Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Lightening Thief

I finished reading Lightening Thief by Rick Riordan last night. Although this novel isn't incredibly deep, I have to say that it was extremely entertaining and I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it. The story begins with Percy Jackson, a twelve year old adolescent living in a private boarding school for troubled youth. Not only does Percy's so-called dyslexia and ADHD cause him to be a failure in academics, but "trouble" seems to follow him everywhere he goes. The only people Percy feels he can trust are his best friend Grover, and his strangely intuitive Latin teacher, Mr. Brunner.

When the novel begins, Percy and his classmates are on their way to Manhattan on a school field trip to visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art. While eating lunch, Percy gets unfairly singled-out and escorted away by his pre-algebra teacher, Mrs. Dodds (who has had some kind of vendetta against him all year). But when Percy tries to quickly accept whatever punishment is coming his way, Mrs. Dodds turns into an evil, leathery-winged creature (a "fury," so we learn later on) and tries to kill him. With the help of Mr. Brunner, Percy manages to overcome her. But shortly after the incident, no one in the school, including Mr. Brunner, has any recollection of a "Mrs. Dodds" ever existing. Percy now knows something very strange is going on.

From this point, Percy is catapulted into an extraordinary adventure in which he slowly learns exactly who, and what, he is: a "half-blood"--that is, a half mortal, half god. With the help of Grover (who is actually a satyr) and Mr. Brunner (who is actually a centaur), Percy begins to piece together the mystery of his past, and determines what he needs to do to save the gods on Olympus from waging a war so violent that it will effect all of mankind.
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I don't want to give any more details for fear of ruining the book for anyone planning to read it, so I'll just launch back into my opinion. As far as negative critique, the plot-line in the beginning of the story is the all-too-familiar "ordinary boy discovers he is so much more" phenomenon, which is pretty over-used. Also, the heroine of the story, Annabeth, was slightly on the cookie-cutter side for me. In the development of her character, I think the author missed an opportunity to make her so much more quirky and unique. Lastly, some of the Greek gods' histories and personalities were taken a touch too literally (you'll see what I mean if/when you read the book).

On the positive side, the book was fresh and funny, containing chapters with titles such as "I Accidentally Vaporize my Pre-Algebra Teacher" and "I Become Supreme Lord of the Bathroom." Some of the scenes within the book might have been a little dark and disturbing (such as when the characters travel to the Underworld), but Riordan injects enough humor and witticism within the story to stave off any shadows. Percy, the hero, is down-to-earth and lovable. The ending is satisfying with all loose ends tied, save for one deeper plot strand that the author intends to continue through his next four installments. And best of all, the book teaches the reader a LOT about Greek mythology via a highly engaging story.

Overall, I would say that the book is probably not going to enter the world of literary marvels anytime soon, but it is an incredibly enjoyable read that I would have no qualms recommending to anyone I know. Tonight I am starting the next book in the series, Sea of Monsters. Can't wait. =)