When I began this blog series, I wasn’t too sure what to expect from The Lightning Thief. Would Riordan’s take on Greek mythology click just right and thrill me to find a kindred author with a taste for gods and monsters, or would I be disappointed in how he handled it? Or, perhaps worst of all, might it turn out that my impression that the Percy Jackson series and Zeus Is Dead are completely different sorts of books (again, drawn from a glance Wikipedia way back in 2009 when I was 25% of the way through writing ZID and first became aware of this series) turn out to be false?
I needn’t have worried. On the whole, I really enjoyed Riordan’s take on things. There were plenty of traditional mythological themes (prophecy, heroes being clever, rivalries of the gods), and he did a good job adapting things to a modern setting. I could tell that Riordan put thought into his world. I was also pleased to see that he let the gods retain their political squabbling, which I’ve always thought lent a nice nuance to the original tales that is too often missing from modern (granted, mostly theatrical) adaptations.
Yes, there were some things I’d have done differently. I still like my version of Dionysus better—he’s still a jerk, but at least he’s usually cheerful about it—and we have different takes on what it means to be a direct offspring of the gods. Even so, I wasn’t ever actively disappointed. Some things I didn’t get enough of, but there are more books in this series, so there’s still a chance for me to get more.
I’m still not sure how I feel about the concept of the mist, though. I tend to like stories where the world has to deal with things like this breaking into their otherwise mundane reality. I want to know more about how the mist works. (But no spoilers!) 🙂 Perhaps I’ll get it in later books?
And, fortunately, that fear of too much similitude that I had was unfounded. While the shared mythological source material does lead to some similarities between Percy Jackson and Zeus Is Dead, they really are quite different books in terms of tone, characters, and world-building. I’ll resist doing a run-down of those similarities and differences. If you’re curious, you’ll just have to read it and judge for yourself! 😉
Things I Especially Liked
The characters all had flaws. Sure, some of those flaws made me want to whap said characters over the head at times, but characters who never make mistakes risk being dull. Also, the story contained enough mystery that I was able to correctly figure out (makes me feel smrt) and enough that kept me guessing, which was more or less done without plot holes. The pact between the big three was a very nice touch. Again, I like Olympian politics, and the idea that their children can have a dangerous effect on the world was a great way to connect mythology with the knowledge of real history that a reader brings with them to the book.
Things I Disliked
Hmm. There’s not really much to put here that I didn’t already mention in the individual chapter posts, so I think I’ll leave it at that.
My Favorite Original Character
It’s hard for me to choose between Grover or Annabeth here. I like Annabeth. She’s smart, strong, ambitious, and generally capable. Yet Grover wins by a hoof with his loyalty, vulnerability, and will to chase his own dreams. He’s kind of the Ron Weasley in the story, though in Grover’s case it’s a bit like Ron & Harry Potter squooshed together. I suppose I could make a case for Annabeth being Hermione and Harry squooshed together. Though don’t misinterpret that as my accusing Riordan of ripping off the characters.
It’s hard to pick a favorite here, mostly because I wasn’t too blown away with those I saw. (Maybe I’m just being subconsciously competitive and thinking too fondly of the “testudo-frog” or the swarms of razorwings from Zeus Is Dead.) I’m going to go with the chimera, however, since Percy didn’t manage to defeat it. Can’t win ’em all, Percy.
Favorite Greek God
Of the gods who make an appearance in this book, I think I liked Poseidon the most. Liking Poseidon is a little odd for me, because I’ve always viewed him as being—generally—a stern, moody jerk. But he impressed me in his scene, so what the heck, he can take the title for this one.