Book Review: The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan

I think this is my first Young Adult fiction, and I’m thankful to the Filipinos Book Group in GoodReads for selecting this book. This is the group’s choice for the third quarter of the year 2011.

I liked the story. It’s entertaining.

The plot, basically (Spoiler alert!)

The main character is Percy Jackson. He’s a twelve-year-old kid who lives with his mom and stepfather in New York. He has dyslexia and ADHD, and he transfers from one school to another because he often gets into trouble with his classmates and with his academic performance.

His mom is Sally, and she works in a candy shop/ stall in a public terminal.

His stepdad is Gabe. He has a funny last name — Ugliano. It’s not hard to imagine that he must not be a very handsome guy. He plays poker all day with his buddies, and he emits a stench that permeates their entire house.

Percy’s best friend is Grover, an awkward boy whom he often defends against bullies.

At the start of the story, we learn that there’s something about Percy that’s special. He’s not a normal kid. In school, he wasn’t aware of this, but then strange things began to happen. He saw monsters. At first, he thought he was just hallucinating. But he soon found out that they were very real. And what’s more, he discovers that Grover is a goat! Well, half-man, half-goat, that is. A satyr. A creature that’s supposed to exist only in stories.

He comes home to his mom and they take a vacation outside the city. They get threatened by a Minotaur, his mom gets caught, and they enter Half-Blood Hill, a summer camp for special kids like Percy.

Half-Blood Hill is actually a totally new world. In this world, the Greek gods and goddesses exist. Chiron, Percy’s former teacher, is actually a Centaur, and he is one of the camp’s elders. He tells Percy that the Greek deities were never myths. They existed since centuries ago, and they’ve been living (they are, after all, immortal) from generation to generation, paralleling the course of Western civilization. So, yes, Zeus, Poseidon, Hades, and the rest of them, live in this world.

Percy is a “godling”; that is, he is half-man, half-god, therefore he, too, is immortal, and furthermore, he is a hero, just like Hercules and Perseus was in the ancient days. Percy’s mom is human, so his dad must be a god. The only question was, which god?

Well, his dad is one of the “big three” gods — Poseidon, “the God of the Sea.” He discovers his powers and his real identity during one of the camp’s competition.

The gods dwell in Olympus, of course, and Olympus can be found hovering over New York city itself! It can’t be seen by mortal eyes. And where lies the Underworld? Well, beneath Los Angeles!

Trouble is brewing overt at Olympus. Someone had the audacity to steal the Great Zeus’s master thunderbolt. Poseidon is accused. But many are saying it’s the handiwork of Hades, allegedly to cause the great brothers to fight each other and therefore bring doom to the lands of the immortals (a new Trojan War) and the mortals (World War III).

Percy meets Annabeth, a girl his age who is one of the goddess Athena’s daughters, and Luke, one of the god Hermes’s many sons. Together with Grover, they set out on a quest to retrieve the master bolt and avert a major war.

We learn near the end that the real enemy in the story is actually more ancient than the gods themselves.

Personal thoughts

I enjoyed the story. It re-introduced me to the world of Greek Mythology. It makes me want to read the real thing — Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey, Virgil’s Aeneid, and others. Although, of course, the real stuff must be way more satisfying to read.

There are many funny moments in the novel. I liked that part where Percy finally meets his father Poseidon and his uncle Zeus in Olympus. Zeus wanted to wash the bolt because it’s been “defiled by human hands,” and he promptly disappeared after somewhat thanking Percy for his heroic deeds but threatening him to get out of his Kingdom before his return, and Poseidon said something like, “You know, your uncle ought also to be called the God of Theater, because he has a flair for the theatrical.” And that scene in the Underworld where Hades was complaining about his work and his expenses because his Kingdom is over-crowded by souls.

Actually, the gods and goddesses themselves are pretty funny. They are very much like humans. They can be vain, petty, jealous, and unpredictable.

I wonder if Riordan is a fan of Narnia, because I think I saw Aslan in the story. But I might be mistaken.

My Rating: 3 stars out of 5.
Date Read:  September 10 – 19, 2011

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