In my quest to expand my knowledge of the children's book world, I've been trying to read a slew of books that I keep hearing about, that I know I would love, but that I haven't read yet. One of those books was Percy Jackson and the Olympians #1: The Lightning Thief. I'd heard great things about it and when it first came out it had greatly intrigued me -- but I had only ever managed to get my hands on a mangled version of the galley (while I was still working in marketing) which I quickly discarded, assuming I could find someone with the connections to get me a finished copy. It never happened so about three weeks or maybe a month ago, I was at B&N and I impulse bought it.
It is one of those books that I knew I would love and one of the types of books I hope to find and acquire one day. I love boy-oriented action-y, adventure-y middle grade that has a fantasy/sci-fi twist somehow. I read AniMorphs from start to finish when it came out, even though I was in high school and later college, and when I'm in the children's section of the bookstore I gravitate toward books like the Pendragon or Gregor the Overlander series.
(warning, this post may contain spoilers from here on out)
I ended up lending Percy out right away, because I knew I wouldn't have the chance to read it and the person I lent it to was a quick reader. Well she got it back to me post haste, but there was a problem. Quite close to the end there was a signature that repeated. Oh no! She was eager to finish it and I knew it had to be remedied because I had actually paid money for this book. That and I would eventually want to read it myself and I couldn't do so with a mixed up signature. So this Friday was the first chance I had to get down to the B&N in Chelsea and exchange it. And since it was a long weekend, I decided to start reading, figuring I'd get some manuscript reading in on Sunday and Monday and finish whatever was left of Percy on Tuesday.
Well I'm done already and I loved it! I absolutely loved it! There were some parts that seemed SO derivative of Harry Potter, which I will list below, but the story had so many unique, fun elements that it really didn't matter to me. And I suspect that it matters even less to the young readers who are devouring these books like candy. As someone who was obsessed with Greek Mythology when I was a kid, this was a real treat, and I was really glad that Percy ended up being the son of Poseidon and not Zeus. I definitely predicted it WAY before it was confirmed (what do you want? It is a kid's book and I'm a Greek Myth nut) but I am glad they didn't go the obvious "son of the king of the gods" route. I also really enjoyed how Riordan wrote Percy's interactions with Poseidon. I felt a little tingle when the Sea God said "Whatever else you do, know that you are mine." It was such a great way to express that paternal love without showing favoritism (which is forbidden to the gods).
I am a big Percy Jackson supporter now and can't wait to read the next one. The Potter similarities eventually slipped away as Percy's quest unfolded but I will list them so others may comment on them or add more that I might have forgotten or missed:
Harry goes away to Hogwart's
Percy goes away to Half-Blood Hill Summer Camp
Harry's parents are killed and he is raised by the horrible Dursley's
Percy's father is absent and he is raised by his mother and horrible stepfather Smelly Gabe
Hogwart's students are sorted into four houses (representing the four school founders) and Harry is sorted into chivalrous Gryffindor
Half-Blood Hill campers are "sorted" into twelve cabins (representing the twelve Olympians) and Percy is "sorted" (eventually) into one of the "top three" cabins
Hogwart's has a bad house -- Slytherin
Half-Blood Hill has a bad cabin -- Ares
Harry shows great skill at broom-riding and leads his team to victory during a Quidditch match
Percy shows great skill at combat and leads his team to victory during Capture the Flag
Harry has a comedic, somewhat awkward, funny-haired best friend named Ron Weasley
Percy has a comedic, somewhat awkward, funny-haired best friend named Grover
Harry has a female friend who is arrogantly intelligent but means well -- Hermione
Percy has a female friend who is arrogantly intelligent but means well -- Annabeth
Harry has a kind headmaster (Dumbledore) but a grumpy teacher (Snape)
Percy has a grumpy camp director (Dionysus) but a kind teacher (Chiron)
Harry is hunting for the Sorcerer's Stone, which his enemy also seeks.
Percy is hunting for Zeus's Master Bolt, which his enemy has already stolen.
Harry faces a three-headed dog to get his item
Percy faces a three-headed dog to get his item (although, to be fair, Cerberus is part of the Hades mythos so he kinda HAD to be there)
Anyway, despite the fact that I made a list, I highly recommend these books to kids and any readers who enjoy middle grade boy adventure-fantasy. It is obvious that Rick Riordan knows his Greek Mythology, or did a lot of research. How else would he have been able to come up with all of the great ways to blend the legends and the creatures into the modern world? Pick up this book if you haven't already. So very worth it!