The Percy Jackson Series

I wish I could remember how I was introduced to the Percy Jackson series.  The only thing I can really remember was that I had finished reading the Harry Potter series and was looking for something new to read.  I’ve always been a fan of Greek mythology and this was something that sounded interesting.  These books are a bit shorter than the Harry Potter series but just as imaginative.  Below, I summarized each of the books and give an overall review of the series, as well as a brief look at the two movies that were adapted from the novels.

The Percy Jackson Books

Below is a brief-ish summary of each of the books.  Instead of giving my opinion/review of each book individually, I will be reviewing the series as a whole at the end of this section.

The Lightning Thief

The Lightning ThiefIn the first book of the series, we are introduced to the main character, Percy Jackson, aged 12 years old with ADHD and dyslexia.  He is good friends with Grover Underwood who turns out to be a satyr and his protector.  Percy is attacked by a Fury after accidentally using his ability to control water.  His latin teacher, Mr. Brunner, gives Percy a pen that when uncapped turns into a sword and he kills the Fury.

Percy’s mother, Sally Jackson, takes Percy and his friend Grover to Camp Half-Blood.  They run into trouble on the way and Sally is kidnapped by a minotaur who was working for Hades.  When he arrives at the camp, he learns the Mr. Brunner is the centaur Chiron, and learns that he is a demigod, though which god his father is is unknown at the time.  Until he has been claimed, he stays in the Hermes cabin, which takes in all unclaimed demigods.  He meets fellow campers Annabeth Chase, daughter of Athena, Luke Castellan, son of Hermes, and Clarisse La Rue, daughter of Ares.  During a game of Capture the Flag, Percy is injured and heals while he is standing in the water.  He is claimed as the son of Poseidon.

Percy is then sent on a quest to find Zeus’s missing lightning bolt which Chiron believes that Hades has stolen.  Zeus believes that Percy is the one who stole it and gives him until 10 days before the summer solstice to find it.  He is given the pen sword and a pair of Hermes’s winged shoes to help in his quest.  Accompanied by Annabeth and Grover, the three of them make their way west to the Underworld.  After finding the missing bolt in his bag, Percy, Annabeth and Grover flee the Underworld, leaving his mother behind.  Percy flies back to New York to give Zeus the bolt back.  Zeus accepts it, Percy chats with his dad then heads back to Camp Half-Blood where his mother is awaiting him.  He finds out that Luke was the one who stole the bolt and helm for Kronos.  Luke escapes and the summer ends with Percy heading home for the school year.

The Sea of Monsters

The Sea of MonstersIn the second book of the series, Percy Jackson heads back to Camp Half-Blood for the second summer, but not before getting into some trouble first.  We meet one of Percy’s new friends, Tyson.  Seven large Laistrygonian Giants show up for a game of exploding dodgeball and try to kill Percy.  Tyson protects Percy and Annabeth shows up to take them to camp.  When they get there, the find the camp under attack and Thalia’s tree, which had been protecting the camp, has been poisoned.  Tyson is revealed to be a cyclops and son of Poseidon as well.  Chiron is fired and replaced by Tantalus.

Clarisse wins the chariot race, becoming Tantalus’s favourite camper, and is given the quest Percy thought of; to find the Golden Fleece and bring it back to the camp.  Hermes visits Percy while he is walking on the beach and convinces him to go on the quest himself and gives him some supplies.  They sneak off on their own quest and run into Luke, are captured then manage to escape with the help from Hermes’s Thermos of Winds.  Percy sends Tyson to find them some doughnuts so that he can talk to Annabeth privately.  The doughnuts come from Monster Doughnut, which is connected to the Hydra.  They are saved by Clarisse and her ship of dead Confederates.  They then enter the Sea of Monsters and the ship is damaged by Scylla and Charybdis.  During the chaos that ensues, Clarisse and Tyson are lost while Percy and Annabeth manage to end up on a raft which washes up on Circe’s Island.

