Rick Riordan did something wonderful, if not unique, with his Percy Jackson & The Olympians series. It awakened the craving that I felt years ago when I read the first Harry Potter book, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. That same feeling of wanting to devour book 2 before one even finishes the first.
Not that Percy Jackson is identical to Harry Potter. Oh no! Both lead characters are young and discover their strange parentage which changes their lives forever. There is the funny best friend Grover the satyr (Ron Weasley in HP) and the intelligent female friend Annabeth, Athena’s daughter (Hermione Granger in HP). But this is where the similarity ends.
Perseus Jackson, Poseidon’s illegal son, is a much much more believable hero than Harry. While Potter swims through his confusion and forced heroism foisted upon him by the rest of the world, Percy faces his destiny with pluck, courage and his trusty sword, Anaklusmos (Riptide). He isn’t afraid to ask for help when he needs it, he trusts Annabeth’s intelligence above his own, and knows that he has to be occasionally grateful to the Olympian Gods in spite of his misgivings. He can almost be a normal child, who gets angry and resentful with his father. But he can set his feelings aside for the safety of others and work with Poseidon towards reaching a goal. He is strangely comfortable in his role as an aberration among the other Half-Bloods and uses his being exceptional as a source of strength instead of complaining about it awkwardly as Harry often does.
In Percy’s world, The Greek Gods and Goddesses are even more real than they were for the ancient Greeks. There is nothing odd about their presence and they blend in our modern civilization quite well in spite of the lack of worship directed towards them. They are beautiful, awesome and horrible at the same time, and one never knows whether they are there to ruin things or help our heroes on their way to their quest.
Riordan’s imagery is strong. He combines the ancient stories with reality and, strangely, it works. I almost forgot that I bought the books just to see if the upcoming movie will match up.
I don’t want to give any more spoilers. 🙂 Plus, I can’t wait to start Book 3: The Titan’s Curse. It is sitting just behind my notebook, near the glass of orange juice, and I can’t wait to find out what that pegasus is doing on a ledge.
Percy Jackson & The Olympians is a 5-book series written for young adult readers. But I would recommend it to grown-ups who haven’t forgotten what it’s like to have fun and imagine.