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Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Percy Jackson's Debut is the Stuff That Myths Are Made Of

Percy Jackson, star of Rick Riordan's The Lightning Thief, has had a tough life. First, his father abandoned him and his mother when he was just a baby. Then, his mother married Gabe Ugliano, whose surname just about says it all.

At least, his mother dotes on him. Still, Percy just can't seem to stay out of trouble; He's been kicked out of six schools in as many years. Now, he's at Yancy Academy, which would actually be enjoyable if it weren't for two things: dyslexia, and the fact that nothing seems to go right when he's around

Now, he's headed home for the summer and things seem to be going from bad to worse. He and his mom set out for Montauk, where a hurricane has them running for their lives. Only the hurricane isn't really the problem - it's the minotaur that's got Percy terrified. Yep, you read that right - a minotaur, as in the bull-man monster from Greek myths. I know they're not supposed to exist, but in Percy's world they do, because (as he soon discovers) he is a half-blood, as in half-god, half-mortal.

After narrowly escaping the minotaur's grasp, Percy finds himself at Camp Half-Blood. Here, he finally learns the truth about his parentage (some truth anyway), his dyslexia (his brain is pre-wired for ancient Greek, not English), and the reason bad luck always seems to be only a step behind him (monsters have been following him, of course). Still, this is the worst bad luck he's had. Explanation? Easy. Hades (God of the Underworld) and Zeus believe that Percy has stolen two magical objects - Zeus' lightning bolt and Hades' war helmet. The thefts have the gods threatening war, a prospect that would not be good for anyone.

The only solution seems to be for Percy to take up a quest to find the true thief, recover the stolen items, and return them to their rightful owners. Despite the oracle's warnings, he selects two companions and embarks on the quest. What ensues is a harrowing trip across the U.S., which will take the trio to the River Styx and beyond. On their way, they encounter a group of monsters that seem to have stepped right out of a textbook on Greek mythology. When all is said and done, the thief is not who they thought it was, but someone much, much closer. In fact, it's someone Percy would call a friend.

The Lightning Thief offers a wonderful romp through a fantastical world of larger-than-life characters, from the powerful Zeus to a modern-day Medusa. The plot twists and turns, cleverly using mythological elements to keep the story racing along. Probably the most engaging thing about this book is Percy, our bumbling, misunderstood hero. He's likeable, human (well, kind of) and completely sympathetic. His voice is so authentic you almost believe his story is real. Although the story's a little predictable (you will spot the camp traitor a mile away), it's an irresistibly fun read. I'm heading right out to find the sequel.

Grade: A


  1. Thanks for the great review! I just got this out from the library yesterday. Can't wait to get to it.

  2. Isn't this a great series? I've read all three and really enjoyed them. We can't keep it on the shelf at the library and I recommend it to kids and adults. You wrote a great review!


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