Over on the Hunger Games message boards (which I moderate), we get a lot of people asking for recommendations. They've just finished reading The Hunger Games (a book for ages 12 and up), and they need something to fill the role that awesome, awesome book had been playing in their lives. (You can't replace The Hunger Games. It's special. But we help out anyway.) One of the most common suggestions our friendly forum-goers give is the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series. Well, I found myself with nothing to read recently, and after seeing the 10th comment in one day that basically went, "OMG PJ IS SOOO GOOD!" I figured I'd give it a shot.
"PJ" is by Rick Riordan of The 39 Clues fame. Once I found that out, I was already excited. Maze of Bones, Rick's entrée into the 39 Clues series, was a great blend of action, history, and humor. I expected the same from the first book in the PJ series, The Lightning Thief, and I was not let down. Right off the bat, you like Percy. He's funny, brave, a little rebellious, and a good guy when it counts. (Might sound obvious, but that's really important. A good story is nothing if you don't like its hero.) And when things in his life get crazy — I don't want to spoil anything, but suffice it to say that at one point early on he's forced to defend himself from his math teacher with a sword — he takes it all in stride.
I should mention the coolest part about the book, of course: it's all about Greek mythology. Percy is the son of one of the 12 major gods (Zeus, Hermes, Aphrodite, Ares, Poseidon . . . ), and has the powers to prove it. Of course, there's no point in giving a character powers unless you're going to throw him at some horrific monsters and devious, plotting gods, so you know right away he's going to run into trouble. And when he does, Riordan lives up to his reputation: the plot, and the individual scenes that make it up, are fun and fast-paced.
Again, I refuse to be one of those guys who gives the plot away during a review, so you'll have to mostly take my word for it. But the way that Rick blends stories and creatures from classical mythology with the modern day elevates the book from a by-the-numbers hero story to something that feels really fresh and inventive. Percy's journey mirrors that of classic Greek heroes like Jason or Hercules — a deliberate choice, no doubt — and having that kind of story updated for the new millennium turns out to be just as much fun as you'd expect.
The Lightning Thief is highly recommended, and I'll definitely be continuing on to the rest of the series. I got the same tingles as I did when I read Harry Potter for the first time, and I need to know where the story goes! Look out for some PJ trivia next week, and in the meantime, peep these links:
Have you read The Lightning Thief? What did you think? What was your favorite part? (Mine was the scene in the statue shop.) Tell me in the comments!
— Jack, STACKS Staffer