Sunday, December 16, 2007

The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan

This book is the first in the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series. I really enjoyed this youth novel a lot. It's the story of 12 year old Percy Jackson who discovers he is not who he thinks he is--a normal human. He is in fact a demigod, born to a mortal mother and a Greek god father. Percy has dyslexia and ADHD which is explained by being part-god. Dyslexia is caused because Ancient Greek is his native language, so as a result he has a hard time reading standard English. And where his ADHD makes him a little distracted and unfocused in the classroom, it makes him great in battle because he is hyper-aware of what is going on.

I don't want to say too much about the storyline to give anything away. Basically, according to the book, the Greek gods still exist today, ruling over the world. Mt. Olympus simply changes locations to accommodate changes in the world/culture. They are in the Age of Western Civilization now and Mt. Olympus is currently located on the 600th floor of the Empire State Building in New York. The Underworld is currently located in West Hollywood, CA. The gods take on less classic appearances. In one of my favorite chapters ("I Settle My Tab") toward the end of the book, Riordan describes Poseidon and Zeus' current looks, all very amusing.

Through a series of events, Percy finds himself at Camp Half-Blood and is sent on an important quest to save the world from an impending World War III.

Overall, a great book, story and characters. I loved the theme of Greek Mythology. I always loved learning about mythology in school and this was a fun refresher of the various myths and who was related to each other, but with an updated twist. My only gripe about the book is how MUCH it is similar to Harry Potter. First let me say, I had no idea what this book was really about other than the description on Amazon. I was not searching to fill my Potter void or anything like that. Potter was not on my mind at all. However, as I was reading, things in the book kept striking me as very Potter-esque. So much, that it was very distracting to me and I began to keep a list of these comparisons in my head.

First, we have a boy who thinks he's normal until the pre-teen years when he discovers he is far from normal. Then, he is taken to a place that will both teach him and keep him safe from outside evils. He befriends both a boy and girl, with eerily similar personalities to Ron and especially to Hermione. The three set off on a quest in which they discover a power the gods thought to be extinguished fighting its way back to power. Then the gods ignore the fact that the power has a plan and is getting stronger (ie: Voldermort). Hmm.....I could be talking about Potter or Percy, they are so similar. Oh yes, there are also prophecies, swords, invisibility items, hearing voices in dreams, rivalry between cabins or god families (aka like the houses at Hogwarts). I know Rowling used mythology as part of a basis for her Potter world. Maybe, I didn't realize just how much was based in mythology or how much of Potter was a magical retelling of myths.

I don't mean to steer anyone away from The Lightning Thief. It really is a great book and I would recommend people read it. I was just so distracted the first half of the book by the Potterisms. The second half of the book was much easier to get into and stay focused on the Percy story. If you are a Potter fan and can forgive the similarities, I think you will really like this as a new series to read in the wake of Potter's end. There are three books published so far with the fourth due out next year. The Lightning Thief is also being produced as a movie with Chris Columbus directing (he also directed Harry Potter 1 & 2).


allisonmariecat said...

Ooh, thank you for the great review! I actually picked this one up on a Potter-withdrawal fueled trip to the juvenile fantasy section of Borders (while waiting for Book 7) but haven't gotten to it yet. I will be digging this out. The Greek mythology sounds like a really appealing addition to the genre.

To be fair to other fantasy writers, JK Rowling didn't really invent the story she's telling--it's really one of the archetypal stories that predate written language (child with absent parents discovers powers and must go on a quest - hero's journey). Of course, that doesn't account for Hermione and Ron clones :) but some of the structural similarities are probably unavoidable.

I have a few other Potter knock-offs I haven't gotten to yet, but I want to re-read the Potters, too!

Holly said...

I thought you might really like this one, Allison. :-) I also just came across a book this morning called "Iris, Messenger" by Sarah Deming. It's supposed to be a retelling of the greek myths as well, but with a female protagonist. It received good reviews on Amazon.

allisonmariecat said...

Iris, Messenger sounds awesome, too! Yay, more books to fill the Potter void :)

adam brown said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Courtney & Paul said...


I got your Christmas letter and wanted to check out your other blog, but couldn't get to it. I have a blog as well. Email me and I'll send you the address. We'd love to get together with you guys again soon - it's been WAY too long.

Courtney (Damman) Van Auken

Charley said...

I enjoyed The Lightning Thief, and I agree with you, there are a lot of similarities to the Harry Potter books. I look forward to reading The Sea of Monsters soon.