Thursday, November 15, 2007

Rick Riordan

by Steven Williams

Rick Riordan black and white photographRick Riordan is a successful and critically well-received mystery writer living in the San Antonio, Texas area with his wife and two sons. He is best known to adult readers for his Tres Navarre series of mysteries starring a former Berkeley professor now working as a private investigator in his native San Antonio. The series is noted for gritty, suspensful style. The market success of Riordan's Tres Navarre thrillers is reflected in the writing awards he has received: Big Red Tequila (1997), winner of the Shamus and Anthony Awards and The Widower’s Two-Step (1998), winner of the Edgar Award. Percy Jackson front the cover of 'The Lightning Thief' by Rick RiordanBeginning in 2005, Riordan, who has taught in middle schools Rick has taught in middle schools in the San Francisco Bay Area and in Texas for the past fifteen years, released a new young adult fantasy, adventure series Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief in 2005, The Sea of Monsters in 2006, The Titan's Curse in 2007, and The Battle of the Labyrinth in Spring 2008. In these books Riordan has combined fast-paced action with humor, surprises, and mystery and interesting, sympathetic characters to capture enthusiastic young readers as well as receive critical praise. It is fun to know that this series grew out of stories based on ancient Greek mythology which he used to tell his own son.

color photograph of the Poseidon sculpture at the port of CopenhagenThe Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan British edition front coverThe Lightning Thief (2005)
Book one of Riordan's Percy Jackson and the Olympians introduces twelve year old Perseus Jackson who has been diagnosed as ADHD and dyslexic. The young man is initially cast as a loser sent to a boarding school for troubled youth. After he vaporizes his pre-algebra, learns that his best friend is actually a satyr, and is almost killed by a minotaur, his mother sends him to the safety of Half Blood Hill, actually the summer camp 'Camp Half-Blood' for demigods on eastern Long Island, where he discovers that Poseidon is his father. Then his adventures really begin. One of Zeus' thunderbolts has gone missing and Poseidon is accused of the theft. Yes, the Greek gods of ancient myth are still alive and kikking in the 21st century and are about to go to war over the lost thunderbolt. Percy sets out with his demigod sidekick slash friends, a satyr and a daughter of Athena, to try to stop the pending disaster by recovering the thunderbolt. Riordan casts Percy as the wise-cracking, first-person narrator up to the quest for both nobel and personal reasons. Riordan also manages to insert social critique into the story in such a suble way that it never detracts or distracts from the story, making the series attractive to recommend to reluctant readers. Ironically, Riordan has also managed to stay faithful to the original ancient Greek myths.

The Sea of Monsters by Rick Riordan British edition front coverThe Sea of Monsters (2006)
Riordan's second book in his Percy Jackson and the Olympians series finds Percy Jackson in seventh grade. So far not one single monster has appeared on his alternative school campus, but then game of dodgeball suddenly turns into a death match against a gang of cannibal giants. This is only the beginning though and Percy soon learns that Thalia's tree has been poisoned by an unknown enemy and this is causing magical borders protecting Camp Half-Blood to fail. Unless the culprit is discovered and the situation reversed, the only safe haven for demigods will be overrun by mythological monsters. First things first though and Percy sets out with his pals to rescue his best friend who has been taken prisoner somewhere in the Sea of Monsters, known to mortals as The Bermuda Triangle. It turns out that his friend is being held by the bloodthirsty Cyclops Polyphemus on the Island of the Cyclopes and that they also needs to retrieve the Golden Fleece which happens to also be on this same island. The healing powers of the Golden Fleece will allow them to heal Thalia's tree and thus restore Camp Half-Blood's protective magical borders. In the process of Percy and his friends saving the day, he discovers a terrible secret about his own family.

'The Titan's Curse by Rick Riordan front cover

The Titan's Curse (2007)
Book three of Percy Jackson and the Olympians begins with Percy and his friends rescuing two new half-blood demigods. On the way back to the camp one of his friends, who happens to be the daughter of Athena, disappears. Artemis, a strong ally, soon is missing and feared kidnapped after leaving to hunt down an ancient monster that has returned to the world. It turns out to all be parts of a plot by the titan lord Kronos to destroy Olympus as well as Percy and his friends. Riordan's plot deftly blends intricate prophecies and interpersonal relationships among the frequently divisive demigods to create lively adventures and challenges for Percy Jackson and the Olympians.

The Battle of the Labyrinth by Rick Riordan front coverThe Battle of the Labyrinth (May, 2008)
Riordan's fourth novel in his Percy Jackson and the Olympians series finds a great war about to begin between the Titans and the Gods. This story begins with Percy surprised by the reappearance of a mysterious mortal acquaintance from his previous life. This change encounter actually portends darker things though, and after battling demon cheerleaders, Percy and his demigod friends find out that Kronos' army is preparing to invade Camp Half-Blood. The camp's protective borders will soon no longer be powerful enough to keep out Kronos and so the Percy and his demigod friends, Annabeth Chase, Grover Underwood, Tyson and Rachel, set out to follow Kronos' army into The Labyrinth. It turns out that the Titan's army is looking for the creator of the maze in order to disable Camp Half-Blood's protective borders. The young demigods find themselves setting out on a quest through The Labyrinth, the most dangerous place in mythology which happens to actually be an intricate maze that runs under all of North America. They intend to prevent Kronos' army from finding the maze's creator and thus protect Camp Half-Blood from the planned invasion. As a result of their quest, they unexpectedly find out the truth about the lost god Pan as well as well as one of the Titan lord Kronos' most terrible secrets. In this quest they must also overcome the Empusae, fearsome underworld ancient Greek demons, daughters of Hecate the Queen of Witches. These demons have flaming hair and in their human form one of their legs is a donkey's leg and the other leg is made of brass. They are shape shifters but whatever form they take always wears gold slippers. They frequently take the guise of beautiful women in order to attract young men so that they can drain their life force. The Empusae are also known to frighten travelers to death so that they can eat their bodies, leaving the bones at crossroads. The only way to repel Empusae is to insult them.

The Olympians black and white drawing

Newer Article: Dave Barry, Ridley Pearson, Greg Call, and The Neverland Books'


Older Article: Rosa Martha Villarreal, Tejana author, editor and publisher

Creative Commons License
Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson and the Olympians series by Steven Williams is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available by contacting Steven Williams through Bookmarc's BookmarcsOnline.

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