I read The Lightning Thief primarily to see what all the fuss is about. It’s the first in the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series by Rick Riordan, which seems to have taken over multiple shelves in book stores everywhere. Of course, the film adaption this year has helped matters, but there’s no denying that the books were already doing quite well without any Hollywood interference.
The story is straightforward enough. Percy Jackson has never done all that well in school, suffers from both ADHD and dyslexia, and is prone to freak accidents. This all starts to make sense when he discovers that he is a half-blood, with a god for an absentee father. The Greek gods are alive and well, and relocated to America in the not-too-distant past. Percy soon finds himself at a camp with other half-bloods, the first place where he has ever felt at home. Soon enough the action kicks in again and Percy sets off on his quest to battle a small chunk of the pantheon and ward off World War III.
The parallels to Harry Potter are unavoidable, but this book feels quite different. It has a breezy style so that the book is more easily inhaled than read. The pages turn quickly. The plot, while somewhat formulaic and at times predictable, never relents. Even the most reluctant reader will find this book an easy challenge to finish. This is a great book for boys, with far more focus on action than quiet moments. And yes, there is at least one explosion. The creatures and monsters that pop up throughout are done well, but not so well that they’re likely to induce nightmares. There are also enough comedic interludes and spots for brief reflection to please more thoughtful young readers, though the book never wavers from its intent to entertain first and foremost.
That said, The Lightning Thief is not all mayhem. It sneaks in a crash course in Greek mythology. The gods are all present and slightly reinvented for the contemporary kid. These parts of the book feel somewhat inspired by Neil Gaiman’s American Gods, reimagined for kids. Each history is given in an engaging way that puts my high school Greek history class to shame. All around, the book has piqued my interest to seek out the second in the series. There are five books in all released to date. Another factor likely to please hesitant readers: the books stay pretty slim… unlike that other infamous series.