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The Lightning Thief (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Book 1) by Rick Riordan

Apparently my boyfriend has been recommending this series to me for a while. But in one ear and out the other, even though I had been searching in vain for a good Harry Potter replacement. When we went to see some movies recently, one of the preview trailers was for The Lightning Thief. I really liked the trailer, so all the signs pointed to finally reading this.

I was very intrigued by the idea of Greek mythology in modern times since I took four years of Latin in high school and learned just as much, if not more, mythology as I did Latin. The book is obviously written by someone who knows their stuff when it comes to the Gods, the Titans, the demigods, and all the myths between them. The premise of the entire series is so smart and brilliant. It’s so perfectly woven together, yet simple and entertaining that I was left with a jealous feeling of “why didn’t I think of writing this!” And I’m going to go ahead and proclaim that this series is better than the Harry Potter series. Sorry Harry. I’m Team Percy now.

The story begins with Percy Jackson, age 12, getting kicked out of another school. Trouble just can’t seem to stay away from him. While on a field trip, his math teacher turns into a Fury and tries to kill him. His Latin teacher gives him a pen that becomes a sword and Percy kills the math teacher. But once she’s dead, no one remembers her or believes Percy when he mentions her. This tips him off that things aren’t right, and he eventually finds out he’s the son of one of the big three Gods, making him a demigod in modern times.

The way things are explained to fit into present day time is flawless. Percy has ADHD and dyslexia because his brain is programmed to fight monsters and read ancient Greek. ┬áMount Olympus sits above the Empire State building because New York is the center of Western Civilization and the Gods follow the civilization. And humans can’t see any of it because “the mist” protects them.

Percy’s mother sends him to Camp Half-Blood where he trains to be a Hero like all of the other half bloods who find out one of their parents is immortal. He befriends Annabeth, the daughter of Athena, and he makes enemies of some of the other campers. At camp he learns┬áhis dad is Poseidon, and his dad has been accused of stealing Zeus’s thunder bolt. Percy goes on a quest to find the thunder bolt, try to return it to Zeus, and not get killed by all the mythological creatures who want him dead along the way.

Unlike Harry Potter, who’s all doom and gloom and boo-hoo Voldimort’s after me, Percy is an unlikely hero who really develops over the course of the book and maintains a witty, humorous stance the whole time. I had a crush on HP because, he could do magic! But my crush on Percy is more enjoyable since he makes HP seem one-dimensional. Percy has powers and personality.

Personality is something this book has in abundance. Each of the Gods and Godesses are so much more than their traditional archetype. Ares isn’t just a blood thirsty, war machine; he’s charismatic, likes cheeseburgers, rides a motorcycle, and falls victim to someone smarter than him. And the monsters are more than just cannon fodder. Medusa runs a statue store and is a beautiful blend of the witch from “Hansel and Gretel” and a scorned killing machine.

Some of the scenes aren’t really necessary other than the author got to throw in more mythological characters. The pace of the book zips along until those points, but I’m not complaining about them because most are very clever modern-day adaptations of old myths.

Since I live where I do, it did bug me that the author made Los Angeles the entrance to Hades. It works in the story, but really? It’s a cliche and all those other buzz words like stereotypical, biased, and ham fisted. It could have been somewhere else like Hell, Michigan or Texas.

The whole time I was reading this book I cringed when love interests were being established because all of the Gods and Goddesses are essentially one big incestuous family. The author skirts around this completely or simply explains it as “they don’t have DNA to pass on.” So Percy is a clone of his mother genetically? When it lends comedy to the story, the author will point out how the characters are related, but he never mentions that Percy has a crush on his cousin’s daughter, or that a lot of Percy’s relatives were results of rape.

The comparisons to the Harry Potter series are everywhere, but this was such a more entertaining series to read. It’s so refreshing and exciting. I read the first book in two days because the action and characters were so addicting. I forgot it’s a children’s book. And I started book 2 of the series right after I finished this one.

I’m really excited to see the movie, but looking back on the trailer after reading the book, I don’t know what I’ll think of the changes I noticed. I loved in the book how the daughter of Athena, the Goddess of Wisdom, had blonde hair. But in the movie, she’s a brunette. Percy and Annabeth are both 12 in the book, and there are four more books to be turned into cash cows, but the actors playing them are already 18 and 24. Uma Thurman as Medusa does frighten me, so maybe there’s hope. If the movie sucks, I’ll just read the book over and over to wash it from my mind.

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