Over the course of the past week, I’ve read the entire Percy Jackson and the Olympians book series. Yes, all five young adult books were quickly devoured over the course of seven days, thanks to their action filled writing, and the fact that I couldn’t put the damn things down.
It’s been too long since I’ve done an actual review on this site, so bare with me if I get it wrong.
The idea behind the books is, frankly, very reminiscent of the Harry Potter series: child from a broken home find out that the strange things that have happened all his life aren’t really bad, that he’s part of some other mystical world, and he’s plays a major role in their Big Prophecy.
Where Harry was a Wizard, Percy is a demi-god (son of one the Greek Gods); where Harry had Hogwarts, Percy has Camp Half-Blood, a summer camp for others of his kind; where Harry had Hermione and Ron, Percy has Annabeth and Grover. Both have one main quest per book, with an larger story arc spanning the entire series.
What I’m trying to say here, is there are quite a few parallels between the two series. Frankly, a more cynical reader would – at this point – dismiss the Percy Jackson series as derivative, and move on. This is something I strongly, strongly caution against! The Percy Jackson series has a voice of its own, and is quite entertaining in its own right.
And, really – being Harry Potter with Greek Mythology instead of magic isn’t a bad thing at all.
These books are pretty action packed – quite a few fights occur in the pages, most of them some form of sword or knife fight. As the books go on, the battles get larger and larger (as do the stakes), and they are all written with enough description so as to keep them entertaining and interesting, but not so much as to make them gross or gory.
Surprisingly, there is no cursing in the books. Well, there’s cursing in the most literal sense, i.e. cursed by the gods, but not swearing – no foul language. There’s also no alcohol – even by the gods – most everything is diet soda or root beer. These little things were the bits that seemed to stick out as unrealistic. It’s almost as if the author went out of his way to sanitize things, and it adds a bit of falseness to an otherwise real feeling world.
Another odd thing: No one is perfectly good. Each character in the series has shades of gray, as it were. They don’t always do the right thing. Normally, this would just add a bit of depth to the characters, and a sense of realism to the world. At least once, though, it nearly breaks the narrative.
**Mild Spoiler Rant**
[spoiler]At the end of the first book, Percy’s mom uses the head of Medusa to kill her husband. Granted, he was an abusive lout who drank, stank and beat her – but, what she does is tantamount to murder. She says he ran off, then sells the resulting statue (remember, a gorgons gaze turns one to stone) and uses the proceeds to attend college.
This is never again mentioned in the series… The rest of the books make a big deal about killing “mortals” and how it’s a bad thing, and how monsters are different since they aren’t killed so much as sent back to Hades – only to return later – but that killing is a bad thing. Even after his mom, who is supposed to be a good guy, killed her husband.
I felt that was a bit odd.[/spoiler]
That aside, I really like these books, and was actually sad when I finished the fifth one. I have to admit, I’m looking forward to seeing this film in February.
I recommend you check these out.