Greek gods and goddesses took a back seat to the wizards, sorcerers and witches for a while as Dumbledore lorded it over with his sense of justice, fair play and strong desire to thwart the evil plans of Voldemort. Harry Potter held every reader’s imagination until now. It’s not that JK Rowling’s piece de resistance is passé; it’s just that there’s, pardon the cliché, a new kid on the block named Percy Jackson. This demi-god who traces his lineage to the god of sea, Poseidon, is getting all the attention now because, for one thing, the actor who played Percy Jackson in the film version is quite a looker. At least, that was what most of my students said, their eyes twinkling in love for actor Logan Lerman. But ask them about the entire series, which begins with The Lightning Thief, and they’ll be quite mum about them. Sadly, most teenagers are not inclined to read unless it’s a requirement in class.
I’ve read all the five books of the series spurred by the curiosity of finding out how Greek mythology was re-told. I was intrigued by the new role of Poseidon who seemed to have emulated the philandering ways of his older brother Zeus. Equally intriguing was the revelation of Hades as, aside from also being a philandering god, having a sensitive side to his personality. He cared for his earthly family and was devastated when Zeus had them killed. Hades also, apparently, in Riordan’s world, only craved acceptance among the gods and goddesses. He felt like an outcast, ostracized by everyone precisely because he was the god of the underworld, which wasn’t a position he wanted in the first place.
Riordan’s narrative of the other gods and goddess also made great page-turners. It’s hilarious to read, for instance, that the god of war, Ares, is all brawn and no brain, and resorts to bullying when he doesn’t get his way. Athena’s definition of love and procreation is eyebrow-raising – she completely redefines the phrase “a meeting of the minds.” Then there’s Poseidon who doesn’t strike anyone as the all-powerful god of the sea when he’s in shorts, flip-flops, loud, printed shirt and much tanned skin like a fisherman left at sea for days.
Besides the Olympic giants, Riordan’s characterization of the three main characters – Percy, Annabell and Grover – put the punch back in three-dimensional characters. How great is it to see that demi-gods are not perfect in the realm of the humans, that they are afflicted with what afflicts humans such as behavioral disorders, green-eye monster etc? Being best friend with a satyr lends a powerful message to what friendship should be – that it transcends all barriers.
The narrative structure is tight just like JK Rowling’s Harry Potter books and Derek Landy’s Skulduggery Pleasant series, and although it’s part of kiddy literature, the language is far from the diary-type writing style exemplified in Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight books. The adult issues of power, greed, commitment, honesty, friendship and trust are woven subtly in the storyline with ease, but without oversimplifying them. Riordan’s characters are teenagers but not foolhardy children, thus, he debunks, in the process, the prevalent misconception that one must deal with children like children because they’re children.