Saturday, November 22, 2008

The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan

I must admit only a passing interest in Greek mythology in, what was it, sophomore English? Okay, I get it. There are references to it in real life. There was a Zephyr filling station on the west side, out of business and in disrepair, but by golly, I recognized the reference to Greek mythology.

Of course there are others, and I recognize most of them (except the ones I don’t recognize, which means maybe don’t recognize most of them, but then again…yeah, whatever.) Get to the point.

Here’s the point: My passing interest is now alive and growing. The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan brought back a lot of the stories I (vaguely) remember and gave them a whole new life. Perceus – Percy – Jackson is a kid who, due to a combination of ADHD and dyslexia and family history, gets himself kicked out of schools. Six of them in six years. In chapter one readers meet Percy, his gimpy best friend Grover, and a teacher, Mr. Brunner, who constantly pushes Percy to learn his Latin and Greek mythology.

Continuing chapter one, on a field trip to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, another teacher, Mrs. Dodds, transforms to a “shriveled bat with wings and claws and a mouth full of yellow fangs” and is about to kill Percy beside the marble frieze of Greek gods. Mr. Brunner appears, tosses Percy a pen which amazingly becomes a sword, and after the former Mrs. Dodds says, “Die, honey!” Percy does the only thing he can do. Slice her through the middle. She vaporizes, the sword is a pen again, and nobody else even has a clue what happened.

Uh, what?

Mysteries are eventually explained as readers, and Percy, learn he is a half-blood, son of a god and a human. There are attacks from monsters, introductions to the gods and other mythical characters and locations, an explanation of how these characters continue to escape notice from humans, and even mythologically accurate swearing (“Oh, Styx!”). Mount Olympus is up 600 floors in the Empire State Building, and Hades is beneath Los Angeles. (Well, how about that? The City of Angels. Hades. Seems appropriate, yet ironic.)

Upon arriving at Camp Half-Blood, a summer camp for demigods, Percy learns that Zeus’s master lightning bolt has been stolen. Other gods are accused, including Percy’s father, schemes form, and an all-out war between the gods seems imminent if Zeus’s bolt is not returned by the summer solstice. Percy is sent on a quest with Grover, now known to be a satyr, and Annabeth, daughter of Athena, to find and return the stolen bolt.

There are currently four books in the Olympians series, with a fifth one planned for spring of 2009. Having only finished one and a half, I can’t fully comment on the series as a whole. I can say, however, that if all the books have the same excitement and adventure, this is a series that will continue to absorb readers.

Finally, thanks to Anonymous for recommending the books in his/her comments.

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