by Rick Riordan, with illustrations by John Rocco
(August 19th, 2014, Disney-Hyperion)
In Percy Jackson’s Greek Gods, some of the most important tales of the Greek gods are recounted. From the story of the creation of the universe to the tale of Hephaestus being thrown out a window by his mother to the battle for Olympus, they’re all here, told with wit, humor, and biting sarcasm by Percy Jackson himself.
Whoever is interested in Greco-Roman myth, short story collections, or just likes humorous, action-packed books should certainly pick up Percy Jackson’s Greek Gods. I can’t stress enough how this particular anthology doesn’t have many of the weakness inherent to the genre in general. Most notably, it feels like a cohesive narrative, as opposed to an episodic group of tales.
First and foremost, Percy Jackson’s Greek Gods is impeccably written: narrated by Percy Jackson himself in jocular, highly amusing prose that sounds just like a kid telling you a collection of ludicrous stories should. It’s also well-paced, wherein every chapter (with the exception of the first couple) is dedicated to a certain god and covers a range of stories. They are alternately exciting, humorous, or fascinating, and almost none of them feel slow-paced or boring. Also, they’re told with such with such intelligence that none of them end up feeling like morality tales. With that said, however, they can most certainly teach people a lot. Disparate themes, most importantly the abuse of power, are handled with a subtle wisdom that likely to connect with children significantly more than traditional stories of the same kind. The many foibles of the gods never feel like lapses of judgment on the part of the author, either. Almost all are properly addressed in a way that’s non-preachy and effective.
Even though most of the events taking place aren’t told in chronological order, the author does an excellent job of recapping. He never makes the mistake of assuming that the readers remember everything that’s occurred previously. This means that while it’s certainly preferable to read these in order, you’re not compelled to – so you should be able to skip around without many problems. Similarly, one does not need to have read the Heroes of Olympus or Percy Jackson & Olympian to be able to follow along. In fact, this volume would be a great primer for people planning on reading these series.
Strangely enough, this book’s greatest weakness is a direct result of its greatest strength. The satirical tone sometimes employed by Percy to recount these stories can sometime result in improperly dealing with a few things, most importantly sexual assault and violence. Although still more soberly told, I disliked the treatment of a few implied instances of actual rape, one attempted rape, and the violence evident throughout the text. The tone was simply too humorous. It almost sounded at times like author didn’t understand the significance of these events. This is somewhat understandable as this is meant to be told from the point-of-view of a teenager and is meant for children, but I felt that the narration still didn’t correctly demonstrate the terrible ramifications that events like these can have on people’s lives. It’s fair to note though, that there was one incident involving Kallisto that was handled better.
I noticed at least one inadvertently sexist comment (“The girls were too wise to get involved in murder”). This is certainly not as serious as the other problems, but it’s important for it to be made clear to children that sexism cuts both ways.
Also, the last couple of stories were less exciting that their predecessors, and this was certainly a mistake in pacing.
With its intelligence, excitement, and humor, Percy Jackson’s Greek Gods is a highly entertaining, easy-to-read adventure that is very likely to make fans among children and adults alike.
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For more excellent MG book recommendations, go to Shannon Messenger's blog.
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