Title: The Lightning Thief
Author: Rick Riordan
Release Date: July 1, 2005
“Percy Jackson is about to be kicked out of boarding school . . . again. And that’s the least of his troubles. Lately, mythological monsters and the gods of Mount Olympus seem to be walking straight out of the pages of Percy’s Greek mythology textbook and into his life. And worse, he’s angered a few of them. Zeus’s master lightning bolt has been stolen, and Percy is the prime suspect.
-From Amazon (Purchase here)
Reading The Lightning Thief was basically an inevitability for me in 2019. I wanted to read this book for the PotterAlikes challenge, and Rick Riordan himself was also on my top ten unread authors list of shame. Finally, over a decade after I should have originally read it, I can finally say that I have started the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series. Let’s see how I enjoyed my time at camp half-blood!
There’s a lot to love in The Lightning Thief. The characters are memorable and interesting, the plot is fast-paced, and the interwoven Greek mythology is everything I ever could have asked for in a book. On the whole, this is a highly enjoyable read, even if there are a few small things here and there that keep it from being perfect.
If I had read this book while I was within the intended age range, I suspect that many of the book’s shortcomings would not be an issue. I realize that I am not the target audience, but I also simultaneously know that anyone reading my blog probably isn’t either, and would, therefore, want to know what the experience of reading The Lightning Thief is like from an adult’s perspective. Unfortunately, there are some small plot and character details that I found frustrating at times.
First of all, a lot of the story’s plot points are predictable from the perspective of an adult reader. I don’t want to give any spoilers away, so I’ll be vague, but I found that the plot was heavily telegraphed to the reader and it took a lot of the overarching mystery out of the book. In addition, it feels like the book’s length is padded a little by plotlines that could have been solved if the characters had just sat down and had a five-minute conversation. It’s a common issue in books made for all ages from children to adults, so I’m not faulting it heavily for this, but it is there and could get slightly irritating occasionally.
I wanted to get all of the negatives out of the way quickly because, truth be told, I absolutely adored this book and am far more interested in stating all of the reasons that it is amazing. Percy and his friends all have realistic child voices, as none of them sound like Riordan was trying to turn them into poets. Every single character was interesting and I wanted to get to know them all more. Given how many books have come out of this universe, I suspect I will learn more about quite a few people as time goes on. It’s easy to see how this series has expanded so much. The groundwork has been laid for a fascinating series through solid worldbuilding, and I can’t wait to see more.
Of course, since Rick Riordan is one of my unread authors, I have to answer the ultimate question: Will I read another one of his book based upon my experience with The Lightning Thief? The answer is, unsurprisingly, yes. I’m hoping to get the next book in the series from the library soon and continue on with Percy’s adventures.
I may not have been the target audience for The Lightning Thief, but this is still one of the best openings to a fantasy series that I have read in a while. While there are some aspects to the plot that may be slightly irritating to an adult reader starting the series for the first time, I would highly recommend giving them a try. There’s a solid start to a great world here, and I’m quite intrigued to see where Riordan takes the story from here.
The Lightning Thief strikes a perfect balance here. There’s this perfect middle point on the PotterAlikes scale. If a book isn’t at all like Harry Potter, then it’s not going to capture the interest of people looking for a readalike and it fails. On the other end of the scale, however, is a title that is so identical to Harry Potter that it gets called a ripoff. Striking a balance between these two extremes is critical, and Riordan succeeds.
There are definite similarities here between Percy Jackson and the Olympians and Harry Potter. The respective protagonists of each series start off at similar ages, have a mysterious past that they don’t recollect until a pivotal moment in their lives, and are of great importance to a world they previously knew nothing about. Through the power of friendship, featuring a highly logical and intelligent girl and a boy who is primarily there for comic relief, they set off on a path to defeat a great evil, only to realize that there may be far more to their quest than they realized.
At a basic level, both books’ plots can be described using the above paragraph. Their executions, however, are completely different. The Greek mythology at play in The Lightning Thief adds a layer to the book that keeps the title different enough from Harry Potter to feel refreshing. While I don’t want to spoil anything for either of these series, the antagonists are also wildly different in both their personalities and end goals. Moreover, the road trip aspect also allows the characters to get into mishaps all across the country, whereas Harry Potter takes place primarily in one location. While these may all sound like small changes, they add up to create something that has the base formula of Harry Potter, but diverges in all of the right places to keep the storyline fresh and interesting.
Overall, The Lightning Thief is the current one to beat as a PotterAlike. It keeps all of the basic elements that made Harry Potter so special, but mixes them up and creates a world all its own. It will be interesting to see if the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series, as a whole, goes closer or further from its PotterAlike status.
Have you read The Lightning Thief? Let me know what you thought in the comments below!