Author: Rick Riordan
Series: Percy Jackson and the Olympians #1
Date: April 2006
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Percy Jackson is about to be kicked out of boarding school... again. And that's the least of his troubles. Lately, mythological monsters and the gods of Mount Olympus seem to be walking straight out of the pages of Percy's Greek mythology textbook and into his life. And worse, he's angered a few of them. Zeus' master lightning bolt has been stolen, and Percy is the prime suspect.
Now Percy and his friends have just ten days to find and return Zeus' stolen property and bring peace to a warring Mount Olympus. But to succeed on his quest, Percy will have to do more than catch the true thief: he must come to terms with the father who abandoned him; solve the riddle of the Oracle, which warns him of betrayal by a friend; and unravel a treachery more powerful than the gods themselves.
Reviewed by Mary
When I was little, my mom used to read to me from a book of mythology that she had. So stories of Greek Gods are very close to my heart, but I really felt like for many years now we haven’t really had anything new or very good coming from that particular inspiration.
I was pleasantly surprised to be wrong when I picked up the Percy Jackson books. Rick Riordan has made a very entertaining world by moving Olympus to the Empire State Building and giving us the kids of Camp Half Blood. The first book is a bit of a standard hero origin story, with a reluctant chosen one, an impossible quest, and the set-up for an epic battle. But it’s worth remembering that the hero’s journey began in Greek myths, and Percy is just the latest to inherit this legacy.
Percy is an outcast, he’s been kicked out of every school he has attended and has trouble with dyslexia and ADHD. As the year draws to a close, his life is completely upended when he’s attacked by his math teacher, who transforms into a strange creature before he defeats her with a ballpoint pen. So much of what Percy faces is a retelling of one classic story or another but Riordan gives everything not just a modern twist, but a slightly sarcastic one as well. Medusa sells garden statues at a roadside stand. The entrance to Hades is an L.A. recording studio.
When Percy discovers he is the son of Poseidon, and a demi-god, suddenly his life starts to make both more and less sense. Which sounds a lot like what I remember of my teenage years (though gym class never involved a rock wall that spewed lava). He meets Annabeth, the daughter of Athena (who isn’t very fond of his father) and she very quickly made it to my list of favorite female characters. She’s a good mix of intelligence and strength, and has enough complexity to offset Percy well.
Along with Percy’s best friend Grover, they are tasked with a quest to recover Zeus’ stolen lightning bolt, and Percy is trying to squeeze in an attempt to rescue his mother from Hades. The plot of the book goes at a breakneck pace, as the main character’s quest actually involves getting across America in only a few days time. If you were to just list all the gods, monsters, and creatures involved you wouldn’t think they managed to fit it all in. But Riordan makes it work, and there was never a point where I got bored, and I greatly enjoyed seeing it all come together.
One weakness that the book has is that it’s hard to really picture Percy and Annabeth as 12-year-olds. Granted, they’re demi-gods and Annabeth has been training for years but the characters really feel much older from the onset. A few of the jokes and puns are a little too cute, but there is a lot of nice setup for the rest of the series. Riordan doesn’t pull his punches, and he isn’t afraid to let things be complicated. It’s a fantastic start to the series.