Friday, February 25, 2011

Review: The Percy Jackson and the Olympians Series by Rick Riordan

I am probably one of the last people to read this series. :) Okay, that may be a slight exaggeration, but it certainly feels that way! The first three books in this series have been on my bookshelf since 2008. I picked them up at a Scholastic warehouse sale, hearing that they were good from some of my students (I was student teaching at the time). However, the sat, unloved, on my shelf.

I picked up the fourth title when it was released in paperback, but after hearing that a fifth book would complete the series, I decided to wait for that one too. When it finally came out in paperback, I finally bought it to complete the set.

A couple weeks ago when I had two snow days in a row, and was stressed to the max, I wanted something to relieve all that pressure. After asking on Twitter, I settled on this series and dove into the first title, The Lightning Thief.

I was immediately hooked. The storyline was fun, original, and surprisingly accurate to the original myths. My knowledge of Greek mythology is limited, but after researching some things I didn't remember, it turns out Riordan knows his stuff! After a while, I began to trust him and quit looking things up on Wikipedia.

The first book introduces us to Percy Jackson, a young boy who always has strange things happening to him. He eventually winds up at Camp Half-Blood where he learns the truth about his parentage. His father, turns out, is an Olympic God. Apparently the gods get a little frisky for human mates, creating half-blood children with powers. Percy is thrust in "hero-dom" and must save the day. Of course, there is a prophecy about his future, which adds to all the mystery and suspense.

Part of me wanted to not like this. After all, it was fun literature and not overly deep. I was gaining a great appreciation for literature like I do when I am reading War and Peace, but I love it anyway. Every moment of it was wonderful and exciting and captured my imagination.

The second book, The Sea of Monsters, picks up a year later. This was my second favorite of the series, since the storyline was so familiar. We see a lot of the myths and legends rampant in Odysseus' tale from The Odyssey, and since we all know that I love Homer, I loved every moment of this. It was excited and captured the essence of the monsters and villains perfectly. When Percy encounters Circe? I was in love with that chapter.

The third book, The Titan's Curse, was my favorite of the series. It picks up the story later on, and we begin to see a new maturity and strength in Percy. I am always bothered by series where the main character shows little growth, especially over a period of time. But Riordan made sure to have his characters grow, and that is clear in this novel. There are scenes where Percy is challenged to do things he never thought he could-that shows growth.

We also get to meet Atlas (just in time for my Atlas Shrugged readalong? Is there a big connection there?). That was a myth I was unfamiliar with beforehand, so I am glad Riordan threw it in. :)

The fourth book, The Battle of the Labyrinth, was my least favorite of the series. While the writing was certainly good and captured my attention, I had a hard time getting into the story. Perhaps it was the way they story developed, but in certain areas, I felt the story was rushed. In other places, I wanted more action. I also was not a fan of the character Rachel. I think she took away from the action and pace of the story. I was also unhappy with the fact that I didn't get the answers I thought I deserved. I wanted more.

The last book, The Last Olympian, was the perfect ending to a superb series. It made up for the last book with powerful passages and gripping action. I was flipping pages as fast as I could read them. I couldn't wait to see what would come of the prophecy, who would win in the last major battle, and what would happen to Percy. I was sucked in.

The battle scenes and action were non-stop. It comes close to the Battle of Hogwarts for my favorite fictional battle of all-time. I loved the scenes in New York City. But more than anything else, I LOVE how Riordan brought his series to a close. The answer to the prophecy was perfect and fitting to the growth and change Percy underwent throughout the series. I couldn't have asked for a more satisfying ending.

So if you have been avoiding this series thinking they won't be any good, or that they're silly, or that they're trying too hard, you need to set those thoughts aside and give them a try. I found them to be fun, action-packed reads that did something original. And did it WELL.

And if that recommendation isn't enough for you, I read all five books in four days. THAT is how hooked I was.

If you've read this series, what did you think? What was your favorite book?


  1. I read these a couple years back, but spread out a bit more over a year. The first was my favorite. I admit, I didn't really like the second or third at all and nearly gave up the series. The fourth book picked up for me, and in the fifth, I finally felt like Percy matured. Unlike you, one of the things that bothered me is that he felt 12 years old the whole series until he bathes in the river in the fifth book, and then it's more like a maturity of battle rather than personality. I felt like his lack of character growth was intended, though, so that he could appeal to 12 year olds for the whole series, rather than having Percy grow up like Harry Potter does. The writing and style didn't age either. My son and I reviewed the last book together and this was one point we disagreed on. He's young, so he liked that Percy stayed young in personality, whereas I thought it was unbelievable that he still acted the same at 16 as at 12.

