Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Review: 'Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief' by Rick Riordan


Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Synopsis (taken from Waterstones.com)

Look, I didn't want to be a half-blood. I never asked to be the son of a Greek God. I was just a normal kid, going to school, playing basketball, skateboarding. The usual. Until I accidentally vaporized my maths teacher. That's when things started really going wrong. Now I spend my time fighting with swords, battling monsters with my friends, and generally trying to stay alive. This is the one where Zeus, God of the Sky, thinks I've stolen his lightning bolt - and making Zeus angry is a very bad idea. Can Percy find the lightning bolt before a fully-fledged war of the Gods erupts?

Review

When I was younger, I had a beautifully illustrated hardback book of Greek myths that I begged my Mum for ages to buy.  My memories of the reasons why (aside from the obvious beauty of the book itself) are hazy but I'm fairly sure my imagination had been stirred by studying the history of Ancient Greece at school.  Regardless of the reason why I wanted it in the first place, when I finally had it, I loved it dearly.  

The Lightning Thief reminded me of a lot of the reasons why I loved that book; exciting tales of valiant heroes that mixed with all-powerful Gods and went questing about recovering artefacts and rescuing their women folk.  The Lightning Thief combines the mystique and history that charmed me then against a modern backdrop more or less completely successfully.  From the moment Percy finds out the truth about his identity (and actually a little bit before that), a whole host of mystical creatures descend on the book and I was totally caught up in the "Spot the Myth" game that I was playing with myself.  

There were odd snippets and conversations that referred to the Greek Gods' general disgruntlement at being ignored by modern society and how they dealt with their marginalisation that were subtle and made the story flow a heck of a lot better than it otherwise might have done.  Their physical manifestations are also a quirky new dimension.  Because obviously Ares, the God of War, would be a huge angry motorcycle-riding thug.  As with so many of the things I liked about this book, it was just plain fun!

The characters range from fully-fledged Gods through Demi-Gods to descendants of Gods that are now not much more than disassociated teens hanging out in a specially designed camp but are all very likeable.  My favourite was actually Hades (yep, the same Hades that's the God of the Underworld).  He had less of a sanctimonious edge (obviously...) than a lot of the other characters and was 'bad' in a kind of endearing, grouchy way that was spot on.   

The only minor down side was that it took me a while to get used to Percy's 'voice'.  He can be a little petulant and "woe is me".  Even though I knew I was being a grumpy old person, I still found myself frustrated at the self-pitying tone.  This was either resolved by the appearance of a minotaur (See?! Brilliance!) and the picking up in pace that will always result or by Percy facing up to the truth about his identity and generally being a lot more likeable.  Whichever is the case, Percy's teenage wit grew on me and I barely noticed what had bothered me early on (note: 'barely', not 'never').

For quite a short book, a lot happens. In short, I admit it, I'm a fan. So now I can watch the film. Lovely stuff.


Overall: A brilliant start to a series! Light-hearted and fast-paced with twists and turns around every corner, this book genuinely is extremely difficult to put down.  I'd recommend it to anyone that has ever indulged in a little Greek mythology as a way to rekindle the love and anyone that hasn't as just a tiny hint at how awesome they are.  

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Date finished:  04 January 2012
Format:  eBook
Source:  Library's eBook site
Genre:  Fantasy; YA
Published: by Miramax in June 2005