The AHS faculty talk about books.

Percy Jackson & The Olympians Series by Rick Riordan

Reviewed by: Enzo Flojo

No wizards. No vampires. No dragons.

Just gods.

Fantasy book series, whether they’re called chronicles, cycles or sagas, are a dime a dozen these days, what with the popularity of JK Rowling’s boy wizard renewing the young adult demographic’s interest in this genre. I have to admit that after reading “Deathly Hallows,” I wanted to get my hands on another set of engrossing tales. It was either re-reading C.S. Lewis’s Narnia books (my all-time fave!) or taking a risk on a new slew of titles. There were a lot of possibilities lining the shelves at the time, ranging from the wildly popular Twilight series to cult-favorites like the Abhorsen trilogy or the Inheritance Cycle, but, as the gods would have it, Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief just jumped out at me.

The premise is simple, yet, quite amazingly, never as fleshed-out by many other writers as Riordan eventually does here. The title character starts off conventionally enough – he’s not a good fit in any of his schools, his parents are separated, and he doesn’t have any friends. Just like most other young protagonists, he discovers that there is something special about him (he is a demi-god), and this opens up the layers of conflict in the story. If it sounds familiar, maybe too familiar, beside Rowling’s narrative, that’s because it is. Though it’s definitely no Potter rip-off, Riordan lays the foundation of his tale using tried-and-tested standards.

  • A struggling youth out to prove himself and an attractive female lead – check. (Ged and Tenar from the Earthsea cycle? Jason and Medea?)
  • A foil to the lead – check. (Ron Weasley? Flewdur Flamm? Han Solo?)
  • A wise mentor – check. (Take your pick: Gandalf, Dumbledore or Obi-wan)
  • A sympathetic cohort – check. (Gryffindor? The Galactic Rebellion?)
  • Magical gateways – check. (Platform 9¾? A mysterious wardrobe?)
  • Magical transportation – check. (Knight Bus? Magic carpets? Pumpkin coaches?)
  • Multi-headed giant monsters – check. (Hydra? Cerberus? Fluffy?)
  • A prophecy – check.
  • Freakishly pale bloodsucker who sparkles in sunlight – ummm… thank the gods no.

These are elements that define fantasy, but these exact same elements also define fantasy’s classics and ‘best works.’ Having said that (all that!!!), Percy Jackson seeks to enthrall the reader and lure him/her to embrace the idea that Greek Mythology, American pop culture, and teenage angst can all mesh into a terrific string of quests and adventures. It succeeds, too.

As Percy wrestles with the reality that he is the son of an Olympian, he also has to contend with class bullies, pesky teachers, a giant minotaur, a mysterious villain, and, of course, saving the world (or Manhattan, at least). Did I mention that all these things happen in just the first book?

There are five in all (Lightning Thief, Sea of Monsters, Titan’s Curse, Battle of the Labyrinth, and Last Olympian), with each one critically well-received, and contributing to the series enjoying 100 weeks on the New York Times Best-Sellers List.

And the last testament to its popularity (it has yet to reach fever-pitch in the Philippines, but I am confident it soon will) – a film adaptation will come out in February 2010. We can expect Hollywood to botch this one, naturally.

Bottom-line: If you’re a fan of any or all of the following: Harry Potter, Greek Mythology, adventure, mystery, fantasy, snappy dialogue, blue birthday cakes, pens that turn into swords, black pegasi, or hairy goat-men, then you will get hooked on Percy Jackson and the Olympians. Otherwise, you’re just pretending not to like it, and Zeus will strike you down with his lightning bolt. Or Poseidon will drown you in the waves. Or Hades will suck you into Erebus. You get the picture, right? Now go get the books.


Sassy Brit said...

Oh, I like the look of this and very much enjoyed reading your review, too.

Thank you.

I've not actually heard of doubt I will now. Gosh! How did they escape my attention?


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