I was very late to this party, considering that these incredibly popular middle grade books by Rick Riordan were released between 2005 and 2009 (when I was actually the intended audience age for them). Better late than never, and I have to say that when I picked up the first book back in September, I would never have guessed that I would find myself loving this series as much as I ended up doing so. Having just last week finished the final of the 5 books, and only having a full review of the fourth book up on here, I decided to culminate my thoughts on this series and roll it up into one big series wrap-up. Even though everyone has read this series and there isn’t a huge amount to be said, I feel like I just have to mention my feelings for ‘Percy Jackson and the Olympians’, and now seemed like a great time to do it. Also, I’ll be sticking a quick review of my most recent read, ‘Percy Jackson: The Demigod Files’, at the end, as this short story/extras guide deserves a mention too.
(A quick warning: I will mention some spoilers to this series, however they will be highlighted by the word *SPOILERS* in bold, so if you haven’t read the series yet and do not want to be spoiled, keep an eye out!)
‘Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief’
4.25 Stars (Rounded to 4)
I was not expecting to immediately fall in love with this series, and to be fair I didn’t fall in love with it immediately, but this instalment was definitely a lot better than I was expecting it to be.
It took a little while for me to get used to the childish narrative style – it has to be said that this style is very good at connecting with the target age range – but once I had grown used to the informal slang and chatty voice, it was actually rather appealing to follow the story in the first-person from Percy’s perspective. I can definitely see the appeal in Rick Riordan’s writing: he seems like he is a hilarious person, and his humour comes across very well on the page. This makes his work very easy to read, and I did really love the ease at which I could read it, yet I never felt like it was maybe too easy for its audience.
Admittedly, he is twelve, but Percy did do some very stupid things. I am probably only saying this as I am quite a bit older than he is in this book, and so I realised the stupid holes he was digging for himself. It was just a little bit infuriating at times how dim he was being. But, as I said, this could be that I was anticipating the events that were to come. Also, in this book, nothing seemed like a surprise to me, even though Riordan laid things out to be a massive shock. However, I know that I wouldn’t have guessed everything at the age of twelve, and the twists are set up very well, so I can still give Riordan kudos for that.
On the character front, I did actually like Percy, which is a miracle considering that the books were from a first-person point of view, and I hate 99% of first-person narrators. I was immediately a fan of Grover as well. Annabeth took a little bit of convincing for me. I didn’t like her at all at first; she seemed very stuck-up and used to getting her own way, so I have to say for this book, she didn’t really work for me.
I have never been clued up on Greek mythology, primarily as I never knew how to get involved in what seemed like a more adult topic of study, and so this has been my ‘beginner’s guide to mythology’. I have loved getting this very basic kid’s level knowledge of mythology, and has made me want to research the topic properly, which I have never felt an overriding urge to before. I think this book was a perfect introduction to something which many kids would love to access but struggle to get into, and for that, Riordan should be commended.
‘Percy Jackson and the Sea of Monsters’
4.5 Stars (Rounded to 4)
It was in this book where I was completely at ease with the aforementioned narrative issues. I was no longer bothered by little informal slang sections which would have been a pet peeve beforehand, so the fact that I was able to push my pet peeve (use of slang in books) to the side, you know that I was beginning to become immersed in this world. Also, Percy was making fewer stupid decisions this time around, so my enjoyment was beginning to rise in this instalment.
The addition of Tyson was the primary focus for me when I remember this one. Tyson was such an endearing and loveable character from the beginning, and I think I loved him at this point more than I did any of the others put together. It’s not that he is my favourite now, but rather that while the others took a while to grow on me, Tyson was the first character that I was immediately enamoured with.
It was in this book that twists started occurring which I did not expect. SPOILERS For a while, I was completely convinced that Tyson had died, and while I had considered the possibility, I was not truly expecting Thalia to come back to life at the end! SPOILERS END Riordan truly does know how to leave a book on a high!
All in all, this particular book was an improvement on the last, but it was not yet phenomenal, and I was still waiting for a little bit more from the series at this point, but it was heading in the right direction.
‘Percy Jackson and the Titan’s Curse’
4.75 Stars (Rounded to 5)
It was with this book that I realised exactly why this series is as popular as it is. The first of the series to receive 5 stars on my Goodreads, this one felt like a little bit of a step up from its predecessors. It felt a bit darker and less childish than books one and two (whilst not breaking out of its charming mould), and I got the impression that as Percy was aging, the book was following a natural progression and growing with him. There was no massive jump where it all suddenly became more mature, but the feeling was slowly building up from this point onwards.
The main reason why this one rounded to 5 whilst the others rounded to 4 is that the plot of this book captivated me more than the others had (which typically is hard to explain!). This story felt better crafted than the previous ones (not that there was anything wrong with them), the ideas felt a lot less obvious to me, and I was more anticipative of the outcome than before.
It was also around here that I realised exactly how much I loved the characters. I already was aware of my liking for Grover and Tyson, but in this one, it hit me that I was actually really fond of Percy and Annabeth too. The pair had subconsciously grown on me, and I found myself identifying with them more so than I had previously, and realising that I cared about them. I also believed in their relationship, and how they interacted with the rest of the cast of characters, all-in-all making them two of the most believable children’s book protagonists I can recall in the way in which they behave.
‘Percy Jackson and the Battle of the Labyrinth’
4.5 Stars (Rounded to 5)
Once again, this instalment upped the ante when it came to the feel of the story. This book felt deeper and darker yet than the one before it, and it still retains its earlier childish charm perfectly.
