Reading Wrap-Up #04: Percy Jackson edition

For this wrap-up, I bring you a very special edition of what I’ve been reading.

As a young adult (13/14), I loved the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan. But after the first movie came out, I was devastated and kind of came off the series and moved more towards The Hunger Games.

For this post, as it’s a series, I will not be including the author, genre (they’re all fantasy, fiction, young adult) or medium used (I have the books with the first four in paperback and the last one in hardback) and I will not be shy with spoilers.

After all these years, I’ve kept the books and decided to re-read them as an adult nearly ten years later. Here’s how it went…

The Lightning Thief

28187Rating: ★★★★

GoodReads rating:  4.24 / 5

Date started/ finished: 8/2 – 12/2

Summary: Twelve-year-old Percy Jackson discovers the Greek gods are alive and well… and he is the son of Poseidon and the subject of a prophecy that could bring an end to Olympus. When Zeus’s master bolt gets stolen, Percy is the main suspect as the only child of the Big Three (Zeus, Hades, Poseidon). To clear his name, Percy, daughter of Athena Annabeth and satyr Grover go on a quest to retrieve the master bolt. Their quest has them running into all sorts of monsters, gods, and ends in the Underworld where they find Hades’s Helm of darkness has been stolen, too. The thief turned out to be Luke, a spiteful son of Hermes, under the orders of the rising Titan Kronos.

Thoughts: To be honest, the book wasn’t as good as I remember it. I found the pacing a bit preposterous in the first half of the book and the plot was a little unbelievable for a twelve-year-old. I didn’t feel the challenges in this book were appropriate for the age of the characters. I can forgive a certain amount of luck in young adult novels, but this one really pushed it. How am I expected to believe a twelve year old who has only just discovered his powers beats monsters that past heroes like Hercules did without training? For that, I would have given it 3.5 stars, but added an extra half star for nostalgic purposes.

Other adaptations: Where do we begin? First, the cast. I actually approve of making the characters a bit older because, as I mentioned, nobody is believing a twelve year old can defeat such monsters. But if you’re going to make the movie characters older, make the cast the same age as well (the main cast was supposed to be 16 in the first film but the actors were in their early 20s). I know a lot of people made a fuss about Annabeth not being blonde and Grover being black, but it was their performance that really bothered me. Annabeth really flat-lined, I often forgot she was even there. And Grover was a bit too cool for my liking, in the books, he’s painted as nervous and awkward. Luke, Percy’s mom and Gabe were all casted tremendously. All in all, not completely unforgivable. Now, the plot. My biggest bone to pick: why was there no mention of Kronos?! The series is based on the rise of the Titans and was well set up in the book, but without the mention of Kronos in the first film, it’s almost redundant. The omission of Ares was also a big mistake as he was also central to the plot to steal the bolt. There were a lot of other little changes that really added up… In the film, the quest is driven by their search for magic pearls that reveal their path to the Underworld, where in the book, they just make their way from New York to Los Angeles and happily stumble upon monsters along the way. In the film, a lot of the gods are dressed in togas and act all-powerful when in the book, they’re more often described as normal people in normal clothes. I was also really bothered the way they portrayed the Underworld as hell when in the book it was explained that there were different sections of the Underworld depending on how you lived your life. Other small omissions like the Oracle (I know this comes in the second movie but as it’s so important throughout the series, why wait?), Annabeth’s magic Yankee cap, and no character background (nothing on Grover’s quest to find Pan or Annabeth’s mortal family, which do become important in later books) also add up to make this film a complete flop.

The Sea of Monsters

220px-PercySeamonstersRating: ★★★★

GoodReads rating:  4.24 / 5

Date started/ finished: 13/2 – 16/2

Summary: When the enchanted tree the protects Camp Half-Blood is poisoned, Percy, Annabeth and young Cyclops (and half-brother to Percy) go rogue on a quest to find the Golden Fleece to heal the tree and rescue Grover from cyclops Polyphemus. Along they way, they get help fighting monsters from daughter of Ares Clarisse and her Civil warship. Once they return the Fleece to camp, the Golden Fleece not only heals the tree, but resurrects the daughter of Zeus killed defending the camp, Thalia.

Thoughts: Probably my least favorite book for reasons I can’t exactly put my finger on. It wasn’t bad and I can’t say I have many criticisms for it, just not as good as the others.

Other adaptations: Oh, boy. If you thought the first film was bad, wait until you see the second one. First of all, it was directed by the bloke who directed Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Hotel for Dogs and screenplay by the bloke who wrote Green Lantern, let that sink in. Let’s start again with the cast and characters. I live for Stanley Tucci (Tucci gang for life) and casting him as Mr. D was perfect. That’s about where the positives for this film end. Both Clarisse and Tyson were all wrong. They both were physically different in the book but of course, adaptional attractiveness to movies wins again. In the book, Tyson was a big, ugly brute who spoke simple sentences where in the film he’s just like any other human (besides the whole one eye thing) and more naive than primitive. Clarisse is just another pretty, petite girl rather than the muscle-bound hard-headed bully we know from the books. Finally, are we really going to let them get away with Annabeth’s crusty highlights? Moving on to the plot. This movie spent a lot of time playing catch-up. Trying to explain what happened to Thalia and building more background for Luke and Annabeth, talking more about the Great Prophecy (although, we did get a cool stained glass animated bit out of it), and introducing the oracle. With this game of catch-up the actual plot gets a little lost in the sauce and falls flat. On their way to the Sea of Monsters, Annabeth, Percy and Tyson meet all sorts of different monsters and challenges (Circe, the sirens, hydra, etc.) where in the movie, it was maybe one or two before the final boss Polyphemus. In the movie, Luke conveniently arrives to take the Golden Fleece away from the heroes and use it to revive Kronos, who takes the form of Balrog from The Lord of the Rings. Also conveniently, Percy slays Kronos, sending him back to Tartarus. I love a happy ending. But wait… like in the book, Thalia comes back to life, so what’s next now that they’ve slain Kronos? The Lightning Thief movie didn’t do the book justice but is probably fine as a stand-alone movie, but The Sea of Monsters was just technically bad, contradictory and poorly made. I can see why this was the last attempt at adapting this series, they really painted themselves into a corner with the awful plot and revealing quite a big spoiler to the last book (re: Silena Beauregard). Gods, I’m so glad I don’t have to write about any more of these horrible movies.

