It’s true- I’m not a fan of Percy Jackson. I know it seems terrible, even dreadful to some of you die hard fans, so this’ll be harsh. I’m giving you fans a fair warning: turn back now, lest I roast your favorite fandom.
Before I go on, I do have to admit there are some excellent elements in Rick Riordan’s work. Greek myths have always been an engaging collection of imaginative stories for children, and his idea of creating a mash-up world of both the old and the new is not only interesting, but downright brilliant. Not only that, but his style of writing is as light-hearted and fun as a children’s book series should be.
But Riordan falls into many pitfalls that dive too deep to redeem his work. I hate to say this. It hurts as a writer to discredit the works of others who work as hard as I do, as I know how much toil, labor and heart goes into the craft of storytelling. But we as readers uniquely hold authors to the responsibility of bettering their craft through both praise and criticism. In the end it will guide us authors onto the path of becoming better than they could have been before. So hopefully this isn’t seen as all bad. But, well, here we go.
If you take a step back and think about it, Riordan’s books are actually quite inappropriate for middle grade boys and girls. Historically, Greek myths weren’t all flowers and rainbows. I mean, come on, Kronos ate his own children! That’s heavy stuff, even if your not Atlas holding the world on your shoulders. Taking those old myths in hand is like grappling with Medusa’s hair. It can be done, but you could get bit. And unfortunately, he did.
The first line of the book starts off saying not to trust your parents. Then he gets to telling your kids how Kronos ate his children, just to put you to rest on the history side. Heartwarming, right? Putting parents in a kind light?
It doesn’t stop there. Almost every authority figure in the first two books are made out to be morons (Dionysus and the school teachers), power hungry leeches (Percy’s stepfather and Kronos) or distant figures without a care (Poseidon and Zeus).
Violence is predominant in and without the first two books. Not to mention adultery is swept under the rug, and in some ways, even praised (Of course we want more demigods! More fun characters!). The main characters even enter Hell! There are many more examples that can be drawn as to why these books are ghastly for the audience Riordan wrote for. And to be honest, the fantasy genre for young people isn’t very PG to begin with. But those are the few I’m going to name for now, both for myself and for readers.
After a while, it Gets Boring.
You don’t need to read the first two series to realize that the concept of gods among us, “oh look I’m a demigod,” grows a bit dull. There are five books in the original Percy Jackson series. Next comes the Heroes of Olympus series, also including Percy. Then there’s the Kane Chronicles (Which, tying into the topic above, covers topics like possession by demonic forces, sorcery/magic, and violence), the Magnus Chase series, the Trials of Apollo, and (though not written by Riordan himself) spinoffs of basically every possible god in the history of the world from India, to Asia, to Africa, to Hawaii, and everything in between. Even if each series takes a sort of different spin, each concept is the same. The gods are failing in some way. They need the teenage wizards, demigods, etc. to help save the world.
And least to me, the concept becomes boring and thin after so many reboots to continue the franchise wagon. You can only go so far before your premise becomes watered down and loses its impact on readers (Looking at you, Pirates of the Caribbean).
The Author Does Not Respect Christ.
This is a hard and, honestly, a very disheartening point for me to make. While I have no idea what the spinoffs say of God and His Holy Trinity, a competent reader can discern the real truth. The main concept of every story is ‘the gods live among us’ and that very statement is in contradiction with the fact that one God (Three in One) exists. There are no mini-gods running around messing around like naughty children or looking down as disappointed parents, just the One waiting for his children to acknowledge Him in love. And instead, we literally run off with our copies of the Lightning Thief, absorbed in the idea of beings higher than us that will never return the affection (And let’s get real, we’ve all done this with our books, including me).
On a more specific note, many times in his writing, Riordan’s characters make uncouth remarks and references, from obscure points about hell (Percy Jackson, the Lightning Thief) to openly mocking Jesus (Magnus Chase and the Sword of Summer).
At the same time though, Riordan tries to play both sides, making his stand on the matter murky; including “religion” to please some, but then dumbing “it” down for a laugh. In an essence, by not acknowledging Christ but still having Him around, he is trying to erase the offensiveness of Christ while keeping the character of Christ as a court jester for the other gods to poke fun at. As Jesus described a foot in both worlds in Revelation, Riordan’s stand is lukewarm.
I can’t tell you how my cheeks burned as I read the layered accusations. Coward. Joke. Liar. And, as a servant of Christ, what does that say of me? It says I am the coward. The joke. The liar. And I wasn’t the only one who experienced this. My brother, a stalwart Greek myths fan, wasn’t able to continue reading the series because of these issues. As a reader, this is not only off-putting, but downright embarrassing and depressing, as would it be if anything or anyone else was put in Christ’s place. The Bible makes it clear that this would happen. Christ is against the world, and the world will always be against Christ. But, well, it still hurts. So, without meaning to, Riordan makes his stance without meaning to. It breaks my heart in two, but it’s true. The books are as the gods were thousands of years ago: pagan.
Now, to be clear, I could be wrong. I only made it (just barely) through book two. Maybe the series does get better. Maybe Riordan takes a turn towards something better and brighter for middle grade children to enjoy in their pastime. But, from what I have heard, seen, and read myself, I highly doubt it.
So in the end, the books to me are just a pretty shell swept in on a shallow tide, only to be taken quickly in, washed back into the sea. I wish something better could have come of those mythic tales of old. I wish Riordan had been, at the very least, better in his approach to re-writing those old tales, such as Tolkien does in his masterpiece the Silmarillion (though obviously not written as in depth for a middle grade audience). I definitely wish it was stopped before every god or goddess in existence got a book with a suspiciously similar storyline. I wish (though in vain) that my King would be respected, and all who serve Him, from demigods to mortal men. And most of all, I wish my brother could’ve enjoyed the series without having to set it aside. But so it is.
I don’t like Percy Jackson, and that’s why.