The Verdict on Percy Jackson

I’ve had the Percy Jackson books thrust at me by random people because they know I’m a big Harry Potter fan, and people who really know me can tell them that the more people foist a book on me the less likely I am to pick it up. Hence, it’s taken me a while to pick up the Percy Jackson books.

I originally read the first book because I was planning on seeing the movie, but changed my mind about the movie when I heard it was a long way away from the book.  So I ended up reading on in the series instead. I finished all five books in the space of one week in February: the first two books in one night, and the next three books (borrowed from my cousin Chickoy) in one sitting.

Here goes my verdict post.

The Percy Jackson series is a light, fun, and engaging read. I liked the idea of a modern-day Olympus, the references to mythology, and the gods personified (I have a crush on Apollo!).  I can’t help but compare Percy Jackson to Harry Potter, though, because people are hell-bent on pitting the two series against each other, and because I can’t conceal my biases anyway.

Of course there are the obvious similarities: Pre-teen kid with a miserable existence turns out to be an extraordinary being of important parentage.  Kid goes to a special establishment magically protected from enemies and humans where the young charges are classified into groups based on their special ability. Kid gets sidekicks: the bumbling but sympathetic male friend that injects much of the humor in the series, and the insufferable know-it-all gal pal. Bad blood develops between the Kid and a bully from a notorious group in the establishment.

Both use mythology (Harry Potter spans a wider range, including Greek, Roman, and Norse mythology, the English tradition of magic, astrology, and general folklore), so it’s not surprising that some characters and plot devices appear in both books.

But I couldn’t ignore some other common elemnts: the hero has the ability to communicate with a certain species and is involved in incidents of freeing a creature of this species; Kid has an encounter with the bully in the girls’ bathroom; there is a special sport at the establishment for which the kid exhibits a special aptitude; death omens appear everywhere; Kid has a powerful, legendary sword for a weapon; Kid flags down emergency magical transport; there is a history of a tragic death on the school grounds; Kid has to return home periodically because the relative he hates has served as his protection all the while; a prophecy has been made about the Kid’s birth which may or may not pertain to him; a Dark Lord is on the rise, and he uses an insider as a tool so he can resume his physical form; Kid has a psychic connection with the Dark Lord — I stopped listing after book 2… (I have an actual table that I thought of posting here, but it would have spoiled things for those who haven’t read the book).

It’s a pretty linear series of episodes, tackling one monster after another until the final triumph. A lot of readers love Riordan’s hip, urban writing, and that’s okay, but straightforward narration isn’t really my thing, I prefer more eloquent authors that find offbeat ways to express themselves.  The style tends to gloss over explanations for certain things, which makes plot devices appear too convenient or contrived — e.g. halfbloods’ psychic dreams, how the prophecies work, etc.  I don’t like how the prophecy generally directs the storyline, either; it would have been more interesting as a character vs. destiny, fate vs. choice kind of book), etc.

The humor isn’t something I’m crazy about as well — too many lame jokes cracked at inopportune moments. The phrase Percy wouldn’t recognize a joke if it danced naked in front of him wearing Dobby’s teacosy, pops into my head and I crack up instantly.

Out of the five books in the series I really can’t say there was a book that stood out for me, perhaps because they seemed more like installments and not individual books. I liked  them all the same amount, and they went by too fast for me to develop an affinity for any single volume. There were few stirring moments in the books for me — I think the only moment that really moved me was the end of Book 3 — and I constantly craved more depth.

It’s a light and entertaining YA series, especially for boys and reluctant readers,  and it’s a great way to introduce the younger generation to Greek mythology. But if you’re a Harry Potter fan looking for more meat, Jonathan Stroud’s Bartimaeus Trilogy is a better bet.


Percy Jackson and the Olympians #1 The Lightning Thief, movie tie-in paperback and #2 The Sea of Monsters, paperback (p55 at Book Sale!)

