I was never good (or even remotely "ok") at Greek mythology no matter how many times a teacher or textbook repeated it. But if you asked me today who Athena, Poseidon, Medusa, or Ares are, I can tell you in a snap thanks to the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series by Rick Riordan.
This five-book series begins when Percy Jackson discovers that he is the son of a Greek god. His mother (human) takes him to Camp Half-Blood after he escapes a near-fatal attack at school. Camp Half-Blood is filled with hundreds of other children like him--children of Greek gods. They train with weapons, learn their heritage, embark on quests, decipher prophecies, and fight for survival against the enemies threatening their very existence.
I started the first book while sitting in Barnes and Noble with a delicious chai, and bought it solely because it kept me laughing with each page. Rick Riordan is a clever, humorous author with a unique, page-turning writing style. I really enjoyed the series, especially the characters. It was fun learning a bit more about Greek mythology and trying to guess the next plot twist.
As enjoyable as the books were, there are still some drawbacks. Near the end of the series, the plot turns slightly monotonous and predictable. Still interesting, but tedious if read in one long sitting. Also, from a Christian standpoint, I found the endless focus on Greek gods tiring. The characters in the book avoid talking about God (the real One), but don't deny His existence; however, I found myself always thinking about the Greek gods and even seeing them in dreams--not that I believed in them, but when a person spends the majority of his or her time reading or focusing on a single subject, it fills his or her thoughts for a short time. The same thing happens with movies--you can't shake the left-over emotions or feel from that intense, tear-tugging drama (well, some people can). With Percy Jackson, I found it difficult to pull out of the Greek god focus, or the lives of the half-bloods.
I would recommend these books, but suggest reading them over a stretched period of time, not back-to back in the course of a week. For younger children, I want to encourage them (or any readers, now that I think of it) to be confident and sure of their beliefs about God and remember that these books are fictitious. They could easily confuse a younger reader, so readers and parents please use discretion.
On the romance level, it starts with friendship (as it usually does) and progresses no further than crushes and a couple scattered innocent kisses. If anyone has seen the movie and wonders about the accuracy with the books, rest assured that the books are much more intricate, clean, and innocent than the movie. There are no (that I remember) sexual insinuations (as in the movie), just flirting.
Overall, I enjoyed the series and believe they are a well-written, interesting read. Please feel free to e-mail me with questions or comments. I have not read Riordan's new novel, The Red Pyramid, and probably won't for a while, but I am sure it is written with the same spark, humor, and brilliancy as his others.
Violence Level: ***
Romance Level: **
Christian Focus: *
Readability Level: *** (easy reading, but not simple writing)
Story Depth Level: ***
Recommendation: *** (give it a go!)