It has become clear to me that if I’m going to reach my goal of 100 books in 2011, I’m going to have to sprinkle my reading list with some less…demanding books. Some YA titles, for example. To that end, I’m reading the Percy Jackson & The Olympians series. Pity I read the Hunger Games trilogy last year.
Now, it’s obvious that author Rick Riordan, in writing the Percy Jackson series, is going after what we shall call the Potter audience for lack of a better term. I used to work at a bookstore, and as awesome as it was that the Potter series were getting a lot of kids to read who hadn’t been all that enthused about it, once they’d finished Potter their parents always wanted something else for them to read. We all kept lists of books in our heads that could be recommended for kids who liked Potter. The Jackson series definitely fits this description, although it’s much more recent (the first Jackson book was released in 2005, the final Potter book in 2007). I’ll post a review of all five books (the series is now complete) when I’ve read them all.
I’ve finished the first two books. They’re fast reads but entertaining. The similarities to Potter are — significant. The hero protagonist, at age twelve, discovers that he has special powers and is then sent to a special place for others like him to be educated about his abilities. He is part of a trio of friends that includes a smart, capable girl and a goofy but brave guy. He has older mentors and various enemies and a mysterious prophecy that concerns his life and the fate of the world. Riordan’s prose is aimed a little younger than Rowling’s, but in some ways the storytelling is tighter and less prone to unnecessary complexity.
There are ways that the Jackson series differs, though. Most notably, I think, is the protagonist. One thing that continues to strike me is that Percy Jackson has actual skills. Harry Potter might have been the chosen one, the Boy Who Lives, but he was never shown as being particularly skilled at magic. He even says himself that the only thing he’s really good at is Quidditch. In the later books when he ends up teaching magical defense, it’s more a matter of experience (and that was never that well supported, in my opinion). Percy, on the other hand, is good with a sword and has abilities that he knows and understands, although he is certainly self-effacing about them and is often bumbling. Percy just seems more capable than Harry did at the same age.
We’ll see how this develops. Riordan is adding characters with each successive volume at a somewhat mind-boggling rate. If he keeps going like this we’re going to have a cast of thousands by the time we get to book five.
But when I finish all five (I read the first two in four-five hours each, so yay for that) I will be in double digits for my book tally. Hooray!