Ossus Library Index
Fantasy Index


A novel by Rick Riordan
(2006, Hyperion Books)

Percy Jackson and the Olympians, book 1

A boy learns that his father is a Greek god, who risks war after being accused of stealing the symbol of Zeus’ power -so Percy sets out in search of the missing item.


-- First reading (paperback)
Read November 24th, 2019 to February 1st, 2020


The subject matter was an interesting twist on gods hidden in plain sight, but I could not get into the story. I was bored through most of it, and I’m not sure if it was the story, the main character, or the writing. The adventures were done video game style, bouncing from one to the next, and with some cohesion relating them to the main story, but I didn’t find them very interesting. I think the main problem was that I couldn’t relate to the main character, even as a reluctant hero.

Spoiler review:

There are two main types of students, one who like going to school, and the others who don’t. Percy is one of the latter, and as such, I couldn’t relate to him from the start, especially given his reputation as a troublemaker. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as I also believe Harry Potter was a horrible student, and couldn’t relate to many aspects of his character -yet I liked him and his story. Here, I couldn’t get invested in the character, and that persisted throughout the entire book.

The book is written in the first person, like The Hunger Games and Divergent series. Unlike those series, this book is more cartoonish, with less serious undertones, and as such, it’s meant for younger audiences. My age-appropriate audience was bored also, and I had a lot of trouble convincing him to continue reading night after night.

Percy is a self-admitted problem student, and not just because of his Greek-inspired dyslexia. The book starts with him getting attacked by a teacher on a field trip, though the teacher turns out to be a monster sent from the underworld. He eventually goes home from the boarding school, to his terrible stepfather and when his mother arrives, she decides to take him to their waterside cabin -only they are attacked and his mother is apparently killed as she sends him to Camp Half-Blood.

There, Percy finds out he is son of a god, and eventually it is revealed that he is Poseidon’s son. I liked the divisions in the camp, from the unknown campers whose parents, one of them a god, had indiscretions with a mortal, and who attract monsters to them because of it. They are safe in this haven of a camp, where they learn all sorts of Greek stuff, including sword fighting and team missions. Many of the cabins are empty, and the author sets up some tension between the different houses, especially Ares, the god of war. I liked the way Percy could control the taps in the shower to spray Clarisse and the others when they were bullying him.

I found the prophecy to be a bit cheesy, and even though the author said it was vague, it actually was pretty precise. And so Percy goes on a quest to rescue his mother from Hades and the underworld, at the same time heading in search of Zeus’ stolen lightning bolt. The three brothers, Zeus, Poseidon and Hades, have vowed to go to war if the bolt is not returned. Each thinks the other had something to do with the theft, which is of course not true.

Grover was a satyr who dressed like a human to watch over Percy at school, so they already knew each other. Percy’s next best friend was Annabeth, daughter of Athena. They know a lot more about the hidden world than Percy, and as he learns, so do we. It’s fun how the author attributes real-world events to the Greek gods, especially the wars and environmental disruption of the last millennia. It’s all apparently due to abandoning the Greek gods.

Mount Olympus is in New York, while the entrance to the underworld is in L.A., so they have to travel across the country to get from the Camp (also near New York) to find Hades. The excuse of why they couldn’t fly -Zeus would shoot the plane down with Percy on it- was a neat twist, allowing for various adventures as they spend their days traveling. So they get assaulted by underworld beasts on the bus, which they escape, but which makes Percy a wanted man, even put on national television with his uncle fake-crying over him on talk shows.

Their first big test is against the Medusa, who tries to lure them in with food and candy, at her garden statue shop. After a brief fight, they chop her head off, and Percy mails it to the underworld (it never gets there, but is returned to sender at Percy’s apartment, where he gives it to his revived mother as a gift to use against Gabe). They use reward money from rescuing a dog to get partway across the country, where they are assaulted at the Archway in Saint Louis. Again, Percy survives and is vilified on TV, but when he jumps out of the hole into the river, he is saved by servants of his father Poseidon, which piques his curiosity.

Ares meets them at a café, where he promises to help if they recover his shield for him at a defunct waterpark where he was trying to get amorous with a goddess, and was chased away by the news coverage. Percy and Annabeth are humiliated as well, but they do end up recovering his shield. He books them in the trailer of a truck going to Las Vegas, with illegally obtained animals. When they arrive, they free the animals, which was pretty funny, but get trapped in the Lotus casino, where they pass an enormous amount of time because of the effect that place has on humans. It takes all of Percy’s strength to break free.

When they finally get to L.A., and find the location of the entrance, the story gets dark, and they trick and cajole their way in, only to be chased from place to place until they encounter a voice from the deep, father of the gods about to be reborn (if I remember the movies well, this will happen in the third story), and finally Hades. But Hades accuses Percy of stealing his helm, and senses the lightning bolt which suddenly appears in Percy’s backpack.

It seems highly unlikely that Percy would actually be able to leave the underworld as easily as he did, but the magical pearls Poseidon’s servant gave him allows them to do so without harm. But on the beach, the real enemy appears: Ares, who helped plan the imminent war after he recovered the stolen bolt and helm from the real thief. After a battle in which the ocean helps defeat Ares, Percy returns the helm to Hades, then flies to New York to return the lightning bolt. 

So the lackluster story, which seemed to take forever to traverse the country, ends in a flight and Percy giving the lightning bolt back, and the gods reluctantly backing down, but warning Percy to be careful. The end seemed too sudden, though I was looking forward to it as the end of the book.


Back to Top

All reviews and page designs at this site Copyright © 1999 -  by Warren Dunn, all rights reserved.