I fell head-long in to the universe created by author Rick Riordan in the spring of 2010. I was working at Borders, and all of these kids were buying these books, Percy Jackson and The Olympians. I had also seen billboards for a movie version. I did some googling and I was immediately intrigued by the premise.
The idea behind the books is that the ancient Greek gods and goddesses are real. Throughout history, they have moved around to wherever the “seat of Western Civilization” is. The gods currently reside in New York City. They also still behave as you would expect Greek gods to behave…pretty badly. They’re promiscuous and petty, and absurdly powerful. They also continue to father and mother half mortal children. These kids, demi-gods, are powerful in their own ways, and extremely dangerous. They are chased by monsters, go on epic adventures, and attend a summer camp in Long Island called Camp Half-Blood. Our hero, Percy Jackson, is one such kid, a son of Poseidon with an epic destiny. (I have a very special relationship with Poseidon, but that’s a story for another day…)
Seriously, it’s a long story.
In addition to the first series there’s a follow up series, The Heroes of Olympus, which expands the universe to include a take on Roman deities. Here we learn that the gods have 2 aspects, their Greek and Roman sides. Though similar they aren’t the same, and for over a century the Greek demigods and Roman demigods have been kept apart, “for their own safety.” They come together when Jason Grace, a son of Jupiter (Roman Zeus) and Percy are kidnapped by Hera and sent to the others camp with amnesia.
Also they ride a giant bronze dragon. Seriously this book series rocks!
Things get even more complicated though, because there’s a spin off series as well, called The Kane Chronicles, which is about Egyptian mythology, and does, in fact, take place in the same universe. The Kane Chronicles is a trilogy, and it was hinted at in the first two books, and then confirmed in the third, that yes, these two worlds exist together. Several of the “Egyptian” kids attend school with the “Greek” kids, in fact one of the daughters of Aphrodite has a big crush on Carter Kane, the hero of the series. Riordan seems to have made it clear that he’s no where near done exploring this universe, a fact for which I’m grateful. Even though The Kane Chronicles is over, the third book ended in a way that indicated there was some sort of fight on the horizon that will bring the two worlds together.
So, that’s the background. I got thinking about Percy Jackson and The Olympians, The Heroes of Olympus and The Kane Chronicles this week because, between books, Riordan releases what can best be described as “world building” materials. This time it was a small book entitled, The Demigod Diaries. It features 4 short stories and a few other tid bits, and was definitely a fun read, and got me excited for The Mark of Athena, the final book in The Heroes of Olympus, which comes out in October. (I’m mostly excited because it means Annabeth Chase, my favorite character, is probably heavily featured, as she is a daughter of Athena.) What was most fascinating though, was that this time, Riordan delved pretty deeply in to the dark side of his universe.
Most really good children’s literature has a dark side. Harry Potter would be pretty boring with Slytherin, Severus Snape, Draco Malfoy and Lord Voldemort. Lois Lowry’s The Giver, which to me is the pinnacle of this level of book deals with difficult societal issues like euthenasia. Riordan’s universe is based in Greek story telling tradition, which means that tragedy is not skipped over. Olympians, while funny and fun, also featured a traditional tragic storyline for it’s antagonist Luke Castellan. Luke was a son of Hermes, who’s mother went insane after trying to host the Oracle of Delphi, this way although she was a mortal, she and Hermes could raise Luke together. Luke ran away from home, had adventures with Annabeth and Thalia Grace (daughter of Zeus, Jason’s older sister, it’s all pretty complicated…), and ended up at Camp Half Blood. He was always bitter towards the gods, and particularly his father, and he eventually joined forces with the Titan Kronos and challenged Olympus and his former friends in war.
Because this is Greek tragedy, Luke has a change of heart, but he has it too late, and he is then killed in battle. The Demigod Diaries features a story told from Luke’s point of view, about the day he and Thalia met Annabeth. Out of context it’s another sort of fun take on Greek myth, but in context it’s positively heart breaking, as Luke confessed to Annabeth that he loved her just before his death.
The other “dark” story in the collection wasn’t written by Rick Riordan at all, but by Haley Riordan, his son, for whom Rick created Percy and the half bloods (Haley is dyslexic and ADHD, and so are the halfbloods, their brains are wired for ancient Greek, not English and the ADHD gives them fast battle reflexes,) and is called “The Son of Magic.” It focuses on a young son of Hecate, the magic goddess, who sided with Kronos, and now has to suffer life as an outcast, as one of the only leaders who lived through the war he is not admitted to Camp Half Blood.
Lucky for me, these books are absurdly popular, because I really can’t get enough of this world. I badly want to see what happens when the Greeks and Romans join forces with, or against the Egyptians. The hardcore fangirl in me really wants to see the romantic complications that ensue. Well, mostly I just want Sadie Kane, the main female character in Kane Chronicles end up with Nico di Angelo, the son of Hades. She already sort of has a thing going on with Anubis, the Egyptian god of funerals. I think this would be an excellent love triangle, Nico being all “Prince of the Underworld” and everything.