And I can totally see why. This book has so many similarities to Harry Potter, it's bordering between freakish and idea-stealing. Granted, I'm no dummy. I know of Joseph Campbell's monomyth and how basically all fantasy stories follow the same rules--from Beowulf to Lord of the Rings to Star Wars, Eragon, and Harry Potter. I can't hold monomythic structure against it (a regular boy discovers he's more than average and becomes a hero... there's possibly a prophecy... and there are specific characters, such as the helpers or the mentor, not to mention the specific paths he must follow).
And these aren't the things I'm talking about with this comparison. Although, some of these I also cannot fault, due to them being steeped in mythology (and since Percy Jackson follows Greek Mythology, well...). But let me give a list of some of the similarities I found between just this first book and the Harry Potter series (there may be some mild spoilers for The Lightning Thief, so be warned):
- The importance of the lightning bolt in general (Harry's scar/Zeus' master bolt).
- An object that, when worn, causes invisibility (cloak/hat).
- A mother 'sacrifices' herself (or at least attempts to) to protect her son.
- The hero is saved by a centaur.
- Hero pulls a jewel-encrusted sword that belonged to an ancient figure from a seemingly everyday object (hat/pen).
- One friend is a brainiac girl with all the answers and who is rarely without a book.
- The other friend is half the time nervous and enjoys eating often.
- The term "Half-blood" in general (I'd say this could go to "mythology," but I'm more aware of the term demigod).
- Being in a school-like place where "students" are sorted into houses (which are named after important ancient figures).
- One of these aforementioned houses is entirely against the hero.
- One person from said "mean" house is specifically antagonistic with the hero, as is (eventually) the character's father.
- There is a "teacher" who hates the hero for his status and his father, but is willing to protect him anyway.
- The line given by said teacher regarding his celebrity status.
*Note: This one really got to me. Mr. D and Snape are so similar in personality, it's insane... and the line Mr. D says to Percy after Percy discovers who his father is is almost syllable for syllable a line Snape gives when he first meets Harry. Snape's line: "Mr. Potter... our new celebrity." And Mr. D's line: "Well, well... our little celebrity."
- The hero is forced to live with a despicable person because said person helps to keep the hero protected.
- Characters are afraid to say the names of their enemies and give them other names to call them by instead.
- The hero, at one point, talks to a caged animal right before freeing it.
- The "trio" (which is actually called a "trio" in Lightning Thief, which could be considered another connection in and of itself) must pass by a giant three-headed dog in order to get to their ultimate destination (this one I'll let pass as having the mythology ties to begin with).
- Not really book related, but just for a fun fact... Chris Columbus, who directed the first two Harry Potter films, is directing the film version of The Lightning Thief.
And there are numerous others I didn't even bother to list, but are incredibly easy to pick up on. But all that being said, I can continue with my actual review. The Lightning Thief introduces us to the world of Percy Jackson, a 12-year-old boy with dyslexia and ADHD, who has been kicked out of every private school he's attended. Long story short, he ends up discovering he's a half-blood--his mother is mortal and his father is one of the gods of Olympus from Greek mythology. And not just any god, either, but one of the big three: Poseidon (this is not a spoiler. Granted, he doesn't officially find out until after a 100 pages in, but if you can't figure it out on your own far before that, you probably have no prior interest in or miniscule knowledge of Greek mythology, and this book probably wouldn't be for you anyway). But this is a major issue, as after World War II, Zeus, Poseidon, and Hades (the big three) made an agreement not to have any more kids, as they were too powerful. Zeus broke the treaty first, and then Poseidon, and Hades didn't like either of them for it. But now, Zeus' master lightning bolt has been stolen--which cannot be done by another god--and Zeus blames Percy, recently outed as Poseidon's son. So Percy must go on a quest with his newest friends to find the lightning bolt in 10 days or else World War III will begin.
The book has a fun story, especially for me, who loved all sorts of mythologies growing up--but Greek was, as with most people, my first. I loved a lot of the little allusions and whatnot. The writing isn't very difficult. It's not as deep or detailed as Harry Potter, but it isn't as simplistic as, say, Skulduggery Pleasant.
Though it isn't without its issues. My first issue with the book was how long it took to reveal certain information. Things were needlessly dragged out. Seriously, by the time they actually revealed Percy's father, I thought all the other characters had to be the biggest idiots on Earth. His mother met his father by the sea. They both always felt the most comfortable at the beach. Percy becomes incredibly rejuvenated with water. He actually controls water and attacks people with it. And a whole slew of other clues. But no... none of the characters, some of which are immortal or gods themselves, can't figure it out until Poseidon's symbol appears over the boy's head. And not just with this particular reveal, but with information about the world in general. It took the book way too long to start divulging information about the new, mystical world. For almost no reason, they refused to tell Percy anything about his new life. And it drove me crazy.
Another issue comes at the latter part of the book. I was having no problem with the quest they were on until they came to Vegas. You know when you watch a movie based on a book, and something happens that totally confuses you because it's not really detailed or explained? It's just kind of random, but is necessary to move the plot forward, but you just know that it had to have been given more details in the source material? That's what I felt of the Lotus Hotel/Arcade scene. The scene is an allusion to the Lotus-Eaters part of The Odyssey, but it's never explained or even mentioned again once they escape. It just seemed almost like, and forgive this pun, a deus ex machina or something for the author to pull him out of an issue he'd written himself into and needed to add more suspense or whatever.
The last issue I can't really fault the book. At least, I probably shouldn't. The book was way too predictable. I figured out everything way before I probably should have. Granted, the book is written for middle grade, I assume, so they might not find it as predictable as I did. But there was something about the writing, too. Instead of constantly barraging the reader with clues and "hey, look at this! Make sure to remember this!" moments, it could have been much more subtle so that the big reveals were actually surprising.
Overall, though, the book was very entertaining. It's easy to read and, despite its predictability, fun. The characters were good, the writing was decent, the use of mythology was great, and its moments of action were actually really cool. So I must join the ranks of the others and say, if you enjoy Harry Potter, you'll most likely enjoy Percy Jackson. Don't go in expecting the depth or layers of the aforementioned series (that I can see so far, having just read the first book), but if you're a mythology buff, it's all good. Just don't get hung up (I know, it's hard) on the Harry Potter parallels, because you'll see them on practically every page of the book. If you try to look past that, you'll enjoy it.