Gorgons, Pens, and Satyrs REVIEWING The Lightning Thief

Kalimera!!!! Today we are reviewing a book that my sister has been begging me to cover for at least 2 years now, if not longer. So dear sister, if you're reading (and I KNOW you are), you can chill now. 

Besides just being a personal review request, today is Monday. I've decided that I need to have some new weekly features as I get more active on here. So welcome to MAGIC MONDAY, the day of the week when we review books that either include Disney characters/stories, are published by Disney, or have been/will be turned into movies by the Disney company. I tend to read a lot of those since I like a lot of the stories they've come up with over the years, so might as well make a whole thing out of it. This book was published under Disney Hyperion, thereby qualifying it for the first ever MAGIC MONDAY. 

Let's talk about the very first Percy Jackson and the Olympians book.

The Lightning Thief

Author: Rick Riordan
Genre: Fantasy
Year: 2005

The Lightning Thief


Percy Jackson is a good kid, but he can't seem to focus on his schoolwork or control his temper. And lately, being away at boarding school is only getting worse -- Percy could have sworn his pre-algebra teacher turned into a monster and tried to kill him. 

When Percy's mom finds out, she knows it's time that he knew the truth about where he came from, and that he go to the one place he'll be safe. She sends Percy to Camp Half Blood, a summer camp for demigods (on Long Island), where he learns that the father he never knew is Poseidon, God of the Sea. Soon a mystery unfolds and together with his friends -- one a satyr and the other the demigod daughter of Athena -- Percy sets out on a quest across the United States to reach the gates of the Underworld (located in a recording studio in Hollywood) and prevent a catastrophic war between the gods. 


Alright, where to start, where to start...

This is the first book in a series known as Percy Jackson and the Olympians. This series is composed of 5 books, beginning with....this one, naturally. We always do our best to start at the beginning. 

I first read this book back when I was in high school (AKA sometime in ye olde times of 2008-2012). Although, to be precise, the time is probably closer to 2008-10, because by 2012 I was already reading the series that follows this one (Heroes of Olympus -- we'll get there, buckle your seatbelt cause this might take a while). I distinctly remember checking it out from the library and reading it while walking with my family in Bed, Bath & Beyond....a weird memory to have, but hey, I'll only complain so much. 
I read it, I loved it, I watched the movie when it came out and dealt with it happily enough, and now I have a sister who is obsessed with Greek mythology who has been nagging me to catch up on other series written by none other than Rick Riordan, or Uncle Rick, as we fans like to call him. 

I re-read this book during the early stages of my personal CQ (corona quarantine). Then I re-read the rest of the series...and the next series...and the one after that. So I've been spending a LOT of time in Demigod land. I always put off my sister's requests to review it by...being too busy reading other things and using the "high school was SOOO many years ago, it wouldn't be fair to review it without re-reading it". That excuse no longer flies when you're inside with your sister 24 hours a day with not much to do but read, watch TV, and hang out for as long as you can tolerate each other in one day's stretch (I'm kidding, my sister and I are super tight, which is why I'm able to crack all these jokes to begin with). So...enough dilly dallying, let's talk about Percy. 

Percy is a master of sass, wielder of wit (and a pen-sword), a virtuoso of combat banter, and all around, just a major dork. In this first book, he is twelve years old, dyslexic, and in for one crazy lifestyle change. As the synopsis says, Percy is attacked by his math teacher, in a museum (no spoilers there, it happens in chapter 1). Afterwards, his teacher, Mr. Brunner, and his best friend, Grover Underwood, reveal a lot more than Percy was expecting. Percy is a demigod, monsters are real, and he isn't safe. Grover is actually a satyr, hiding his hooves-for-feet, and has been charged with the task of protecting Percy...a very dangerous task, if you couldn't tell by now. This is particularly true because Percy just has a tendency to find trouble at every turn. So...Percy does what any sensible pre-teen would do after hearing all of this information....he runs to his mommy. 

