Book ReviewsBooksFeaturesReviews

Book Review: ‘Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief’

Share this:

Do you remember that feeling when you watched a movie that you really liked, and later you found out it was based on a really popular book? That’s what happened to me after I watched Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief. After taking a long time to find time to get myself into this universe and read books, the perfect occasion appeared with the upcoming Disney+ series.

Before I started reading it, I thought that it was a book for younger readers, but I was wrong. As soon as I started, I was trying to find time every day to finish it quickly. Maybe it wasn’t created specifically for me, but I can gladly say that Rick Riordan gained another fan of his stories.

[Warning: Spoilers from Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief movie and book are below!]

Percy Jackson is just a kid, destined to do great things

The Percy Jackson books are set in a world full of demigods, gods, and other stuff from Greek mythology. Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief begins as a tale that resonates not just with the young, but with readers of all ages. As I navigated through the labyrinth of adventures with Percy and his companions Annabeth and Grover, I felt like a kid again.  

Percy Jackson is a twelve-year-old boy from New York City with dyslexia and ADHD who embarks on a life-changing journey. When he goes on a seemingly ordinary school trip to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, his life takes a mythical turn, changing his future forever. During the visit to the museum, Percy’s teacher, Mrs. Dodds, transforms into a mythical creature called Erinye and attacks him. She accuses him of stealing the Thunder of Zeus and demands that he give it to her.

Thankfully for Percy, another teacher, Mr. Brunner, saves Percy’s life. He gives Percy a magical sword-pen to defend against the supernatural threats that surround him. After everything that happened, Percy’s mother Sally takes him to Long Island. Additionally, his friend Grover discloses his true identity as a satyr and warns Percy of impending danger. They travel to Camp Half-Blood where Percy will be trained. On the way, they get attacked by a minotaur who makes Sally disappear into thin air.

Percy manages to slay the monstrous creature with one of its horns. After this, he faints. This was the pivotal moment for me in the whole book because it was the first moment where Percy had to fight for his life. What also makes it interesting is that it was also the moment when I had to take a break. When I watched the movie for the first time, it wasn’t that emotional scene, but in the book, it felt different.

Logan Lerman as Percy in Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief movie
Logan Lerman as Percy in Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief movie (20th Century Studios)

When he wakes up, he gets to meet other demigods, also learning that he is Poseidon’s son. He meets Luke, son of Hermes, and Annabeth, daughter of Athena. As Percy settles into this new camp life, he learns more about his heritage. What shocks Percy is that Mr. Brunner is actually Chiron, a centaur mentor, and one of the leaders/teachers at the camp.

He explains that the existence of Percy is a violation of an oath among Poseidon, Zeus, and Hades. They promised to not father any more children, because they may become a danger, trying to claim the power of Gods. Percy finds out that Zeus’ Lightning was indeed stolen, and he must find it and bring it back to him. Percy, accompanied by Annabeth and Grover, faces a lot of mythical challenges on the quest to receive the lost Lightning.

They face villains from Greek mythology such as Medusa or Chimera. Not to spoil too much for people who haven’t read the book or seen the movie, but their journey unfolds in many unexpected ways. Their quest leads them to Hades, who accuses Percy of stealing the Lightning and threatens to kill Percy’s mother (because he kidnapped her) unless he gives him the Lightning. Sounds like Percy has to find it before his mother’s life is claimed by Hades!

The huge potential of Rick Riordan’s books and comparisons with the movie

For me, the whole adventure and Percy’s odyssey lie in their ability to evolve these kids into heroes. Letting them experience what it’s like to save the world. While our hero, Percy, has a hard time accepting his true destiny and powers, it’s encouraging to go through this journey alongside him. I believe that Percy’s age was a deliberate choice by Riordan who made it a crucial aspect of the narrative. In the book, he’s a twelve-year-old, who gets thrown into the chaos of Greek mythology while becoming the one who has to stop a war between Gods on Earth.

Comparing The Lightning Thief book with the movie, it’s more developed and at least for me a better way to tell this story. Don’t get me wrong, I like the first Percy Jackson movie, but the book is a perfect example of why it’s better to make this story a series rather than a movie. The moments where we see Percy’s humor, his childishness mixed with maturity, is something I couldn’t imagine seeing in a 2-hour movie. The one-liners, the development of our protagonist, and the evolving friendship are the elements that make the book a better story than the one on the screen.

Percy Jackson and the Olympians Episode 107 (Disney+)
Aryan Simhadri, Leah Sava Jeffries, and Walker Scobell in Percy Jackson and the Olympians Episode 107 (Disney+)

Other characters like Annabeth deserve praise for their depth and show of intellect in the book. In the movie, she becomes a pretty girl who tries to go over the warrior princess stereotype. She lost the essence of her strategic brilliance and of everything that made her Athena’s daughter. In the book, there is more room for her to show her skills and prove she’s not just another pretty face. I feel that this change in her writing compared to the source material, robbed Annabeth of her place as the Athena among the demigods.

If I had to say something good about the movie, I’d say that the visuals are its better part. The Hydra scene, the Lotus Hotel escapade, and Percy’s duel with Luke are visually stunning. Even now after all these years, I think that they deserve praise (but I’d prefer to see the original fight from the book, instead of the clash with Luke). However, those visuals and effects come at the cost of narrative and writing in the script. The plot is cut and changed, important details are removed, and character development is too quick. It left me with a visually impressive yet narratively lacking experience.

Final thoughts on Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief

Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief is a book that is a treasure that transcends all ages, making it a book for everyone. It tells an amazing story that doesn’t feel too immature, or childish. The movie, while visually impressive, falls short of capturing the essence of the source material. Each version has its positives and negatives (with the book having more positive things), and appreciating one doesn’t remove the value of the other. 

My Rating: 9/10

Whether you’re a demigod in training or just a regular mortal, the book invites you to a world full of monsters, gods, and iconic moments being an easter egg to mythology moments. It’s a story that proves age is just a number, and the magic of mythology, adventure, and good teenage drama is timeless.

Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan is available now!  Let us know on social media @mycosmiccircus or in The Cosmic Circus Discord if you plan on reading the book before the new series’ arrival on Disney+!

Guide to the World of Percy Jackson

Percy Jackson Guide

Book Review: Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Chalice of the Gods by Rick Riordan

Percy Jackson Chalice of the Gods Banner

Percy Jackson and The Olympians is the Adaptation We’ve Been Waiting For

Percy Jackson And The Olympians Disney+ Banner

Share this:

Wiktor Reinfuss

Big fan of all sorts of pop culture stuff. I also enjoy ambitious cinema. Games, music and graphics are all within my interests. I have a great fondness for the Arrowverse series, especially The Flash.

Wiktor Reinfuss has 116 posts and counting. See all posts by Wiktor Reinfuss