Thanks to Annabeth’s quick thinking, they are able to escape with Blackbeard’s ship.  While passing by the Sirens’ Island, we learn of Annabeth’s fatal flaw; hubris, or deadly pride.  They make their way to Polyphemus’s island to free Grover, receiving help from Clarisse and Tyson, and retrieve the Golden Fleece.  Clarisse heads back to camp with the Golden Fleece while Percy, Annabeth, Tyson and Grover manage to get captured by Luke again.  Percy tricks Luke into confessing that he poisoned Thalia’s tree in an Iris message.  Chiron is rehired after being proven innocent and they four escape Luke.

Back at the camp, the Golden Fleece cured Thalia’s tree.  It worked so well that it actually brought Thalia back to life (she had been turned into the tree by her father, Zeus, after she had been killed by a cyclops).

The Titan’s Curse

The Titan's CurseThe third book of the Percy Jackson series, Percy, Annabeth, and Thalia meet up with Grover who has found two new demigod children, Bianca and Nico di Angelo.  The three of them help Grover get the two students to safety and fight a Manticore.  In the battle, Percy is injured and the Hunters of Artemis show up to help in the fight but as the Manticore falls off the edge of the cliff, it takes Annabeth with it.  Bianca joins the hunters, leaving Nico in the care of Camp Half-Blood.  When they arrive back at the camp, they are forbidden to launch a rescue mission to save Annabeth.  Surprisingly, Percy actually behaves.  Percy contacts his brother Tyson through an Iris message and finds out that Luke’s ship is being protected by old spirits and heading to the Panama Canal.  Through a prophetic dream, Percy learns that Annabeth has been tricked into taking Atlas’s place in holding up the sky.  In another dream, Artemis takes the sky from Annabeth and she is taken by Luke.  A small group of Hunters and campers are chosen to go on a quest after Zoe, one of the hunters, receives a prophecy from the Oracle of Delphi.  Percy follows the group by riding Blackjack, a pegasus.  They fight against skeletal warriors and the Nemean lion.  They end up in the Junkyard of the Gods and Bianca awakens Talos.  They battle the automaton and Bianca is killed when she is electrocuted after crawling inside to disable it and it crashes into electrical lines.

What’s left of the group heads to The Hoover Dam.  During an attack by the skeletal warriors, Percy meets a mortal girl who can see through the Mist named Rachel Dare.  She distracts the warriors while the others escape.  The group finds their way to San Francisco and find the beast that Artemis was hunting.  Grover leads it back to Long Island with Poseidon’s help after Percy sacrifices the lion’s pelt to him.

Percy and the rest of the group that is left goes to rescue Annabeth and Artemis.  Percy takes the burden of the sky from Artemis so that she is able to defeat Atlas and forces him to take the sky again.  Luke and Thalia fight, causing Luke to fall into a chasm, but he survives.  Zoe was poisoned so Artemis turns her into a constellation.

Percy, Annabeth and Thalia go to Mount Olympus.  Thalia takes Zoe’s place as lieutenant of the Hunters so she becomes immortal and will never turn 16, eliminating her from being part of the prophecy.  After returning to camp, Percy figures out that Nico is the son of Hades, and thus could also be the one the prophecy referred to.

The Battle of the Labyrinth

The Battle of the LabyrinthIn the fourth book of the series, Percy Jackson meets up again with Rachel Dare and learns that there are empousai at their school disguised as cheerleaders.  Percy fights them and kills one while the other disappears.  Because the mortals saw them, they escape the school and meet up with Annabeth.  Annabeth and Percy leave for camp and Rachel takes off on her own.  After reaching the camp, the Council of Cloven Elders declares that Grover has one week to find Pan or his searcher’s licence will be revoked.  Percy later sees an Iris message of Nico talking to a ghost about exchanging a soul for a soul to bring his sister back to life.  During a camp game the next day, Percy and Annabeth discover an entrance to the labyrinth.  Annabeth leads a quest with Percy, Grover and Tyson to find Daedalus.  They enter the labyrinth and run into Janus and Hera.  They also find a prison and free a hundred-handed one, Briares, from Kampe.

