The Lightning Thief
The Sea of Monsters
The Titan's Curse
The Battle of the Labyrinth
The Last Olympian
by Rick Riordan
The Young Adult Fantasy genre, or for that matter most fantasy adventures, typically feature an unlikely hero, young and inexperienced, full of verve and vigor, favored by Fortune/Destiny, accompanied by a couple of trusted friends, always ready for adventure regardless of personal danger, loaded with aces up his sleeve, usually knows right from wrong, faces a crisis of conviction of sorts and bungles through but comes out on top in the end.
The villains are incidental, a necessary evil. They are practically invincible, except when they cross paths with our young hero.
Being a jaded adult, I naturally shake my head and roll my eyes when the movie hero artfully dodges the bullets from multiple machine guns fired by the demented assailants and somehow manages to target every single one of these machine-gun-toting assailants with a mere pistol and triumph in the end.
Something about stacking up the odds against the hero completely disproportionately, only to make his victory seem all the more meritorious irks my senses.
However, that does not stop me from getting entangled in a well-spun yarn.
Getting back to the Perseus (Percy) Jackson series, I LOVED it. Every bit of it. Couldn't put the books down and it was pure torture to wait for the next book to arrive from my library holds. And arrive they did, out of order, making those few weeks of my life completely annoying.
When I finished the Bartimaeus Trilogy, the books weren't finished with me. They lingered in my thoughts much longer than I had expected. The premise, the plot, the execution, the character development, the finale were all calculated to etch something fairly deep in the fantasy lover's mind.
In much the same way, Percy Jackson and The Olympians has been stewing in my mind for weeks after I finished reading them. The story has all the elements designed for success. Being a lover of mythology, I was immediately impressed by the premise: Greek Gods, The Olympians, did not just fade away forever; they moved Westwards and have been doing what they do best quite unbeknownst to us mere mortals. And, gods being gods, they sire many kids with mortals. These kids are the half-bloods. And for some reason, all the monsters want these half-bloods dead. I don't quite understand why, but, I don't have to.
The half-bloods get safe haven and training at Camp Half-Blood, temporarily governed by Dionysus, and instructed by Chiron. Perseus Jackson is the son of one of the Big Three - viz., Poseidon. I'll leave it at that for now. No point in retelling the story here. So I won't.
Incidentally, what is it about centaurs that make them so intriguing and sagely? They are in Harry Potter, in Artemis Fowl, and in Percy Jackson series.
Right from Page One, the book sets our hearts racing with chases and close calls. The characters are adorable, unique, and impressive. To rethink and re-present the Greek gods, each with their flaws and strengths, takes quite some creativity. Rick Riordan has that aplenty.
Writing in first person has its challenges. Well, for one thing, it is hard to kill off the character midway, so we know he survives every adventure. And, he cannot be everywhere and know everything as a 3rd party narrator does.
Of course, there is always the lurking element of comparison with the Harry Potter series. And, having read the Harry Potter series back-to-back a couple of years ago, I don't see much more than surface similarities which make up the basic formula for any fantasy adventure. If we so choose, we could draw many parallels: Camp Half-Blood <=> Hogwarts ; Chiron <=> Dumbledore; Annabeth <=> Hermione; Kronos <=> Voldemort
His dyslexia and ADHD apart, Percy is not necessarily The Chosen One to defeat Evil Personified; at least not for sure, not until he reaches 16, IF he reaches 16. Percy has a certain Indiana Jones-ish irreverence and humor - slightly snarky yet charmingly agreeable.
Were I in the 11-15 years age group, I'd be raving about it to one and all and would desperately want to be a half-blood, training for my next quest, dreading the Oracle's bizarre prophecies. And, since I crossed the teens ages ago, I'll admit to no such desperate longings :)
Well, of course, since it is written for that age group, the lingo, the humor is a bit blasé, but that could be because I am spoilt on Terry Pratchett.
It somehow feels incomplete not jotting down much more about the Percy Jackson books, but, like the taste of rich dark chocolate, the sensation is hard to communicate.
I am sure by the time my kids are old enough to read fantasy, if they so choose, Harry Potter, Bartimaeus trilogy, Artemis Fowl series, and Percy Jackson would be on my suggested-reading list for them, among others.