    1. I feel most people's personalities don't have a 180 change just because a series of events happened to them. I personally felt more connected with Percy, even though that may be partly due to the style of writing Riordan used.
      Yes, Percy is a child, and acts childish though out the series, but don't forget his age though out the books. Some people are just consistently childish--I even know someone in their twenties that is amazingly childish. However, back to Percy, there are moments Percy is older than his actual age, such as giving his mother the choice of what to do with Smelly Gabe, letting Clarisse take credit, the lion coat incident, and the choice he makes on Ogygia to name a few. I feel that he does mature, but as the time in the books are usually about a week, there isn't much chance to show the changes more clearly without dragging the story out or adding too much unneeded detail. But again, Percy is likely one of the several people with a childish personality, so some mature/maturing moments may be masked by his childishness...
      (I do agree that the second and the third dragged a bit, but I feel they managed to pull through.

  2. I'm reading this series aloud to my kids - we're on book two, as we were also late to the game. :)

  3. I love this series! Book 3 was probably my least favorite, though I'm not sure why since it's been a couple of years since I read it. I do remember Book 5 being the perfect ending to the series. I can't wait to read the next Camp Half-Blood series, I hear some familiar faces show up along the way.

  4. I agree with you and Amanda (who disagree, isn't that funny!?). I loved this series because the stories were interesting and fun but, most importantly, accurate to the mythology, which made learning about it again (a refresher from my college mythology courses) exciting. I'm with Amanda, though, in that I saw very little character growth in any of the books, until Book 5 where there was just enough to seem different. This seems to be the same in all Riordan's series' (I'm reading his Heroes of Olympus and The Kane Chronicles as well), so it's something I just have to set aside because the fun and interest of the stories are still worth dealing with flat characters. Which is saying a lot, because characterization is one of my biggest "things to look for" in a book - I guess that just goes to show you what a great entertainer Riordan is.

  5. I've been considering reading this series--you've convinced me. I'm putting them on hold at the library right now.

  6. Thanks so much for reviewing the series. I've been going back and forth on whether to buy then for my son. Though I've decided yea, I'd been delaying it for other titles. This gives me assurance that the time invested to read them will be worth it. I'd probably read them, too, as I love mythology. Thanks again, you were very helpful. :)

  7. I've read the first two but I didn't really care for the second. Since you said the third was your favorite that makes me a little more eager to jump back in. These are great pick me up books for adults! After all the heavy reading you've been up to I think you deserved a break for these books.

  8. i read the first one and I really liked it because I LOVE mythology. I haven't read any more yet. I am tired of series.

  9. I just read this whole series last year. I definitely enjoyed them, especially the mythology elements, but I didn't lvoe them. I think I just kept comparing them to Harry Potter and they didn't quite meet that standard. I'm with Amanda on the character growth. I felt like he wasn't really maturing and I struggled with that. I did really enjoy them though, but if I'd read them when I was younger I may have loved them.

  10. A great serious of books, i loved them!

  11. i like the book but when i saw the movie i din't like it because in the book he was 12 but in the movie his a teenager already ETC.....

  12. i read the whole series and i loved it!book 4 was my favorite.thanks for reviewing it.

    there is a follow up series called the heros of Olympus.the first book is "the lost hero" and Percy comes in the second book called "the son of Neptune"....

    this series is as good as the last and im looking forward to reading it all!! :)

  13. awesome books! have you started lost hero? longer and better.

  14. They're amazing!It produces a fantastic blend between myth and modern.
    People used to actually believe in the stories, then get stories turn into legends to explain the immpossible, and legends... they just fade... left to rot tangled in cobwegs forever.

    Rick Riordan takes the reader back to the stories we once loved, then shakes the cobwebs out of them- sure to become a classic

  15. i have read the whole series.they are amazing

  16. If ya'll late i'm SUPER late i've avoided them 'til I wanted to find out what the fuss was about. I fell in LOVE with it. I'm on the 3rd book

  17. If ya'll late i'm SUPER late i've avoided them 'til I wanted to find out what the fuss was about. I fell in LOVE with it. I'm on the 3rd book

  18. My opinion is the same. He really matured after he and Annabeth started dating. But that's the catch. Percy is a goofball and is supposed to be that way.