Saturday, December 5, 2009

Review: Percy Jackson and the Olympians - The Lightning Thief (Book 1)

I've already seen this book years ago and I labeled it as "one of the Harry Potter wannabes" at first sight. But the title caught my attention (steals lightning?!) so I thought of reading the plot at the back at least. From that I found out that it involved Greek mythology . . . and I'm a sucker for that~ I was about to buy it when I discovered that the cash in my wallet wasn't enough for it. So I told myself to buy it next time . . .

Unfortunately, that next time took years. I only thought of buying it again when I've heard it will be having a movie adaptation. I really prefer reading the book it's based on before seeing it.

But when I was able to buy it, I didn't think of reading it at once because I have a lot of other books to read.

Then recently, I saw posters of the movie in our local cinemas. They were like screaming to me: "THE MOVIE'S COMING SOON! READ THE BOOK ALREADY DAMN IT!"

So I did . . .

and I regret not reading it sooner!

Percy Jackson and the Olympians - The Lightning Thief (Book 1)
by Rick Riordan
What if the gods of Olympuswere alive in the 21st Century? What if they still fell in love with mortals and had children who might become great heroes — like Theseus, Jason and Hercules?

What if you were one of those children?

Such is the discovery that launches twelve-year-old Percy Jackson on the most dangerous quest of his life. With the help of a satyr and a daughter of Athena, Percy must journey across the United States to catch a thief who has stolen the original weapon of mass destruction – Zeus’ master bolt. Along the way, he must face a host of mythological enemies determined to stop him. Most of all, he must come to terms with a father he has never known, and an Oracle that has warned him of betrayal by a friend.

=== Comparing to a Popular Title:
I don't think this series could really be compared to Harry Potter because the main similarities that I see between the two are the following:
  • It's the same YA fantasy adventure trio: brave leading boy, brainy leading girl, and the funny sidekick.
  • Leading boy has a favorite teacher (or school official) at school and that teacher spoils/favors him very much.
  • Leading boy lives with a very unpleasant person (or people) at home.
  • Leading boy doesn't have much friends, but he has bullying enemies/rivals both in the real world and the fantasy world.
  • Leading boy is very popular in his fantasy school.
Honestly, that's it. Both titles may be fantasy, but the other one involves magic while this one has mythology. There might be parallels when it comes to characters and events, but there aren't much and they won't be that similar either. The big difference on the elements used (magic vs mth) and on the character backgrounds makes Percy much more separated from Harry.

I can't say if PJ is better than HP, because both are good in their own way. But there's something I'm very certain that PJ beats HP in so many ways: THE HUMOR.

Maybe it's just easy to amuse me, but I don't think I'm the only one who finds the book really funny! And how couldn't chapter titles like "We Get Advice from a Poodle" or "A God Buys Us Cheeseburgers" rock?! Haha! It was very effective to have the book narrated by Percy himself; it had been so much fun to know his thoughts of what's going on, because he's a funny character himself!

=== What I Liked:
I admit that I'm not very fond of Harry (the character), but Percy is really cooler than him (and he's funnier too, of course).

Okay, both of these main characters are brave heroes that also have a good heart and will, of course, survive and become victorious in the dangerous battles that they face. Harry Potter was sort of like a "chosen one" because of the scar on his forehead and it will be spoilery if I say something more. But as for Percy? I don't see him as the usual "chosen one" type because he was born to be a hero. He is special because his roots had been special, and not because of some miracle or coincidence. I can accept the official hero status for all his unbelievable victories rather than the "luck" thing. This series had me pleased~

What got me impressed most is how it blended Greek mythology in modern times! I liked the reason why the gods are in America now, and also the counterparts of mythological places to places in America!

=== What I Did Not Like:
On the down side, I'm not that happy with Grover's character. He's supposed to be the "bodyguard" but the bodyguard from Artemis Fowl can do a much better job than him even if that guy doesn't have magical abilities. It's true that Grover does some saving from time to time, but from many of what he has been doing in this book, the "bodyguard" position really doesn't fit him. Oh come on, what the harm of having a strong best friend sidekick? The only thing that I saw where Grover truly excels in is reading and understanding emotions. It's good, but not enough.

Moreover, some events are honestly pretty predictable. That might have something to do with the fact that I've read a lot of fantasy adventure stories . . . or maybe the author just followed the YA fantasy adventure formula . . . . but there had been a lot of surprises that make up for them, so I forgive~

=== Favoritism Activated:
For pairings, I really really liked Luke x Annabeth but from the spoilers that I've read it's most likely going to be Percy x Annabeth. Man, I wish it didn't follow the Leading Boy x Leading Girl pairing . . . the Luke x Annabeth love story would've been more interesting, romance-wise~

For characters, I like Percy, more of because he's hilarious. I find Mr. D. pretty amusing too~ Among the serious ones, I like Chiron. Perhaps his being a centaur had something to do with it (I love horses!).

My initial favorite is actually the "friend who betrayed Percy". I'm not sure if I like that character more as a hero or a villain. Haha! But hhhmmm . . . I have a feeling that my top favorite will only be showing up in later volumes . . .

=== Overall Thoughts:
I think this book had been great on humor and creativity. Plot-wise, it had been good in some areas but a little disappointing on other areas. It had a great variety of characters but I'm not that impressed with how characters had been fleshened out.

I'm not sure if I would consider this one of the greatest YA novels I've ever read (I loved it but I wasn't exactly hooked) but reading it had been so much fun that I bought the succeeding volumes as soon as I can.

=== Recommendation:
I don't think you need to have mythology background to understand what's going on because the book will be giving you simple and brief background of the mythological characters that appear in the book. But of course, it's easier to appreciate it if you have background on mythology, much more if you actually love it like I do. Fans of the likes of Harry Potter will very likely appreciate this book as well. I highly recommend it!

=== Verdict:
Rating: B+ (WOW! I am very impressed!)
Favoritism: 3.5 out of 5 Hearts (LOVE)

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