This was a fab set-up for the end, yet I somehow didn’t quite enjoy it as much as its predecessor. It felt a lot more like it was building up to something, whereas the other instalments felt more like stories in their own rights. Of course the premise of this one could stand up on its own, but a lot more of the book felt like it was looking forwards, which I felt maybe detracted something for me.
There was a shock twist near the end, but in this one, it came earlier than the ‘two-pages-from-the-end’ that Riordan has established as a theme. Of course this was favourable, as it meant everything felt like a bit more of a shock when it occurred earlier than expected, but I think that made the actual end less interesting as a consequence. The way in which the book finishes feels like it is meant to cause intrigue, but I was still hoping for a massive shock, so I felt slightly anticlimactic about that.
The continual character development was once again executed well. I was becoming more and more fond of ‘Percabeth’ by the minute, and they do make a great couple. The ‘will-they-won’t-they’ was rife in this one, and I very much enjoyed it. One character I was less fond of was Nico. I didn’t know how I felt about him: I genuinely could not make my mind up as to whether I liked him and pitied him, or hated him and was angered by him. This just left me rather indifferent to any aspects containing him as a character, and by the end I still couldn’t set my thoughts straight concerning him.
This felt a little bit weaker than ‘The Titan’s Curse’ for me, but definitely left me anticipating the final book.
‘Percy Jackson and the Last Olympian’
This was by far and away the stand-out of the series for me. It held my attention a lot better than the other instalments – not that they were bad at that, but I was a lot more anticipative how of this one was going to end than the others – and I couldn’t put it down, whereas there had been moments with the rest when I strayed to do another task. This could well be as I was more surprised by a lot of elements of this book than of the others, and so I was a lot more impatient to get to the bottom of everything!
By this point, I was surprised at how many diverse mythological ideas were still being produced by Riordan. Of course, with this being the end of the series, there was a bit of recalling old plots, but the sheer amount of new and diverse material that was still being produced was unexpected to me. I never felt like there was a lack of a fresh idea on the horizon, and nothing felt over-used or rehashed, which was lovely to see when you are basing aspects on existing premises.
As it is the end of a series, deaths were expected. SPOILERS I was very glad that none of the ‘main characters’ died. I felt that it would have been unnecessary to kill Grover or Tyson or Thalia for the ‘shock factor’. Instead, the death of Beckendorf was actually rather hard-hitting, especially so early on, even if it was building up to it from the beginning. I think that Silena’s death was written incredibly well – she was the ‘spy’, yet the way in which it was written made me pity her rather than hold it against her. These two deaths were written so perfectly that even though they were not major characters, these two deaths felt like the death of a more-important character, proving it is not who you kill off that is important, but how well it is executed. Possibly the best execution of all was Luke’s downfall. The fact that he was shown to redeem himself was very satisfactory to me. It meant that I could identify more with his character as a human rather than a monster, and that final action gave me respect for him which made his death meaningful. It was probably the best way to round off the series, rather than just having Percy act like a superhero killing off Kronos/Luke as if he were far superior. Strong work, Rick Riordan. SPOILERS END
This book really hit me as a successful end of the series. It rounded off everything in a satisfactory manner, and even if it didn’t do everything how I expected and wanted it to, it was by far a better way to end the series than I expected it to. This was the stand-out of the series.
‘Percy Jackson: The Demigod Files’
This little companion guide was a nice little addition to the series. Containing three short stories, a plethora of interviews with the characters we love and even a few quizzes and puzzles, this supplement was an enjoyable bonus.
I did enjoy all three short stories, but I was particularly fond of one. All three featured Percy and another selection of characters, which I did like, as the fact that no-one but Percy appeared in more than one meant that we got to see a little bit more of many characters, rather than a lot more of one or two people. Starting from the beginning, the first story was a nice bonus to have. Containing Clarisse, I did like seeing a bit more of her vulnerable side. Saying that, the story felt a little bit chaotic to me. The second story was my runaway favourite. Featuring Annabeth, Beckendorf and Silena, this story felt like it had more substance than the others, and even has links to the first in Riordan’s ‘Heroes of Olympus’ series. It may have had something to do with the fact that it contained a very strong bunch of characters, but it felt more like a relevant extra than the others. The third story did also have relevance to the main story, albeit ‘The Last Olympian’, but the tale containing Thalia and Nico just didn’t seem as interesting as I was expecting.
Short stories aside, there was some fun stuff in this compact little book, but I would have liked the interviews to have been a little bit longer, the quizzes to have a few more questions, and for everything to be more well-rounded. Yes the guide is small, but maybe 30 extra pages wouldn’t have gone amiss. Saying that, it’s such a quick read that I don’t see why any fan of the series wouldn’t bother picking it up.
That rounds up my thoughts on the ‘Percy Jackson and the Olympians’ series. It was one that I was sceptical of starting, and adored by the end, and it reminded me of why I pledge that you are never too old to enjoy a good children’s book. I’m glad I pushed my doubts to the side and read this, as I would have been missing out had I not done so. I’ve already finished ‘The Lost Hero’, the first in Riordan’s ‘Heroes of Olympus’ Series, and I have to say that I have now discovered an author whose work I had previously avoided whom I now have a great deal of respect for. If you never read a Rick Riordan book as a kid and are now uncertain, my advice would be go for it. You’re never too old to enjoy something as well-crafted as this.
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