#3 The Titan’s Curse ,#4 The Battle of the Labyrinth, and #5 The Last Olympian, borrowed from Chickoy — I’m still considering whether I should by my own copies, or just wait for them to come up on Book Mooch or Book Sale)

Books 1-5 all 3.5/5 stars; series rating 3.5/5 stars

Books 23-27 of 2010


*cover photo courtesy of

23 thoughts on “The Verdict on Percy Jackson”

  1. I saw the movie before I read the book. It was better that way, I suppose, because if it had been the other way around, I would have really been a douche in the theater :)

    1. Good for you, although you should probably wait a while before reading the book, otherwise you’ll keep seeing the movie characters in your head…

  2. You are so right. The same thing happened to me – I was told the books were very Potterish and I believed that maybe – just maybe, lightning could strike twice (no pun intended) and perhaps this was going to be a series that blew me away.

    That was not the case. yes the Percy Jackson books are good, but J K Rowling writes with such a talent… such a way that even when i re- read book one this January as my first book of the millennium I had to smile at just how amazing those books still are.

  3. Hehe, I worried about that too. And I did read it almost immediately after the movie. For a while, the actors were going through the motions in my head. But the film and the book were just so different, my imagination eventually took over :)

  4. Somehow I like the very things you didn’t like about these books. Tee hee! The straightforward narration and the humor. Made reading much more fun for me.

    Of course, I love Harry Potter. But despite all those similarities in Percy Jackson, these books just feel so different from each other.

    I dare say though I am enjoying myself much more with the Lightning Thief series, even if it isn’t on the same writing level as Harry Potter. Well, Different strokes…:D

  5. Yun din ang narinig ko na reviews kaya binasa ko din siya. Well never na ko nag compare ng book sa hp kase alam ko ma disappoint lng ako kase mahirap tlaga pantayan ang hp. Gusto ko ang Percy kailangan lang talaga ignore yun ilang similarist nila ng hp para ma enjoy un book.

    Cute yun gumanap sa movie na Percy. hehehe…

  6. Hi Ray-ann :D Hahaha I tried not to but I couldn’t help it :D
    I heard Percy was cute in the movie, wasn’t the actor too old for Percy in the first book? He’s supposed to be twelve, right? Tapos yung Annabel matronic daw hahaha.

  7. I read great things about this series as well, and finally managed to get Books 1-3 last Christmas thanks to the FFP Kris Kringle. Despite some friends’ raves, I did not love this series. Perhaps my expectations were high, and while I didn’t compare this to HP, I mainly felt that the first 3 books were like an American movie – all action scenes, one after the other, without much room for character development. I’m OC about series so need to get the last 2 books, but am not in a rush to do so. My 13 year old nephew loved the series though, so it is indeed a matter of different strokes!

  8. Hi Iya- yes I get what you mean, it’s written almost as if Riordan had a movie franchise in mind.

    But Riordan really knows his stuff, I have to admit. He knows his target audience and he knows what they like to read. My 14-year old cousin loves Percy Jackson as well!

  9. Wow Blooey, you literally devoured the books, reading three in one sitting! :D I’ve always wondered among swift readers, do you subvocalise (pronounce/read aloud the words in your head) whenever you guys read or do you sped your eyes quickly while managing to drink in every word of the text?

  10. OMG! I didn’t realize there were too many similarities between the Harry Potter books and this one! That’s such a bummer, knowing this series has been popular too. I’ve just demoted this book on my stack, only because I love the HP books so much I can’t imagine another tale quite like it, even if in phases. Totally good review!!

  11. @Aths – Thanks! Still, it wouldn’t hurt to give Percy a try, at the very least you can reaffirm your love for HP (like I did!) :)

  12. Nice Article sumthinblue. I really didn’t think about the things HP and PJ had in common. But I would like to point out that Rick Riordan started writing the maneuscript in 1991. While J.K Rowlings published HP in 1998. So, I don’t think that Rick Riordan intentionaly have a few things in common with HP. But then agan, nowadays every popular book series is compared to HP…I really don’t see how Twilight and HP are similar.

    1. Hi OceanWater. It wasn’t an implication that Riordan took some elements from Harry Potter — it was merely an observation that they had elements in common and my personal preference for JKR’s execution over Riordan’s.

      The shared elements are not surprising because both series are culled from mythology.

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