Monday, January 7, 2013

Review: THE LIGHTNING THIEF by Rick Riordan

Percy Jackson is about to be kicked out of boarding school... again. And that's the least of his troubles. Lately, mythological monsters and the gods of Mount Olympus seem to be walking straight out of the pages of Percy's Greek mythology textbook and into his life. And worse, he's angered a few of them. Zeus' master lightning bolt has been stolen, and Percy is the prime suspect.

Now Percy and his friends have just ten days to find and return Zeus' stolen property and bring peace to a warring Mount Olympus. But to succeed on his quest, Percy will have to do more than catch the true thief: he must come to terms with the father who abandoned him; solve the riddle of the Oracle, which warns him of betrayal by a friend; and unravel a treachery more powerful than the gods themselves.
Sometimes I get the strangest ideas stuck in my head. I won't bore you with the different delusions I've suffered under throughout my life, save one, the one that affects this review. For whatever reason, I spent the last few years convinced that I wouldn't like the Percy Jackson series. Some of the blame, I suspect, lies at the feet of the movie no one seemed to like. Whatever the case, I didn't read The Lightning Thief - despite owning it - until this past December.

Guess what? (I'm sure you can guess.)

I loved it!

Percy Jackson is a troubled kid. He's not dark or brooding, but he's been diagnosed with ADHD and dyslexia, his stepfather Smelly Gabe hates him, and he's been kicked out of every boarding school his mother's ever managed to sweet-talk him into. Now he's at his last resort school on a field trip with a kleptomaniac teacher's pet, a vicious Georgia peach of an algebra teacher, and a wheelchair-bound Classics teacher who won't get off his case.

Percy thinks he's got it tough, but that was before his algebra teacher sprouted scales and wings and tried to kill him. Turns out he's a half-blood, half-human and half-god, and his algebra teacher was actually a Fury sent to kill him for stealing Zeus's master lightning bolt. Whisked away to Camp Half-Blood, Percy has to form alliances and train to become a proper hero in time to begin his first quest: steal back Zeus's lightning bolt from Hades, god of the Underworld. Now that's tough.

I completely understand now why the kids in my store rave over Rick Riordan. His MG voice is spot-on. I never felt like Percy sounded like anything other than a sixth-grade boy. Humorous and likable, Percy faces the obstacles in his path with a believable range of emotions. He's easily frustrated and more than a little confused, but he also is admirably stubborn when it comes to saving his mom and credibly conflicted when it comes to pleasing his absentee immortal father.

The story itself was also a joy to read. While I found many of the twists and surprises easy to guess in advance, I loved the pace of the story and the way Mr. Riordan managed to thread Greek and Roman myths throughout. Some of the characters Percy and his friends meet are well-known (hello, Medusa!), while others were outside my knowledge. I adore books that make me want to run to the nearest library for additional research.

There were, of course, plot holes and leaps of logic, but nothing that hindered my reading. I don't know if I'll review the rest of the series on the blog, but do know that I'll be reading them ASAP. I can't wait to see what quest Percy and the gang receive next.

Points Added For: Percy, a great repackaging of various myths, Grover and his awesomeness, a fantastic voice.

Points Subtracted For: Easy-to-guess twists, a few plot holes.

Great For Fans Of: Greek and Roman mythology, other Rick Riordan books, Harry Potter (so I've been told).

Notes For Parents: One mean stepparent (who drinks beer, smokes cigars, and gambles), violence, all of the campers at Camp Half-Blood are born out of wedlock and have absentee parents, so there's some tension.

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