Review: The Lightning Thief

The Lightning Thief (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, #1)The Lightning Thief 
by Rick Riordan

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Lightning Thief / 9780786838653

I'm kind of a sucker for mythology remakes, so I guess it was a foregone conclusion that I would like "The Lightning Thief". Percy Jackson really comes to life on the page as a sweet 12-year-old kid who is struggling from the weight of having lost his father, dealing with a horrible step-dad, and coping with ADHD and dyslexia. With all these problems, and in and out of schools like a revolving door, how was he to guess that he's a godling child, son of Poseidon, and with a brain stubbornly hardwired to read ancient Greek and be alert on the battlefield?

For all its "kid-focus", "The Lightning Thief" is surprisingly and admirably true to the myths that it builds upon. Since monsters can't be permanently killed, just 'defeated', Percy gets to visit quite a lot of mythological fare -- like the Medusa -- and it's quite interesting to see how Riordan has re-imagined the ancient gods and monsters of myth in their new, modern settings. The story, too, is surprisingly grim under the surface: since godlings naturally attract monsters to them, many of them are forced to live permanently at the safe "summer camp" for half-bloods, far away from their mortal families; protected prisoners, living life in a gilded cage.

If there's anything I don't like about "The Lightning Thief", it's perhaps that the writing can be a bit rough at times. Percy-the-narrator is fond of parenthetical asides, which often takes me right out of the action for some reason and reminds me that I'm reading a book; and some of the world-building at the beginning is quite slow if you already know the premise of the book (which, now that it's a major motion picture, you probably already do). On the other hand, I finished this book in a day because I quite simply couldn't put it down, so I can't criticize it too strongly -- Percy Jackson may be rough around the edges, but it has a heart and soul that will keep up reading until the end.

~ Ana Mardoll

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LGregg said...

I liked a lot of things about The Lightning Thief, but it was one of those books I couldn't completely enjoy because I kept itching to edit it. The narrative voice was off-- maybe it was the parentheticals-- and that whole "flame of Western Civilization" business really threw me. I would have accepted it without blinking if they'd said "oh, yeah, the Olympians love power," or something, but "We follow the flame of Western Civ" was too much like a thumbnail summary of Everything That's Wrong With Sixth-Grade World History.  

Ana Mardoll said...

I empathize -- the parentheticals drove me nuts, too, and I was relieved that they were kept to just a few instances but still, I do not like  parenthetical statements in books. They hurl me from the experience.

The "western civ" stuff bugged me too. I hope that doesn't come up much in later books? As it was, I just sort of skimmed over it in a "let us never speak of this again" sense. It sort of hit the "dog whistle" sniff test for me... but I like how you put it better.

Kadia said...

I've finished the series. I don't think that it's ever mentioned again; it was just a cheesy reason to explain why the Olympian gods somehow moved from Greek to New York (?)

Honestly, I think each book improved significantly over the one before it. "The Lightning Thief" was largely a retread of what other heroes from actual Greek mythology did -- Perseus, Theseus, etc. Riordan stops borrowing so heavily in the next four, using the same characters (dramatically -- and in some cases, extremely cleverly) reinterpreted but with all new adventures for all of the main characters. He really did his research, not just on the main gods that everyone knows (Zeus, Athena, etc.) but on people like Pan and Daedalus. I think he even gave Nemesis (Nemesis, of all people) a pretty decent role.

Ana Mardoll said...

@yahoo-7NB5FJ2VSINZPTPUGCJI6C24SU:disqus  Awesome, thank you for chiming in! I was a little worried about the rest of the series, but now I will buy and read without worrying. Thank you. :)

LGreff said...

Maybe I will give the books another try. I did like the concept a lot.

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