I'm kidding and I'm not. He goes home from boarding school, meets with his mom and has a chat about his dad, before he, she, and Grover take a trip towards Camp Half-Blood. On the way, they are attacked by a minotaur, Percy's mom disappears in a burst of dust, and Percy has a new home with a bunch of other teens and pre-teens...and his teacher who is actually a centaur and one of the leaders of the camp. While at camp, Percy is claimed and hears the bad news that the Olympians (yes, the actual Olympians--giant Greek gods with human appearance) think he stole Zeus's famed lightning bolt. Naturally, Percy is very rational...as he goes on a not allowed quest to figure out who really stole the lightning bolt, with two companions, and encounters certain doom. A cakewalk for ANY twelve year old really. 

In case you couldn't tell from my lengthy bouts of humor, I love this book. It is an absolute gem. I love Percy and Annabeth (the demigod daughter of Athena) and Grover. They're a fantastic trio. Given the option to have best friends from a book series, I'd probably pick these three. They're smart, clever, hilarious, and they fight amazingly. You can't go wrong with them. 

What's to love about this book? 
  • the characters -- did I already mention that? 
  • the story -- Greek gods live "among" us and have human children (among other types of children)? I'm totally there
  • blending mythology with the real world -- I love literature, I really enjoy mythology and folktales, so...yeah, this is an obvious plus
  • the settings -- this book is basically a road trip book, with more danger and more sass. Sign me up.
  • the writing style 
So we covered the characters...let's talk a bit more about the story. 

Percy and his friends meet so many different enemies and allies, that are all based on myths. You've got the Furies, the minotaur, Cerberus, and some cameos from Ares and Medusa. It's a star studded line up (literally if you check out some constellations and compare notes). Mythology is full of ancient languages and places that people don't think too much about in casual conversation or daily occurrence, so the active blending of it to the real world just feels like a genius idea to me. 

Now how about those settings I mentioned? 

How does it sound to go from New York/Long Island to Las Vegas and Hollywood, with stops in New Jersey, Denver, and St. Louis, among other places? Sounds like a fantastic summer to me! Except it comes with a deadline and a major caveat: the summer solstice, and a never ending supply of monsters that want to kill you. The perfect summer. I loved reading about each stop our heroes made, the landmarks and adventures. We get the St. Louis Arch, a Vegas casino...all kinds of wonderful places. It kind of makes for a perfect read when you're stuck inside, since you still get to feel like you're traveling all over the place. 

Now for the best part --- the writing style. 

Why is it so great? It is great because Uncle Rick has some flair. In this book, we are given a first person perspective, from Percy. As mentioned, Percy is a sass master, and his thoughts are hilarious. I can't think of a funnier narrator in any other book that I have ever read, honestly. I sat here for a good five minutes trying to think of another and came up with nothing to really compare to it at this level. No narrator comes close so far. If you've read this book, and know of a funnier narrator, please let me know, because I would love to meet them. Greg Heffley in the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series is pretty funny, but he has nothing on Percy. Then again, he doesn't have any poodles or chimera to contend with. The story has a great pace, there are lots of mini-conflicts to slow down the heroes, there is suspense, and there is humor. Everything about this book just CLICKS perfectly into place. 

So, now we have talked about it, and my sister can be content. I don't want to give too much away, even if this book IS decently old. There will be enough general spoilers in future books (clearly if there are other books, certain characters survive and they complete their quests -- but you won't find spoilers for any book within its own review). 

As for a rating...is there any doubt that I would give this book anything less than a Lone Star rating of  ✯✯✯✯?

I love this book, I love the story, I love the characters...it really is the kind of story that stays with you for a long time. While I didn't want to do it any injustice by reviewing it after such a long reading gap, that doesn't mean I forgot everything about it. I still loved it and remembered the characters, the major plot points, and the outcome. I forgot a few details, but overall, this is a fantastic read that I definitely recommend, highly. It's a great series for young readers who can handle it (around middle grade or just under there, in terms of size and relatability). If you haven't read it yet, you definitely should, regardless of your age. Don't let age keep you from enjoying the finer things in life....like pre-teens running for their lives from ancient fictional monsters. 

Thanks for tuning in to this installment from The Real World According to Sam, where I bring the books straight to your screen and even put in my own two cents on them.

Below are links to each Percy Jackson & the Olympians review currently available on this blog, just click on the cover of the book you'd like to see!