Review: The Lightning Thief

The Lightning ThiefI had heard about this book (series, really) a number of times, from several fellow Harry Potter enthusiasts before finally succumbing to the temptation to buy the books.

And then it was all I could do not to read every book back-to-back and ignore work and family obligations for a few days.

The superficial links to Harry Potter are obvious: A boy rejected by the plebeian world that surrounds him, with too many unanswered questions about his parents. (Though, truly, it is mostly his father who puzzles him–his mother is as loving as anyone could wish, despite her choice of a loathsome fool as a companion for their family during Percy’s growing-up years.)

There is even the same matter-of-fact acceptance of magic in the world–after a small amount of education.

Where the genius of this book evolves, though, is through its surprising juxtaposition of Greek and Roman mythology with modern-day America. We have all the major steps of the Odysseus fable–including self-aware participants who are trying to have learned from their failings with that hero–but with a 13-year-old, misunderstood hero-wannabe at the helm of the adventure.

Just when I’d started to feel accepted, to feel I had a home in cabin eleven and I might be a normal kid–or as normal as you can be when you’re a half-blood–I’d been separated out as if I had some rare disease.

The prose is tight and doesn’t leave the reader much time to catch her breath as Percy and his companions race against a tight deadline to return the lightning from which the story derives its name. From the slip-cover blurb:

Percy Jackson is about to be kicked out of boarding school…again. And that’s not the least of his troubles. Lately, mythological monsters and the gods of Mount Olympus seem to be walking straight out of the pages of Percy’s Greek mythology textbook and into his life. And worse, he’s angered a few of them. Zeus’s master lightning bolt has been stolen, and Percy is the prime suspect.

The book has already been laden with accolades, so I will quietly add my voice to the chorus: This book is absolutely worth reading. It has all the literary allusions an adult reader will find titillating and the kind of non-stop action that will keep any middle-school-aged child completely engaged. I’m a particular fan of Greek and Roman mythology for its impact on almost everything in western culture (and its original source material for a rich fantasy world!), and it’s handled with grace and understated elegance in this book.

As I mentioned, I devoured all five of these books in a weekend, so be ready for more reviews, upcoming.


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