By Rick Riordan.
So a friend of mine passed this series on to me and holy crap, this is good stuff even when I'm way out of the books' age range. Wow, this is well done.
Also, check out the really great chapter titles!
- “I Accidentally Vaporize My Pre-algebra Teacher”
- “Three Old Ladies Knit the Socks of Death”
- “Grover Unexpectedly Loses His Pants”
- “I Play Pinochle With A Horse”
- “I Become Supreme Lord of the Bathroom”
- “I Ruin A Perfectly Good Bus”
- “We Visit the Garden Gnome Emporium”
- “We Get Advice from a Poodle”
- “I Plunge to My Death”
- “I Become a Known Fugitive”
- “A God Buys Us Cheeseburgers”
- “We Take a Zebra to Vegas”
- “I Battle My Jerk Relative”
The book starts with a bang:
“Look, I didn’t want to be a half-blood.
If you’re reading this because you think you might be one, my advice is: close the book right now. Believe whatever lie your mom or dad told you about your birth, and try to lead a normal life.
Being a half-blood is dangerous. It’s scary. Most of the time, it gets you killed in painful, nasty ways.
If you’re a normal kid, reading this because you think it’s fiction, great. Read on. I envy you for being able to believe that none of this ever happened.
But if you recognize yourself in these pages-if you feel something stirring inside-stop reading immediately. You might be one of us. And once you know that, it’s only a matter of time before they sense it too, and they’ll come for you.
Don’t say I didn’t warn you.”
When we meet Perseus "Percy" Jackson, he's a 12-year-old New York kid diagnosed with dyslexia and ADHD who keeps getting thrown out of schools all the time. His mom Sally is super nice, his dad disappeared before he was born, and his stepfather is awful. While on a field trip, Percy is surprised when one of the teacher suddenly attacks him in a museum and turns into a hag. The one cool teacher in school, Mr. Brunner, throws Percy a pen that turns into a sword, and he manages to kill the hag and make her disappear. When he comes back, nobody remembers the teacher--except for when he hears his best friend Grover and Mr. Brunner talking about how to keep Percy alive until the fall. Grover eventually confesses that he’s there to protect Percy from…? And then they see three ominous ladies knitting the biggest pair of socks you ever saw. Bad sign, says Grover.
After Percy goes home for the summer, he and his mom go off to Montauk (where she met his dad) and then Grover shows up, revealing that he's actually a satyr and he's here to try to protect Percy. It's imperative that Percy go to summer camp…one he might not be able to come back from. They head to the camp, get attacked by a minotaur, and Percy's mom disappears. Percy manages to break off a horn and stab the minotaur and make it disappear too....
Welcome to Camp Half-Blood, the summer training camp for young demigods hoping to be able to survive whatever monsters keep coming after them once the kids hit puberty and become more noticeable! Turns out Mr. Brunner is really Chiron in disguise, camp is run by a getting-punished-and-he's-pissed-about-it Dionysus, and Percy turns out to be the son of Poseidon. That latter fact is kind of a problem because the Big Three brother gods swore after the debacle of WWII that they'd stop fathering children around the globe because their demigod kids were coming out too powerful, and there's a prophecy about the next one of their kids to turn 16 either being super good or super bad. Zeus was the first one to break the pact and his kid got turned into a tree. Now there's Percy and who knows what's going to happen there?
Percy makes some friends: Luke the camp counselor and son of Hermes, Annabeth, the daughter of Athena, and the aforementioned Grover, who's trying to earn his seeker's license to look for Pan, who's gone missing. Soon Percy gets assigned a quest--someone stole Zeus's thunderbolt and somehow Percy is getting blamed for stealing it even though he didn't know anything about the gods at the time*, and it needs to get returned to Olympus (residing above NYC these days) before the summer solstice coming up. Unfortunately, Hades is suspected of the crime, the underworld is in Hell-A these days, and Percy can't get on a plane because Zeus will kill him. This leads him, Grover, and Annabeth on a wacky, weird, dangerous cross-country journey to figure it all out. Percy's got an ulterior motive though--he thinks his mom's dead and he's going to get her back. He gets a prophecy from the Oracle before he goes that gives him plenty to worry about--warning him about a friend's betrayal and not saving what matters most.
* Seems a little nonsensical/non-fair to me on that one, though.
On the way there, the trio meet some famous Greek luminaries, such as Medusa, and Ares, and learns that there's a bigger bad guy engineering everything behind the scenes. (If you know your Greek gods, guess who.) If he can just get people to acknowledge there's a problem....
Overall, I thought this was very well done, especially in a kids' book. It's fun to read and yet has depth, which is awesome. Poseidon doesn't really know what to make of his son, but supports him as best he can within godly limitations. If there's anything I thought was a bit weakly handled, it was the "betrayal" foreshadowing--I don't think that one could be done too well with such a limited amount of options to choose from, I'll put it that way, and it ends up being a "dark horse" sort of situation.
I was kind of deeply amused that the book ended in the way that it did--let's just say that someone's given the ability to empower themselves and take care of a situation Greek-style, heh heh heh. I'll mention that below the spoiler cut. I liked that this series isn't too "good" or sanctimonious to take care of a bad egg from time to time like most children's books would probably do.
And seriously, these books are funny! The author does a great job of (literally) adapting the Greeks to the dominant American culture that they've migrated to and coming up with very appropriate snark. Plus, Percy's a good egg and inventive, so you trust that he'll figure things out. So, four stars.
Quote Corner (all quotes from Percy unless stated otherwise):
- “See, bad things happen to me on field trips. Like at my fifth-grade school, when we went to the Saratoga battlefield, I had this accident with a Revolutionary War cannon. I wasn’t aiming for the school bus, but of course I got expelled anyway. And before that, at my fourth-grade school, when we took a behind-the-scenes tour of the Marine World shark pool, I sort of hit the wrong lever on the catwalk and our class took an unplanned swim. And the time before that…Well, you get the idea.”
- “Once I got over the fact that my Latin teacher was a horse, we had a nice tour, though I was careful not to walk behind him. I’d done pooper-scooper patrol in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade a few times, and, I’m sorry, I did not trust Chiron’s back end the way I trusted his front.” BWAHAHAH
- “In a way, it’s nice to know there are Greek gods out there, because you have somebody to blame when things go wrong. For instance, when you’re walking away from a bus that’s just been attacked by monster hags and blown up by lightning, and it’s raining on top of everything else, most people might think that’s just really bad luck; when you’re a half-blood, you understand that some divine force really is trying to mess up your day.”
- “a centaur in a prom dress-now that was a weird summer…” -Annabeth
- Percy recaps the story the news is telling about his kidnapping and daring escapes. “Finally brave Percy Jackson (I was starting to like this kid)....”
- “Your uncle has always had a flair for dramatic exits. I think he would’ve done well as the god of theater.” -Poseidon on Zeus
Oh, and just for kicks, there's a Spoiler Quote Corner under the cut, referring to what I hinted at above.