy Meals for the Dead” and “We Visit the Demon Dude Ranch.”
The Last Olympian
This one is forthcoming. It will be released on May fifth. I can’t describe how excited I am. The last book. And two days after its release, I get to meet the author!
What we do know, is that the war will be fought and the prophecy will come to fruition and all the characters motivations and alliances will be explained.
I don’t know any of the chapter titles....sigh.
My absolute favourite thing about all of these books is how they teach you about the Greek mythology in a fun, entertaining way that is relevant to today’s world.
Read these books.
Moon.witche is our resident fantasy YA groupie as well as the Temptation Podcast Einstein. She is slightly quirky with a bit of bite and is here to tell you what you should have already read.