To my great shame, I only started reading the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan recently. Given that I’m currently doing an MA in Classics in UCD, that’s pretty bad. But better late than never I guess. I have a lot of praise for these books too, which makes it even worse that I didn’t enjoy them when I was younger. Rick Riordan is the self-proclaimed (I’m pretty sure it’s self-proclaimed anyway) “Master of Myth” and with good reason when it comes to Greek mythology at least. I just finished the five-book Percy Jackson series comprised of The Lightning Thief, The Sea of Monsters, The Titan’s Curse, The Battle of the Labyrinth and The Last Olympian.
The pentalogy follows Percy Jackson, a kid with ADHD, dyslexia and a horrible stepdad. He has never met his biological father and has attended numerous different schools only to be kicked out of all of them. It looks as he’s just meant to struggle in life until he has a strange experience with his maths teacher on a school outing to a museum. Then he learns that he is a demi-god, i.e. son to a mortal and a god (in this case an Olympian), and may also be part of a prophecy that could decide the fate of the world.
From there he goes to Camp Half-Blood, a camp for other demi-gods. He learns to fight and how to control his skills. He encounters a whole range of mythical creatures to ally with and oppose.
Do I have problems with the stories? Yes, quite a few actually. Riordan sometimes makes the mythological characters seem very stupid and petulant. I’m fully aware that the Greek Gods were greatly flawed with massive egos that are easier to burst than an overblown balloon with a pin. That’s what makes them so brilliantly fascinating but there are times when things seem contrived. Some of the escapes are made too easy because although the protagonists are in danger, their method of evasion makes it seem as if the threats were never actually that severe.
Another problem I have with these books is solely directed at the ending of the third book. I won’t reveal what is, but I thought it was weak, out of place and hard to imagine. I also feel like there was a great chance for something else to happen, perhaps a bigger fight scene or something along those lines. If anyone has read the books (I’m sure many people have…they’re really great even if I ranted a bit there) and has a view on the ending to Percy Jackson and the Titan’s Curse then please leave a comment below. I’m interested to hear what you thought of it.
There are other problems too. In places everything just happens so perfectly. Characters who have previously been missing for months just happen to turn up in the exact same field or park their friends are standing in. At almost every turn, someone intervenes just in time. The final book has an amazing title, The Last Olympian, but for me it doesn’t actually fit the story being told. The payoffs to some of the sub-plots are underwhelming.
So you’d expect me to say after that the series is middling at best and probably worth about a six or seven out of ten. You couldn’t be more wrong. These books are amazing, incredible and ingenious. Rather that just taking one myth and running with it, Riordan incorporates large numbers of myths and mashes them all up to create his stories.
One of the really great things in this series that requires a lot of creativity is the reimagining of Greek Mythology in a modern context. Let’s take Ares, the god of war and battlelust…he’s a biker with a short fuse and leather jacket. Hermes, the messenger god, is always on his phone. There are loads of them and for each one Riordan deserves credit.
I love Greek Mythology. I love the stories. It’s the reason I wanted to study Classics in college despite never having been introduce to it in school. And what Riordan does is breathe new life into these amazing creations. He introduces a whole new generation to the wonder and beauty of the stories set forth by the Ancient Greeks. For that I am truly grateful.
These books left me excited. I know there’s a follow up series called Heroes of Olympus and I can’t wait to read it. If it’s half as good as its predecessor it will be a great read.
Age Range: 8-14
I hope you enjoyed this and if you’d like to share your opinion on the book or suggest to me another book I should read and review then please leave a comment underneath. If you like this then why not check out the rest of my website or follow me on Facebook by clicking here or on Twitter by clicking here.