book notes: The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan
Writing for both the adult and young adult (YA) successfully is difficult, though many authors are trying to cross that gap these days. Stephenie Meyer of the Twilight series tried to move to adult fiction with The Host, which was close to a Stargate clone and not very satisfying; Ms. Rowling of Harry Potter fame is trying to do it with The Tales of Beetle the Bard (the book is not yet out, so the the jury is still out).
But the best ‘cross-over artist’ I’ve come across so far is Rick Riordan, whose Percy Jackson YA books are just as entertaining as his adult Tres Navarre series. The fact that he is a Texas author and hails from my home town of San Antonio makes the gloating that much better.
Percy is a half-blood; half-god (his father is Poseidon) and half-human. Yes, the Greek gods are still around, they’ve just moved with Western civilization to America (and you can get to Mount Olympus through the Empire State Building). Percy finds out that he is a half-blood as monsters start trying to kill him. Apparently someone has stolen Zeus’ powerful lightning bolt weapon, and are pointing the finger at Poseidon, and hence at Percy. Percy arrives at Camp Half-Blood, where he starts his training, finds out who his father is and receives his first quest: retrieve Zeus’ Lightning Bolt to prevent a war between the gods which would destroy civilization.
Percy’s companions on his quest are Annabeth (a daughter of Athena thus the brains of the operation) and Grover, a satyr who is supposed to protect Percy. Along the way they run into Ares, all manner of magical creatures, and, of course, have to descend to the Underworld.
The comparisons and contrasts with Harry Potter are many. Like HP, this series is set to run through all of Percy’s high school years, until the results of a ‘prophecy’ are determined. Unlike HP, this is a very upbeat and almost comically written story; HP was by it’s nature dark, and the Percy Jackson series could turn that way. But, thus far, it is a lot of fun, with Greek gods and creatures meeting modern America.
The Lightning Thief is a quick and thoroughly enjoyable read.
Notes on the second book in the series, The Sea of Monsters , can be found here.