I have a new favorite series, and it’s possibly beating out The A-List and Gossip Girl for my favorite series of all time: Percy Jackson & The Olympians by Rick Riordan. The five-book series highlights the adventures of an adolescent boy who discovers he’s the son of Poseidon, and the Greek myths and monster stories he grew up reading and hearing are completely real. Rather than review each individual book I thought I’d give a review of the series as a whole, mostly because I’ve been reading them too fast to blog about each one!
Book 1: The Lightning Thief
So Percy Jackson is your average 12-year-old troublemaker attending boarding school while his lovely mom is in Manhattan with a deadbeat husband. What’s not so average about Percy is that he’s a half-blood, a demi-god, a child of a god of Olympus. But he’s not the son of just any god, he’s the son of one of the Big Three (Zeus, Hades and Poseidon), who were not supposed to have offspring past World War II because Hitler was a son of Hades and he, well, messed things up a bit. The revelation of Percy’s identity comes from his best friend Grover, who happens to be half-boy half-goat (satyr), and his Latin teacher Mr. Brunner, who happens to be the famous half-man half-horse (centaur) Chiron, trainer of heroes (think Danny DeVito’s character in Hercules, but better). Unfortunately there are quite a few monsters who want Percy dead, so with the help of Grover, Chiron and his mother (who has known Percy’s true identity all along), he is escorted to the only safe place for children like him: Camp Half-Blood.
In this first installment of the series we learn quite a lot about what’s been going on with Olympus (now located on the 600th floor of the Empire State Building) for the past few thousand years, including the fact that Zeus’s master lightening bolt has gone missing. Percy is chosen to go on a quest to find the bolt and return it to its rightful and very angry owner, and he does so with the aid of Grover and Annabeth, a feisty daughter of Athena. Along the way the three friends (picture a Harry-Ron-Hermione kind of dynamic) run into all sorts of gods and monsters we know and love — Ares (god of War), Medusa (snake hair), The Fates (the ones who “cut the thread”), Hades, and many more. They also discover there’s a bit more to this quest than the missing lightening bolt, and the villain is very close to home.
Book 2: The Sea of Monsters
It’s been a relatively quiet year for Percy after the lightening bolt fiasco. He’s even gotten through a whole year at a new boarding school with no abnormal occurrences (read: monsters) whatsoever, until the last day of finals. Some truly gruesome brutes show up to try and take Percy out once again, following orders from the villain(s) in the first novel. Luckily Percy has unknowingly befriended a Cyclops (which are apparently sons of Poseidon, too) named Tyson at the new school, and Tyson helps him out of this jam as well as many others in this action-packed, way more intricately-plotted follow-up to The Lightening Thief.
Percy and Tyson arrive at Camp Half-Blood to learn that Grover has gotten himself kidnapped and the camp’s magical borders have been compromised. Not even Chiron, who has been temporarily dismissed from the camp based on false accusations, can help, so Percy, Annabeth and Tyson have to figure out how to rescue Grover and the camp before monsters completely take over. What they don’t realize until the very end, though, and what was extremely clever on Riordan’s part, is that this “quest” to save Grover and the camp was just a cog in the wheel of the main villain’s plan, designed to bring another player into the mix: Thalia, daughter of Zeus, who had been presumed dead for several years.
Many more characters you may recognize from the Greek myths show up in this second installment: Hermes (the messenger god), The Golden Fleece (as seen in Jason and the Argonauts), the Hydra (the one whose heads you do not want to cut off), and the Sirens.
Book 3: The Titan’s Curse
Initially I wasn’t a fan of how the third book jumped ahead months after Thalia came back to life with no explanation as to what went on at the camp immediately after — hello, coming back from the dead is a pretty big deal — but I quickly got over it. Percy, Annabeth, Thalia and Grover are sent to a boarding school in Maine to retrieve two newly discovered demi-gods, Bianca and Nico, and before they can get away unnoticed they run into some scary new monsters who are working for the first two books’ villain(s), and Artemis, goddess of the hunt, with her team of never-aging Hunters.
Camp Half-Blood is not as present in this book as in the first two because the gang must go on yet another quest to rescue Annabeth and Artemis, who disappeared after that first battle in Maine. The new characters — The General (a monster? A god? No, much worse!), Zoe Nightshade (one of Artemis’s Hunters), and Bianca and Nico (the two new half-bloods mentioned above) — bring a lot more mystery to the story, making this the most suspenseful book of the series so far.
I don’t want to give away who The General is, but I will tell you this: We all know his name, but we may not realize how he came to be.
Book 4: The Battle of the Labyrinth
It appears Mr. Jackson has become quite the P.I.M.P. at 14 years old. He’s got some serious more-than-friends tension with Annabeth, makes a new friend in special mortal Rachel Elizabeth Dare (which does not make Annabeth too happy), references slightly romantic feelings toward Bianca (from the third book) and gets himself a whole new lady friend (whose name/story I will not give away) in the middle of this fourth book. Romance is certainly not the focus of book four, but it definitely plays a part. (The scenes in which Annabeth and Percy act jealous are ADORABLE, and there may or may not be a little kissing action!)
So we should all be familiar with the subject matter of the fourth book: The Labyrinth. Not the awesomely bad 80s movie with David Bowie, the real Labyrinth built by Daedalus (father of Icarus, Mr. Don’t-Fly-Too-Close-To-The-Sun) for the evil king Minos. Probably the best book in the series overall, The Battle of the Labyrinth takes place almost entirely within the magical twists and turns of the famous maze, where many more pieces of the puzzle fall into place. Literally.
Book 5: The Last Olympian
I was wrong about the fourth book being the best in the series. That title (pun alert!) belongs to the fifth book, no doubt about it. The end of the series is so jam-packed with action and suspense; the whole time I was reading it I kept praying to the gods that Riordan signed a contract to make all five books separate movies because this one would be incredible.
So the end of the series starts off with Percy acting like a P.I.M.P. again, juggling Rachel and Annabeth as his two ladies in waiting. But he can’t waste too much of his energy on the girls in his life because the time has come for the final battle between Percy and his demi-god friends, the gods themselves and the feared Titan army. The majority of the book is a days-long battle set throughout Manhattan, where all mortal life has basically stopped due to Morpheus, god of dreams, putting everyone and everything to sleep (temporarily). The great Achilles (mmmm Brad) plays a significant role here, bronze statues across the city come to life, and even Hades engages in some surprising activities.
I feel I can’t give away any more than that, but just know two things: Percy finally chooses between Rachel and Annabeth, and he chooses correctly; and Riordan does a fantastic job making the reader laugh immediately after the tragic final battle. I must warn you all as I was warned before starting this particular book, though: It will just make you want to keep reading.
So now that I have finished reading this delightfully captivating series, my life has basically no meaning. My subway rides will resume their boring, frustrating nature. That is, until I start Riordan’s follow-up series, Heroes of Olympus!