Percy Jackson and the Olympians Series (5 books) Kindle Edition by Rick RiordanRick Riordan book review Percy Jackson and the OlympiansPERCY JACKSON AND THE OLYMPIANS by Rick Riordan

Rick Riordan’s five-book series takes the world of Greek mythology, complete with gods, monsters, titans, Mt. Olympus, heroes, etc. and weaves it into the modern world under the premise that as the gods are manifestations of Western culture and move as the culture moves. And so when Athens was the pinnacle, Mt. Olympus was in Greece, but now that the seat of Western power has moved to America, Mr. Olympus is on the 600th floor of the Empire State Building. We all move through a sea of mythical creatures but we don’t see any of them thanks to the cloak of the Mist, a strange phenomenon that either hides them completely or makes mere mortals see the creatures and their actions as somewhat explainable (if sometimes odd) events that we can understand.

The series focuses less on the gods than on their children born to mortals — the demi-gods — who are brought at a certain age to Camp Half-Blood to learn their heritage and be trained to survive. The major character is Percy Jackson, son of Poseidon. Other major characters are his two best friends, Annabeth (daughter of Athena) and Grover (a satyr “seeker” who finds demi-gods and takes them to the camp).  New characters are added as the series continues.

Book one, The Lightning Thief, details 12-yr-old Percy first learning of his demigod background (which goes a long way to explaining his difficulties in school as well as his dyslexia), though he doesn’t learn for sometime who is true father is. We’re introduced to Camp Half-Blood, watch as Percy meets his new friends and learns his background, and then Percy is given a quest to find Zeus’ stolen lightning bolt. He has to deal with his personal revelations, the monsters that would love nothing better than to kill a demi-god, and the jealousy and mistrust among the gods themselves, all of whom seemingly have a grudge against each other and none more so than the big three (Zeus, Poseidon, Hades) who long ago took a pledge not to have any more mortal children due to a prophecy of doom surrounding one of their children reaching age 16 (all of them broke their oath). At the end of book one, the big villain is revealed: Kronos, former lord of the titans who was overthrown by Zeus and his fellow Olympians and who is now trying to reform himself and take his revenge, as well as regain the throne of the world.

The other books follow the same quest pattern, each one detailing a focused journey and quest (search
for the Golden Fleece, find a missing god and monster, find the Labyrinth and its creator Daedalus), each of which advances the major plot of the war between Kronos/the titans and the Olympians/Half-bloods.

Overall the Percy Jackson series is highly recommended. It has its flaws and sometimes it can be a little predictable or a bit derivative of other fantasies, but it is generally of high quality and nearly always enjoyable. The main characters are all likable and believable as adolescents, the books are tightly-plotted and move along quickly and in exciting fashion. The gods are presented as individuals with sharp personalities. Riordan writes with a light, humorous hand throughout but sprinkles in enough moving or more serious moments so that the books aren’t all light and froth. The characters change and grow from book to book — none of them, including even many of the gods, are the same by the end (The Last Olympian), nor is the world, and many of the characters have hidden sides revealed. There are lots of good lessons in there and for the most part Riordan avoids presenting them as Lessons to be Learned, allowing them to simply reside naturally in the plot. And his latter books are, I’d say, even stronger than the early ones, so the reader can look forward to heightened tension, higher stakes, and stronger quality as the series goes on.

Each book resolves the single quest that is that book’s focus, while continuing to move the major story arc of the war forward. And while The Last Olympian brings the series arc to a complete resolution, it also sets in motion what will obviously be a new series set in the same world. Highly recommended children’s fantasy.

Percy Jackson and the Olympians — (2005-2014) Ages 9-12. Publisher: Percy Jackson is a good kid, but he can’t seem to focus on his schoolwork or control his temper. And lately, being away at boarding school is only getting worse — Percy could have sworn his pre-algebra teacher turned into a monster and tried to kill him. When Percy’s mom finds out, she knows it’s time that he knew the truth about where he came from, and that he go to the one place he’ll be safe. She sends Percy to Camp Half Blood, a summer camp for demigods (on Long Island), where he learns that the father he never knew is Poseidon, God of the Sea. Soon a mystery unfolds and together with his friends — one a satyr and the other the demigod daughter of Athena — Percy sets out on a quest across the United States to reach the gates of the Underworld (located in a recording studio in Hollywood) and prevent a catastrophic war between the gods.

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  • Bill Capossere

    BILL CAPOSSERE, who's been with us since June 2007, lives in Rochester NY, where he is an English adjunct by day and a writer by night. His essays and stories have appeared in Colorado Review, Rosebud, Alaska Quarterly, and other literary journals, along with a few anthologies, and been recognized in the "Notable Essays" section of Best American Essays. His children's work has appeared in several magazines, while his plays have been given stage readings at GEVA Theatre and Bristol Valley Playhouse. When he's not writing, reading, reviewing, or teaching, he can usually be found with his wife and son on the frisbee golf course or the ultimate frisbee field.

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