Ever since I was young, I have liked reading Greek Mythology. Mostly due to my first name that comes from the Myth of Perseus. So, when a new fiction book came out that was based in the Greek mythology world, I had to read it. If you don’t know which book/series I’m talking about I am talking about Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson series. I’ll be focusing on the first in the series, Percy Jackson & the Olympians: the Lightning Thief for our blog today. There are five books in the first series, and five in the continuing series, The Heroes of Olympus. Beyond that are many different series based on Egyptian (The Kane Chronicles), Norse (Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard), and another based in Greek/Roman (The Trials of Apollo). They make up what fans have called the Riordanverse.
We meet Percy Jackson, a twelve-year-old with Dyslexia and ADHD, on a school trip to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. He attends Yancy Academy, a boarding school for troubled kids. After being asked a humiliating question from Mr. Brunner, his favorite teacher at Yancy, Percy is confronted by one of the chaperones, Mrs. Dodds. Who turns into a Fury and attacks him. A Fury is a vengeful female spirit of the Underworld. Mr. Brunner lends him a magical sword-pen to fight and defeat her. Percy gets expelled from Yancy after he acts out when no one remembers Mrs. Dodds. He goes home to his mother and his smelly stepfather Gabe and for some time away, Sally takes him on a trip to their favorite beach in Long Island where she originally met his birth father.
After a surprise visit from his best friend Grover, Percy has to tell his mother about the incident with Mrs. Dodds. Sally makes them get in the car and she takes off to a special camp for Percy. This is where Percy notes that Grover has hooves for feet, and he realizes his friend is a Satyr. Satyrs are half man, half goat followers of the God Pan. Suddenly, Percy notices a creature following them and he recognizes it as the Minotaur. The Minotaur is a half bull-half man creature that is very difficult to kill. The Minotaur attacks and captures Sally encasing her in a golden light which when it fades, she is gone. Percy defeats him and takes the horn as a souvenir. Grover and Percy get to Camp Half Blood, and he meets Mr. D, who is Dionysus the God of Wine, and Chiron who is a Centaur and who Percy knew as Mr. Brunner.
They tell Percy that he is a Half-blood or Demigod. His father is a Greek God, but as to which one, no one knows as he hasn’t been claimed. Camp Half-Blood has twelve cabins, one for each of the Pantheon of Gods. Percy is sent to the cabin of Hermes where all unclaimed Demigods go. He meets Annabeth, a daughter of Athena, Luke, his cabin leader and son of Hermes, and Clarisse, daughter of Ares. In an altercation with Clarisse, Percy finds out that he is the son of Poseidon. Poseidon is considered one of the “Big Three Gods,” Zeus, Poseidon and Hades. Due to a prophecy foretold many years ago, the “Big Three” decided against have any more kids. They have a celebration in honor of Percy finding out his parentage, but the celebration is cut short when a Hellhound, a dog-like creature of the Underworld, attacks Percy. To protect everyone at Camp, Percy is sent on a special quest to save the world. Someone has stolen Zeus’ Master Bolt and Percy is sent to retrieve it.
Percy takes Annabeth and Grover along. They make their way to the Underworld where they believe Hades has the Lightning Bolt. I won’t go any further into the plot as I don’t want to spoil anything for you in case you plan to read it.
What I think makes this series genius, is the way Riordan interprets the original myths and weaves them into his own story. He created this universe around the myths of old and gave the characters a new life, along with his original characters. I also like that it’s written in first person so you really get what goes on in this boy’s mind when he has to deal with everything, he thought he knew being turned upside down. Percy does it with an amazing sense of humor and his loyalty to those that he loves, which is also his fatal flaw. In mythology the heroes all have a flaw that eventually leads to their downfall. For Achilles, the hero of the Trojan War, his fatal flaw was evident, it was his heel. He died because an arrow hit the exact spot that made him killable. If you don’t know Achilles, as an infant, was held by his heel and dipped in the river Styx by his mother. Which basically made him immortal, but it was his heel that still kept him mortal. So, when we talk about someone’s Achilles’ heel, we’re talking about a flaw that they have.
Percy’s journey to the Underworld is a reference to the story of Orpheus. Orpheus was known to be an amazing musician and he falls in love with Eurydice. On their wedding day, Eurydice dies and her soul is sent to the Underworld. Orpheus decides he is going to save her so he makes his journey and amazes Hades with a song. Hades agrees to let Orpheus try to save her soul, but Hades tells him that if he makes it to the doors of death without looking at Eurydice, he would let her go. On the way, Orpheus couldn’t hear her steps so he starts losing his faith in the gods, but continues on. The two make it to the doors of death, but just before he completely loses hope and turns to her. In doing so, he loses her forever. Percy’s journey is similar to Orpheus as his loved one is in the Underworld, and in order to save her, he must talk with Hades. However, there are quite a bit of differences so it’s not a complete retelling of the myth.
In 2010, the Lightning Thief made it to theaters and although it’s based off the first book, the movie does not follow the source material that well. Then in 2013 the second movie, Sea of Monsters came out as well. I personally like the movies but only if I go into them knowing they don’t follow the books. For example, the second movie combines the second and third books and that just makes me angry as a fan of the books. I enjoy the cast; Logan Lerman who played Percy did a good job, considering that he is 16 in the movies and 12 in the books. He does a good job with Percy’s humor and he portrayed the character pretty well. Currently Disney has a Percy Jackson series in the works, so maybe they’ll be able to redeem the movies.
We have all the five of the original series (Percy Jackson and the Olympians) here at the library to check out along with most of the other series’ as well. We also have the two movies that were made off of the first two books, but if you want to know the actual story of the books, the movies won’t help you. I highly recommend checking out this series for all ages, even if it’s geared toward a younger audience, I believe that Rick Riordan is able to create a story for all ages.