They make their way to a ranch and defeat another monster.  While there, they meet Nico and find out that Bianca was sending the Iris messages to Percy about Nico’s plan.  Nico stays there while Percy, Annabeth and Grover continue on their quest and find Hephaestus.  Grover senses Pan and leaves on his own quest with Tyson to find him while the other three go on a side quest for the god.  Percy and Annabeth run into trouble while finding out who is using Hephaestus’s forge and get split up during a fight.  Percy ends up on Calypso’s island.  Percy ultimately leaves the island to continue on his quest and is given a hint to navigate the labyrinth from Hephaestus.  He makes it back to the camp and he and Annabeth track down Rachel Dare to help them through the labyrinth.

Once in the labyrinth, they are again captured by Luke.  Percy fights and slays Antaeus before escaping with Annabeth on a hellhound.  They finally reach Daedalus’s workshop and find out that he is going to help Luke in his plans.  After a fight with some enemies that show up (and Nico), they escape using Daedalus’s wings and head back to the labyrinth.  They find Luke, who has somehow been fused with Kronos and escape after Rachel throws a hairbrush at his face.  They eventually find Grover and Tyson and enter into Pan’s last resting place.  Pan asks Grover to spread the word that he is truly dead and his domain is much to damaged to be saved.  Pan dissolves into a white mist.  The make it out of the labyrinth and head back to camp.

The camp is making preparations for war and Luke and his forces burst from the labyrinth.  Grover unleashes panic, a gift from Pan, and the enemies retreat.  Daedalus ends his life and the labyrinth to keep the camp safe.  Nico refuses to stay at the camp and leaves.  Percy and Annabeth insult Hera and Percy goes home for his birthday.

The Last Olympian

The Last OlympianIn the last book of the series, it starts with Percy Jackson hanging out with Rachel until Charles Beckendorf shows up declaring that it is time to take out Luke’s ship.  Percy leaves with Charles and set Greek fire explosives in the engine room.  Percy is captured by Luke for probably the 30th time at this point and duels him, while learning that there is a spy in the camp.  Beckendorf is also captured but tricked the bad guys into thinking he hadn’t planted the Greek fire yet.  He detonates the explosives and Percy escapes into the sea.  He ends up in Poseidon’s kingdom and his brother Tyson is looking after him.  He has a nice chat with his dad about how the war efforts against the Titans are going, then returns to camp.  Percy takes news back to the camp about the ship and Beckendorf.  While Percy and Annabeth are getting the new prophecy from the Oracle, the war council gets into a huge fight and Clarissa declares that the Ares cabin will not help the camp.

The next day, Percy and Annabeth review the cabins and reports.  Percy reveals Grover is missing and their empathy link is missing.  After a fight with Annabeth, Percy chases Mrs. O’Leary into the forest and comes across a member of the Council of Cloven Elders, Nico, Leneus and Juniper talking about Grover.  He joins their talk and forces Leneus to help Grover.  Nico and Percy take off together to do some research about Luke.  They find his mother in a psychotic state and find out that Luke ran away to protect his mother.  He also required his mother’s blessing to give his body to Kronos.  They leave and find Hestia with Mrs. O’Leary.  They have a chat and she explains that she is the last Olympian as she is the goddess of the home.  She sends Percy and Nico to Percy’s home and talk with Percy’s mother about their plans.

