Review: Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief

This week I finished two books – The Passage and Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief.   My review of The Passage is in progress, but let me just say I was relieved to have finished it – and that’s not a good sign.  I enjoyed Percy Jackson a lot more.

I won’t do a full review of Percy Jackson, but will say that I really enjoyed this book.  In case you haven’t heard of this series, which is by Rick Riordan, it’s about the adventures of Percy (full name Perseus) Jackson, who discovers in this book that he is the son of Poseidon, the Greek God of water.  Poseidon is one of the brothers of Zeus, which makes him one of the most powerful gods.  It also means he feuds regularly with his brother, and with his other brother Hades.  In this book, Percy finds out he is the son of a god, he discovers Camp Half-Blood, a haven/training ground for the demigods, and he is accused of stealing the lightning bolt of Zeus, which if not found will spark a war among the gods and (of course) threaten all humanity.  Percy has a lot going against him, including the fact that his very existence violates a treaty among Zeus, Hades and Poseidon not to father any more children, because those children might become too powerful and threaten the reign of the gods. Also, his mother has been taken by the Minotaur to the Underworld.

It’s a fun, action-packed book for kids roughly ages 10-12 (although I enjoyed it in my advanced age too).  I loved Greek mythology when I was young, and the best thing about this book was how well Riordan modernized and integrated the different mythological characters.  He includes all the well-known gods, and then a number of less well-known characters like the Furies, Echnida, Procrustes, and Hephaestus.  So it’s a fun read but kids will learn a lot of mythology at the same time.

Riordan creates a vivid story with interesting characters.  Percy is a troubled, argumentative twelve year old, and his friends Annabeth and Grover aren’t perfect either.  They each have their own goals, worries and insecurities.

I didn’t see the movie, although the reviews were pretty weak.  My niece liked the movie but said the book is much better.  The actors cast in the movie play kids who are about seventeen instead of twelve, and in my opinion are far too beautiful to be convincing (of course why wouldn’t children of the gods be perfect looking?).  I can understand from a marketing perpective, although it made it hard to read the book and visualize the characters as twelve year olds.

So a thumbs up to this book, and even though I’m a grown-up I’ll probably read the next one in the series too.  If you’re looking for something to fill the Harry Potter void, this is a pretty good start.

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