The Titan’s Curse

220px-The_titan's_curseRating: ★★★★

GoodReads rating:  4.35 / 5

Date started/ finished: 17/2 – 19/2

Summary: Newly revived Thalia, Percy and Annabeth run into some monster trouble when retrieving two half-bloods, Nico and Bianca di Angelo and are met with help from the Hunters, immortal servants to Artemis. Disturbing dreams tell Percy and head huntress Zoe that Annabeth and Artemis are in trouble, but Percy is not permitted to go on the quest to their aide. Percy takes a pegasus and joins the quest anyway. Their quest takes them to New Mexico, where Grover feels the overwhelming presence of Pan, the god of the wild and his life’s ambition to find, and Arizona, where Bianca gives her life to save the other heroes. Their quest ends on Mount Tamalpais, where general Titan Atlas and Luke have enslaved Artemis to hold up the sky for him and are holding Annabeth hostage. In the battle, Atlas is put back under the sky, Annabeth is freed, Luke is thrown from a cliff (but lives) and Zoe perishes. On Olympus, the gods are convinced of an imminent war with the Titans and Artemis offers Thalia the head huntress position in place of Zoe. She accepts to become immortal and forego the Great Prophecy. Back at camp, Nico discovers that Bianca has died even though Percy promised to keep her safe and in his rage his powers showed his true parentage: the son of Hades.

Thoughts: This is my second favorite book of the series. The pacing is great, we meet a few of my favorite characters, Thalia and Nico, and you can really feel the series climax with this book.

The Battle of the Labyrinth

250px-PercyBattleLabyrinthRating: ★★★★

GoodReads rating:  4.39 / 5

Date started/ finished: 22/2 – 24/2

Summary: At Camp, Percy and Annabeth stumble upon an entrance to the Labyrinth. Annabeth leads a quest accompanied by Grover, Tyson and Percy into the labyrinth to find its creator, Daedalus, to prevent Luke and the Titan army from entering camp through the maze. Meanwhile, Nico is trying to bring his sister Bianca back to life with the help of the undead King Minos. In the maze, the heroes meet their share of monsters including the last living Hundred-Handed One, an ancient cousin of the cyclops. The heroes get the help of mortal Rachel Dare, who can see the way through the maze and leads them to Daedalus’s workshop, but they are too late, Daedalus has already helped Luke (now possessed by Kronos) and the Titan forces. Once they leave the maze, they are lead to Pan, the god of the wild, who passes his spirit on as he fades away. Back at camp, the Titan forces are invading, but are scared off by Grover’s Panic, a terrible scream named after the god himself.

Thoughts: This is my favorite book in the series. It was very conceptual with something new and unexpected around every corner. I’m probably a bit biased because one of my favorite bands have written a few songs about Daedalus/ Icarus (check out “The Melting Point of Wax” by Thrice!).

The Last Olympian

220px-LastolympianRating:★★★★

GoodReads rating:  4.51 / 5

Date started/ finished: 26/2 – 2/3

Summary: The final battle between the Titans and Olympians is on the horizon in Manhattan. To prepare, Nico takes Percy to the Underworld to take on the curse of Achilles, to bathe in the River Styx to become invulnerable. With the gods occupied defending their own territory (such as Poseidon and Hades) or fighting the great monster Typhon, it is up to the half-bloods, the Hunters and a few other parties to defend Olympus from the Titan army. In the final battle, Luke fights Kronos back long enough for Percy to give him a knife to kill himself (and Kronos) with. For his reward, Percy wishes for all the gods to claim their kids by the time they’re 13 in order to prevent half-bloods from feeling ostracized in the future. Back at camp for the last time, Rachel Dare becomes the new oracle and speaks the next Great Prophecy.

Thoughts: Probably my second least favorite book, sorry about it. The invincibility dip in the River Styx and the even mention of Hestia (the titular character) and her role was so sudden and just seemed convenient. I wish monsters, Titans and minor gods throughout the series were introduced with more purpose instead of trying to frantically cram as many creatures in the series as possible, with half of them not even being memorable in the slightest. This happened throughout the series but was especially apparent in the final book where things should be wrapping up, not introducing loads of new characters and monsters. All things considered, I did think this was ended well, especially with the next Great Prophecy, which could have equally been as good a cliffhanger as an introduction for the next series.

Oh, boy. I know that was long but I really enjoy writing these kinds of posts. If you’re still reading, let me know how you liked the Percy Jackson series.

Photo by Radu Marcusu.

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