Percy and Nico travel to Central Park where Percy senses Grover.  He uses his empathy link to wake Grover up and he falls out of a tree.  He tells them of how he ended up where he was, mentioning a strange man, who it turns out was Morpheus which meant that the invasion was happening sooner than they expected.  Percy and Nico travel to the underworld where Nico turns on him and hands him over to the Furies.  They all head to Hades’s throne room and we learn more about Nico and Bianca’s past.  Later, Nico turns on his father and helps Percy escape.  Percy talks to Achilles then bathes in the River Styx.

Percy heads to the Empire State Building, where Olympus is located, and calls Annabeth to round up the campers.  Percy heads up to floor 600 and finds Hestia sitting by the hearth.  She imparts some knowledge about Luke and Annabeth before leaving when Hermes arrives.  Athena gives them a message to use Plan 23.  The campers gather in a small park and find Morpheus has forced all the mortals into a deep sleep.  Percy divides the campers into groups to guard the bridges and tunnels that could be used to get to Olympus.  Thalia and the Hunters arrive and guard the Lincoln Tunnel.  Percy and Annabeth head to help the Apollo campers defend the Williamsburg Bridge.  They drive the enemies back into Brooklyn and discover enemy reinforcements and Kronos on the other side of the bridge.  After a battle, Percy strikes his sword, Riptide, into the bridge and breaks it to stop the enemies using that route.  Later in the night, Prometheus arrives to negotiate with the campers.  He wants the campers to surrender but Percy declines.  After some more regrouping, Percy and the campers find Hyperion and some monsters in Central Park.  Percy battles Hyperion and Grover and his friends lock him in a maple tree.  After another battle involving another mythological creature and some automatons, they go back to the Empire State Building where the Party Ponies help the campers defend the building.

The campers do some more regrouping and we learn more about Luke.  Rachel shows up in a helicopter and talks with Percy, revealing that he is not the hero spoken of in the prophecy, because apparently she just knows these things.  A drakon is released, whom only a child of Ares can kill according to the prophecy, which is a problem because the Ares campers aren’t there to help.  Percy and Annabeth go anyway.  They see Clarisse leading her cabin into battle, but she is attacked by the drakon and falls from her chariot, which makes them realize something is wrong.  It turns out that “Clarisse” was actually Selina Beauregard, which they find out when the real Clarisse arrives.  Silena reveals herself to be the spy, having been tricked by Luke then blackmailed when it was too late.  Clarisse kills the drakon after Silena dies from her injuries.

Percy and Annabeth head back to Olympus where they find Rachel in a trance with Pandora’s box.  In order to avoid the temptation to give up hope, they give the box to Hestia to be kept at the hearth.  Percy then convinces his father to join the rest of the gods in fighting Typhon.  Thalia shows up and announces that Kronos has reached the doors of Olympus.  Hades, Persephone, Demeter and Nico show up with an army of the undead.  Kronos cuts them all off, including his army, from Manhattan as he starts to destroy Olympus.  The final battle takes place in the throne room.  Percy convinces Ethan to betray Kronos and Kronos kills him.  Annabeth tries to reach Luke but Kronos manages to incapacitate the heroes.  Annabeth keeps trying to reach Luke while Kronos tosses her around the throne room which spurs Luke into taking over his own body again.  After a talk and some struggle for Luke to maintain control, Percy hands Luke Annabeth’s knife, who then stabs himself in his weak spot, sacrificing himself and defeating Kronos.

The heroes are rewarded for their valor and courage, giving everyone some kind of gift or recognition.  Tyson is promoted to General of the ranks of Cyclopes.  Annabeth becomes the official architect for redesigning Olympus.  Grover is awarded the empty chair on the Council of Cloven Elders.  All the victims would achieve Elysium.  And finally, Percy is offered immortality, but he turns it down in favour of making the gods promise to claim their demigod children as soon as they reach the age of 13 or reach the camp.  He also gets them to give cabins to Hades and other minor gods.

