Thursday, June 18, 2009
Book Chop: Percy Jackson Redux
Title: Percy Jackson and the Olympians
Author: Rick Riordan
Genre: Teen fantasy awesomeness
Rating: 5 stars
Psych! This isn't the 50th Book Chop either! I forgot that aside from the two Blog Chops (here and here), there was also a non-book Chop that none of you commented on! Faked you out!
Anyways. This is a follow-up to the original Percy Jackson Chop, since at that time I had only read half of the books in this series. Battle of the Labyrinth continued building on the greatness of this series, introducing more consistently awesome demigod characters and weaving in old Greek myths and legends. Like all the books, it can stand alone as its own Percy Jackson adventure, but at the same time it contributes to the overall conflict: the coming war between the gods and the Titans, and the roles the demigods will play in that war. More of the underlying problems and mysteries were solved, but as usual, they continued to add to the major setbacks the demigods faced as a group.
The coming-of-age element wasn't ignored either. Percy gets caught up between two girls who both like him but hate each other. That's never happened to me...okay well maybe it has, but not really with girls I wanted to be with either way. That's beside the point. It's there, and like all of the books, Riordan displays it humorously.
Between Labyrinth and Olympian, I read The Demigod Files. It's one of those little "tweener" books, something the publisher throws out that's fun and exciting, and they know it'll sell because the readers are super hungry for the next installment of the series. It contains three short stories that don't really have any relevance to the final book, but they're good for character development. It also has a few "interviews" with characters from the story--like Clarisse, daughter of Ares; Grover Underwood, the satyr; Travis and Connor Stoll, the troublesome sons of Hermes; Annabeth Chase, daughter of Athena; and of course, Percy Jackson, son of Poseidon. Then there are some simple puzzles, a few character pictures, and that's pretty much it. A short little thing to hold you over (not) until the fifth book.
Finally, we end the series with The Last Olympian. It's a brilliant ending to a brilliant saga. Right from the get-go, it opens up with tragedy and the rush never ends. You're taken for a suspenseful ride for most of the first hundred pages or so, because at the end of Labyrinth, Nico di Angelo, a son of Hades, approached Percy and tells him he has a plan for helping Percy to fight the Titan Kronos. You never find out what the plan is in book four, and it's repeatedly referenced in book five, but not until the actual moment of decision do you learn what the plan is. And even then, it's intertwined with Nico's personal motives and continues to establish this series as a character-driven tale.
I don't want to give anything else away--not even plot points. The suspense is well-constructed and the revelations are all well thought-out. Riordan leaves nothing unexplored in this. If you trust the Chops, then read this series. If you don't trust the Chops, still read this series, then repent, and trust the Chops.
As far as meaning goes, there is a very powerful and unique message that is prevalent throughout this entire five-book saga: families matter. Sure, in other tales you have a main character who's an orphan that finds out his parents were super bad-@$$ magical people or something...that's pretty common. And yes, that happens in this story too. It's not the focus, though. The greatest heroes--and villains--of Percy Jackson are children of single-parent families, or homeless children, kids with behavioral problems or physical handicaps, and every single one of them has a special lineage behind them. They're each a part of something greater.
Yes, even that has been done before. Riordan probably knew this, so he took it step further: in similar tales and sagas, these kids would just learn to get along on their own, maybe deal with each other from time to time, but not unite and solve their problems. In this story, they do. By the time you reach the end, you see their compassion for one another instead of cliche selfishness. "No more unclaimed children" is the rule, the moral of the story. They're just as special and important as children that don't come from broken homes.
So there you have it. An imaginative tale with profound, unique meaning, and a special message that hasn't really been declared by peers of the genre. Completely wonderful, and brilliant on all levels. I hope you like it as much as I did.