Percy Jackson is a twelve year old boy with a bit of a troubled past. Wherever he goes, strange things keep on happening to him, resulting in him being kicked out of every school he has ever attended. When the story starts, Percy is attending Yancy Academy, a private school for troubled children. When the class go on a field trip with their Latin teacher, he is attacked by a strange mythological creature in a museum and things begin to turn very strange indeed. Percy's best friend reveals he is a satyr, his Latin teacher is actually a centaur and Percy has to seek protection at Camp Half-Blood as he is a demi-god, the son of a Greek god. And things aren't going well with the gods....someone has stolen Zeus' lightning bolt and Percy becomes involved with the attempt to rescue it before the summer solstice.
I really enjoyed The Lightning Thief. It's a fun, action-packed book that doesn't take itself too seriously. The action starts within a few pages and there's never a dull moment as the story progresses. I like the idea of using Greek mythology to inspire the story and this is cleverly done by Riordan with a few neat touches, such as having Mount Olympus move to whichever country is currently the heart of Western civilisation (thus explaining why it is in America at the moment). The book is at it's best when the mythology is at the forefront, like when the heroes visit the Underworld. I liked how Riordan stays true to the original mythology whilst updating it for a modern audience, for example Hades' palace in the Underworld is guarded by Greek and Marine skeleton soldiers.
The Percy Jackson and the Olympians series is billed as the 'American Harry Potter' and there certainly are similarities between the two stories. There's a mysterious prophecy about Percy he isn't allowed to hear yet, one of his best friends is an extremely smart girl, he has black hair and green eyes, strange things happened to him as a child etc etc. Even though the similarities are there, it really didn't read like a Harry Potter rip off to me and the world created by Riordan based on Greek mythology is sufficiently different from the magical world of J.K. Rowling for it not to matter.
In fact, I just loved The Lightning Thief. If you don't take it too seriously and just strap yourself in for the ride, it's a fun, engrossing book that will leave you wanting to reach for the next one in the series immediately. Yes, the book is a bit heavy handed with the clues (especially about which of the Gods is Percy's father) and the monsters are a bit easy to defeat, but it's total comfort reading and perfect escapism. I loved losing myself for a few days in this book.
Source: Personal copy
First Published: 2005
My Edition: Disney Hyperion, 2006
Score: 5 out of 5 (for pure fun)