Rachel escapes to the camp and Percy, Annabeth and Nico chase after her, but they are too late.  Rachel chose to take the spirit of the Oracle and successfully becomes the new Oracle, speaking her first prophecy.  Selina is honoured as a hero at the funeral shroud burnings.  Finally, Percy and Annabeth make their relationship official even though the new prophecy is bothering them, but that’s a tale for another time.

The Series

The biggest thing I noticed when I first started reading the books was that it seemed to mirror the Harry Potter series in a lot of ways.  We start out with a young boy, aged 12 (Harry was 11), who learns he is part of a whole other world that normal people know nothing about.  He also leaves home for an extended period of time to attend a place that is specifically for people like him.  In Harry Potter, it was school for the school year, whereas in Percy Jackson, it is a special camp for the summer.  It also follows the pattern of a trio: Percy – Harry, Annabeth – Hermione, and Grover – Ron.  As the series goes on, it definitely takes on a life of its own and we see a lot more influence from Greek mythology than from the typical fantasy genre tropes.

It’s possible, given the publication dates, that there could have been some influence from J.K. Rowling’s work, but seeing as these stories were originally made up for the author’s son, who was diagnosed with ADHD and dyslexia, it’s also very likely that it was just a coincidence.  I think some of the parallels make this an easy transition from the Harry Potter series if it has been read first.  It gives the reader a sort of familiar starting point from which to go forward with reading the series.

There have also been some supplementary works that were done for this series including two books with collections of short stories starring the heroes from the series.  I have read the two which contain the short stories, but none of the others (some of them are more reference material, and there is also graphic novel adaptations).  I can’t say I really remember them as they didn’t leave me with anything that stood out, but they are nice little additions to the series that don’t really affect the overall story.

I would definitely recommend this series to fans of Harry Potter and Greek mythology.  It was a really nice mix of fantasy adventure and mythology that I hadn’t seen before.

The Movie Adaptations

Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief

Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief MovieI think the most noticeable change is the age change for the characters.  They went from 12 year olds to teenagers.  Since the Harry Potter series was being released during the same time period, it made sense to change it up a bit to help prevent comparisons to the more popular series.  The adaptation was decent but nowhere near as good as it could have been.  There was quite a bit that was left out but what was left in helped the movie at least make some sense.  We lost the story about how Ares was the one who stole the Helm of Darkness (which wasn’t mentioned in the movie at all) and a few other things that would have tied a whole movie series together.  The casting was good though and I really enjoyed seeing Sean Bean as Zeus and Steve Coogan as Hades.  I’m not sure if Christopher Columbus directing was the best idea here given his experience with Harry Potter.  In this instance, I’m really not sure if it work for or against him with this movie.  The adaptation also lost a lot of the humour that the books had (the Harry Potter series suffered the same fate here as well).  The reviews for this have been mixed and it’s not hard to see why.  It was just a sort of okay movie when it could have been better than it was.

Percy Jackson: The Sea of Monsters

The Sea of Monsters MovieThe second movie was released three years after the first one, and there was speculation it would even happen after the performance of the first movie.  Some changes were made to the cast as well as some minor changes to bring it more in line with the books (Annabeth’s hair was finally blonde, like it should have been).  I felt that this film deviated even more from the book than the last one did.  In the end of the movie, we see Kronos being resurrected in some sort of molten lava-like body, which is nothing like the books.  In fact, I don’t think Kronos even had a physical form in the books aside from inhabiting Luke’s body.  While I don’t usually mind some changes that are made in order to make it a bit easier to film or for pacing, this just seemed like a little too much.  This film also received mixed reviews from critics and one of the biggest issues, aside from the enormous amount of liberties taken with the story, is that it is so CG heavy.

After two mediocre films, and with the cast aging faster than they are putting the movies out, I don’t see that it is very likely that The Titan’s Curse will be made.  After what they’ve done with the first two, I can’t say I’m not happy about that.  I’m not entirely sure where things went wrong, but they really need to stop while they are ahead.

 

Jennifer LewisPercy Jackson and the Olympians Review

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