Learning Greek mythology in school is tedious. After all, who wants to learn about all those gods, monsters and heroes? They are not relevant to us anymore! But, with the first installment of the series Percy Jackson and the Olympians, The Lightning Thief, Rick Riordan once again rekindled interest in Greek mythology, among children and adults alike. Riordan’s three bestselling series: Percy Jackson, Heroes of Olympus and Trials of Apollo, have taken the reading public by storm. Some educationists have even suggested that these books be made part of the curriculum! The reason is that Riordan has successfully merged ancient mythology with the twenty-first century settings. His books contain elements of comedy, drama, romance, solemnity and suspense. His works are some of those rare beauties that can be enjoyed to the fullest by people of any age group.
In Riordan’s books, we find that the Ancient Greek gods have moved from Greece to America, the most powerful nation in the world. Manhattan is the new Olympus Range, an area that acts as a border between Macedonia and Thessaly, while the Empire State Building is Mt. Olympus itself. The Greek gods consider all their enemies to have been vanquished and are adjusting to the carefree life of leisure.
What they do not consider is how others are coping with these drastic changes in their lifestyles. Millions of minor gods have been forced to leave their homes in Greece for the sole reason that the twelve Olympians, or major gods - namely Zeus, Hera, Poseidon, Apollo, Artemis, Hermes, Aphrodite, Hephaestus, Demeter, Hestia, Athena and Ares - chose this fate for them. Some of the major themes in the series are the results of vanity and ignorance; it is due to the twelve Olympians’ conceited ways that thousands of minor gods revolt against them. Another theme in the novels is courage: the courage to protect those close to you. Lies and deceit are also themes of the series, as the Olympians lie and deceive the minor gods into believing that there is a reason for their actions.
A little about the three series by Riordan: the first is the Percy Jackson series, which is made up of The Lightning Thief, The Sea of Monsters, The Titan’s Curse, The Battle of the Labyrinth and The Last Olympian. Percy Jackson is a demigod (half-human and half-god) son of Poseidon, the god of sea and earthquakes, one of the Big Three, along with his brothers, Zeus and Hades. According to a prophesy by the Oracle of Delphi (the primeval source of prophecies), Percy has a huge burden on his shoulders, as a single choice of his when he is 16 shall decide the fate of the entire world.
Percy is 12 when monsters begin attacking him, and he learns that he is a demigod. He goes to Camp Half-Blood, a place where demigods are kept safe and are trained by Chiron, who is a centaur, a half-human and half-horse creature. Legend has it that he taught the legendary Achilles himself. Demi-gods are assigned satyrs, half-goat and half-human creatures, to protect them and take them to camp when they are old enough. Grover Underwood is Percy’s satyr guardian. At Camp Half-Blood, Percy discovers who his godly parent is. He shows an aptitude for sword-fighting and soon earns the respect of the other campers and even Chiron himself. Chiron presents him with Riptide, a blade of legend, wielded by Hercules himself. He makes new friends; including Annabeth Chase, daughter of Athena, Connor and Travis Stoll, twin sons of Hermes, Luke Castellan, son of Hermes and Charles Beckendorf, son of Hephaestus.
Percy goes on various quests during the next four years, and as his 16th birthday is just around the corner, the Titans - children of Gaia, the Great Goddess of the earth, and Ouranus, Great God of the skies - attack the gods’ seat of power, while they are distracted. It is then up to Percy and a small number of campers to defend Olympus and save the gods’ seat of power.
Every book in the series is a real page turner. Heroes of Olympus series is a sequel to the Percy Jackson series. It consists of The Lost Hero, The Son of Neptune, The Mark of Athena, The House of Hades, and The Blood of Olympus. In this series, it has been a few months since the Battle of Manhattan, and Percy has gone missing. There are five new heroes, Jason Grace, son of Jupiter, Piper McLean, daughter of Aphrodite, Leo Valdez, son of Hephaestus, Frank Zhang, son of Mars, Hazel Levesque, daughter of Pluto.
Jason, Piper and Leo join Camp Half-Blood and Leo soon calms down a metal dragon that has been rampaging in the woods near camp and learns how to control it. They then go on a mission to save Hera, the queen of the gods, from a power absorbing prison that was using her power to resurrect a very powerful Giant. A Giant is a child of Gaia and Tartarus, the Great God of the abyss under the Underworld. After that, they build an airship known as the Argo II and leave Camp Half-Blood in search of Percy.
Percy has been in a Roman camp, Camp Jupiter, all this time and has become a praetor. The title of praetor in Ancient Rome was given in one of two official capacities: to the commander of an army or an elected magistrate. A legion was usually assigned two praetors.
Most of the Romans respect and trust Percy, excluding Octavian the augur, who wanted to be praetor himself, although they know he is a Greek and may be a Trojan Horse. Percy had gone on a mission with his new friends, Frank and Hazel, to Alaska to rescue Thanatos, the god of death, from a similar power absorbing prison. They then rush back to Camp Jupiter to defend the camp from an attack that took advantage of their absence.
The Argo II soon finds Camp Jupiter, and they take Percy, Frank and Hazel from the camp and then try to discover what was going on. They find out that Gaia is about to wake up and she would be angry at the death of her children, the Titans. The powerful goddess would want to destroy all gods and demi-gods, both Roman and Greek. So the demi-gods onboard Argo II decide that they must defeat as many Giants as they can before Gaia rises, and from here on they start gathering ingredients for the potion of revival and begin destroying the Giant army.
The sequel to this series is the Trials of Apollo, which currently consists of a single book, The Hidden Oracle. Well, for an introductory first book, The Hidden Oracle has quite a strong and fast-paced plot. The book describes how Apollo, the god of music and poetry, feels when his father Zeus, king of the gods and lord of the skies, turns him into a mortal until he completes a ‘series of harrowing trials’, as punishment for some of the actions he took when Gaia was stirring.
Imagine living in the skies one day and waking up in a garbage can in Manhattan the next morning. That is what literally happened to Apollo. He soon meets Meg, a demi-god daughter of Demeter, the goddess of plenty and harvesting and they both go looking for Percy, who Apollo is sure would have nothing better to do but help him. Apollo may have lost the abilities of a god but he’s still a self-conceited, vain, arrogant, bigheaded annoyance. Apollo arrives at Camp Half-Blood with Meg safely. There he explains his situation to Chiron. Chiron thinks that in all likelihood Zeus is only waiting for Apollo to solve some problems that were caused due to long term effects of Apollo’s actions. And so, the ‘harrowing trials’, as Riordan puts it, begin. We can only keep our fingers crossed and hope that Riordan pulls off yet another successful and brilliant series.