The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan

The Lightning ThiefThis book was a personal purchase.

The Greek myths are among the richest and most well known ancient stories. Tales of gods and monsters, heroes and villains, they’ve provided a vast well of action and pathos. And no matter how many times they’re fodder for books and movies, they still delight and enchant. The Lightning Thief is one of the more recent examples of this phenomenon.

Percy Jackson has been kicked out of every school he’s been in, even though it’s not his fault that weird stuff happens around him. It’s definitely not his fault that his math teacher just turned into a winged hag and tried to kill him. And it’s really not his fault that Zeus’s master lightning bolt has been stolen and the gods are blaming him for it.

But because of all of this, Percy learns that his father was one of the gods of Mount Olympus. Percy is a half-blood, and now it’s up to him and his friends to find Zeus’s bolt before the summer solstice. If they fail, all hell will break loose—literally.

This book is clever in how it weaves in the Greek myths, and it doesn’t always use the most common ones. Lesser known figures pop up as well, scattered across America and hiding in plain sight. Riordan makes use of the trope that humans tend to see what they want to see, so that gods and monsters live and work among normal people.

For a 375 page book, it doesn’t feel that long. The author combines action with nuggets of mythology into a story that fairly flies. The only section that drags is Percy’s time in Camp Half-Blood, a sanctuary for young heroes. But even that has enough hints about the ancient gods to keep it from lagging too much.

This is a wonderful book for helping young adults get in touch with some of the past’s classic tales. Stories that survive this long usually do so because they have something to say to basic human experience, and much of that adage comes through as the characters encounter situations that test them both physically and mentally.

I picked up this book out of curiosity due to the just-released movie, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The Lightning Thief is a book that I have no qualms about recommending to anybody looking for a good tale.