open the pages, read the words, savor the magic
There is a long involved story about this book and you’ll indulge me for telling that story before I get on with the review.
When it first came out, this book confused me for a while. Not about the content, obviously, but the way it has different titles in the US and the UK. The first copy I ever saw locally was the UK edition so I immediately snapped up this book called Percy Jackson and the Greek Gods. But a few weeks later, I saw another book by Rick Riordan titled Percy Jackson’s Greek Gods, with a fully illustrated cover, and I thought it was a different book altogether. Luckily, a quick look through Google confirmed the different titles and the different cover designs for each edition and so I was saved from buying a second copy of the same book, especially because it turned out that I wasn’t going to read it for a good six months after I’d bought it. Who needs two copies of the same unread book on the shelf?
It’s not that I suddenly got bored with Rick Riordan, mind you. First, I forgot that I’d bought the book in the first place because I’d bought it with a stack of magazines that, at the time, needed to be read more urgently. Secondly, at the back of my mind, I always knew that I didn’t really need the book to learn anything new about Greek mythology. No matter what twist Riordan was giving the story of the Olympians, I wasn’t going to learn anything that I hadn’t learned before so it didn’t become a priority to read the book ASAP. And lastly, the book was purchased during a difficult period of my life last year, where I was facing some extreme career and personal uncertainties. I was in a morose mood, not quite feeling like reading any novels, and so I put aside everything that wasn’t an absolute necessity on my reading list.
Looking back, perhaps I should’ve just read the book. It’s funny and entertaining and it would’ve made me smile, better than any other reading material could. Alas, by the time I’d realized this, many months had passed and The Blood of Olympus was published and so I concentrated on that one.
Early this month I was able to concentrate properly on the book… finally! And while my guess was proven to be true – that the book didn’t offer me anything new in terms of knowledge of Greek mythology – I still enjoyed it. As usual, Riordan injected plenty of Percy Jackson’s modern day humor into the tales of the twelve Olympians as we followed the story from the creation of the universe until Dionysus’ ‘invasion’ to India. At times that humor and the modern pop culture references might feel awkward in a story about ancient gods and goddesses, because it totally ruins the ‘elegance’ of the idea of those deities, but those jokes are so hilarious that I was able to get over it and absorb the humor into the story.
Apart from a couple of minor squabbles – such as the gods’ and goddesses’ penchant for saying “What, now?” that was repeated almost in every chapter, for example – the book admirably also makes its responsible stance about drinking (Percy warned us not to drink wine until we’re 40 and only one sip every year or something like that) and incestuous elements of Greek mythology (he made sure that this concept was quite gross) quite enjoyable to read. Remembering that the Percy Jackson series is officially targeted at young readers, these ‘disclaimers’ needed to be made. But even as an adult reading the book, I think the delivery of the warnings is entertaining enough that I have to respect Riordan for making them.
Many elements of Greek mythology are sordid, morbid and horrid. Even if I’d known about them before, it didn’t stop me from shuddering as I read about how Kronos ate his sons and daughters, or how Hades creepily kidnapped Persephone, or how Ares and Aphrodite committed adultery on Olympus. As usual, my sympathies went to Hephaestus, whose tales remain favorites of mine even after all these years, and Hestia, often overlooked when anyone talks about the Olympians. In my opinion there wasn’t nearly enough of Hestia in the book, or even of Hermes. Seeing as he was a major character in Percy Jackson and the Olympians series, I thought there would be more emphasis on him… but of course Riordan mostly retold what historians and other experts knew of these figures, instead of creating something entirely his own.
So while the tone of the book resembles many of his fiction novels, it’s wise to remember that these tales are actual folklores derived from myths widely believed by many people. These are ‘canon’ stories from Greek mythology and Riordan loyally sticks to that canon. He did, through Percy, mention that there may be different versions of the story but that the one he told in the book is what he believed to be true; another responsible warning to make because there are some differences between those stories, depending on what you read/where you learn about it.
There will be a sequel of sorts to Greek Gods – it seems that Percy Jackson’s Greek Heroes is going to be published this summer. Riordan has already mentioned some of them in Greek Gods – most notably Theseus and Bellerophon – which may serve as a preview for the next book. The next book excites me even more because I’m not as well versed in the story of Greek heroes compared to the Greek gods. I think I’ll be able to learn many new things from the next book after all.
Just one thought: wouldn’t it be nice if the next book is narrated by another character from the series? Telling Greek heroes’ stories from Nico’s point of view would be excellent. Or maybe that’s just me, still fangirling the son of Hades to the max…
On a final note, this book contains the short story of a crossover between Percy Jackson and the Kane Chronicles called Son of Sobek. But that short story is a part of its own series, so I’ll review it in a separate post.