Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief is the first volume in the Percy Jackson series in which Rick Riordan, the author, brings the world of classical mythology bang up to date.
Percy is a troubled teen. With ADHD and various other diagnoses hanging over him, and a list of schools he has been kicked out of as long as his arm, he really has to make this school work for him, or risk being expelled for eternity.
But misadventure, and sometimes catastrophe, stalk Percy at every turn. A strange encounter with his evil maths teacher in a New York museum means that Percy must go home to his mother and try again. Disaster strikes as she takes him to the coast for a few days, and Percy finds out that a) his best friend at school is a satyr, b) he is a half blood (half man, half god), and c) he is being stalked by evil mythological creatures. Evil, mythological creatures that kill his mother and leave him abandoned somewhere called ‘Camp Half Blood’, a kind of summer camp for mythological freak children, of which he is one.
Percy struggles to make sense of this knowledge, and build a new life from the wreckage of his old one. He learns that the ancient world of the gods is as real as Walmart, but twice as dangerous. He learns that the seat of the gods, Olympus, moves over time, shifting to whichever empire or country has most power, in this case, America, with Mount Olympus hovering in the higher realms of the Empire State Building in New York, and Hades sulking under LA.
Percy must go on a quest to save the world of the gods and man from sliding into chaos. He also wants to save his mother, figure out what is going on, and try not to get killed.
It’s no easy challenge.
Riordan effortlessly brings the world of the Greek Myths into modern American culture without a hiccup. There are wonderful comic touches to this rip, roaring adventure which make it an absolute delight. Riordan’s vision is fantastic, and his characterisation is second to none. I loved this book, and the books that follow, as do my children.
The first in the series, this has been made into a film, which can be a way to bring reluctant readers into enjoying the story, and hopefully, eventually, the books. The second book; ‘Percy Jackson and the Sea of Monsters,’ which I have reviewed here, is also out as a film this summer (2013). The third book, ‘Percy Jackson and the Titan’s Curse’, is reviewed by me, here.
The books are suitable for children from the age of ten upwards. They are quite violent. There are lots of fights and battles which are described in some detail, and some of the monsters are suitably scary, as they should be. There are also deaths in the books, which although dealt with sensitively, and entirely appropriate to the story, could be upsetting for younger readers.
There are good, strong characters of both sexes, meaning that I would recommend this book for both boys and girls, although it is clearly marketed and aimed at boys rather than girls. Having said that, my ten and fourteen year old daughters loved this book, and the other books in the series, which is why I’m recommending them to girls too. My six year old son is obsessed with the stories, having listened to them with his sisters, and regularly plays at Percy Jackson.
The books are a fantastic way of bringing the Greek myths to life for children and getting them to imagine and understand them in a modern setting. I highly recommend them.