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Magical Adventures from New York to Mt. Olympus

August 21, 2008

If you are a fan of Harry Potter, or Diane Duane’s Young Wizard series, and looking for a new magical world to explore, pick up The Lightning Thief, by Rick Riordan.

I wish I’d known about it a year ago, when I did a post-Harry-Potter book list for the Ledger. Because this book is fantastic. In both senses of the word.  I feel like I didn’t so much read it as gulp it down whole.

Percy Jackson has been kicked out of almost every school he’s attended. He has dyslexia and ADHD, and is starting to see the signs of trouble at his latest boarding school. Failing grades, unsympathetic teachers… including a teacher who suddenly sprouts wings and talons on a field trip, and seems bent on killing him. Clearly, things are getting strange.

Turns out- Percy’s dyslexia isn’t the most complicated thing he must battle. He’s a Half-Blood, the son of a god’s liaison with his mortal mother. This gives him magical abilities he must harness, and explains the dyslexia in an intriguing way. (His brain’s hardwired for Ancient Greek, it seems.) Intent on learning more about his origins and his abilities, he goes to Camp Half-Blood. Children of Athena are wise and make plans. Children of Ares can be bullies. Children of Aphrodite have Gucci luggage and hand mirrors. Percy’s troubles aren’t over there. He’s attracted the notice of the big Three Gods- Zeus, Poseidon and Hades. To avert a massive three-way war that would shake both the foundations of Olympus and the modern world, Percy must go on a quest that will take him from New York, to LA, to the Underworld itself.

Riordan does a beautiful job of weaving mythology through the novel, in a series of in-jokes and even puzzles. Percy and his friends meet monsters that have adopted some semblance of human disguise, and they must remember their classical studies- fast enough to avoid being eaten! (See if you can spot Medusa before Percy and his friends do!) Percy’s narrative voice is sarcastic and funny in a way that is both very New York and very real to a young teenager who’s had trouble in school.

I bought the next two books in the series on my way home from work today. And I can’t wait to read more of Percy’s adventures.

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