The cover on my copy of The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan has a quote at the bottom calling it “riotously paced,” and boy, is that ever accurate. The Lightning Thief is almost as ADHD as its hero, Percy Jackson, but when it comes to quick and light reading, it definitely hits the mark. Riordan flips through mythological characters and storylines like a fly jumping from one piece of fruit to another, and each little morsel of mythology is presented in a way that’s both fun and educational—no worries that you’re missing out on a good joke or something just because you’re not a scholar on Greek myths.
But let me back up a little bit. Percy Jackson is kind of the Harry Potter of the Greek mythology world. He’s not an orphan, but he is a misfit who’s been kicked out of a lot of schools for learning and behavioral problems. And then one day his math teacher tries to kill him—literally. He then learns that not only is his best friend actually a satyr, but his Latin teacher isn’t exactly as meets the eye, either. Soon he’s headed to Half Blood Camp, and claimed as Poseidon’s son. Not long after that, though, it’s learned that Zeus’ object of power—his master lightning bolt, has been stolen, and someone has framed Percy as the thief. With a couple of friends along for the ride, Percy has to recover the stolen item and return it to Mt. Olympus before the Summer Solstice. A big enough task as is—considering who everyone thinks the real thief probably was—but things are made that much worse by the fact that monsters are chasing them down at every turn.
I have to admit, the writing in this book isn’t the highest-quality stuff that I’ve ever read. Most of the side characters are little more than cardboard cut-outs that talk, and if there weren’t so much mythology to draw from, these might not be very good books. But the fact is, there is a ton of mythology to draw from, and Riordan weaves it so entertainingly into Percy’s trials and troubles that these books are really out-and-out fun. I’m already a quarter of the way through the second one, and the action and reading doesn’t slow down at all.
The Lightning Thief is kind of a formulaic book, but the formula works. Well. And I’m honestly flying through these book. Well, as fast as a crazy, full-to-the-tilt schedule allows me to, at least. A- for The Lightning Thief.