Category Archives: rick riordan
Percy Jackson is back and better than ever. Cliche beginning, but it fits! Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson series is one of my favorites and now the fourth installment of his adventures has arrived: The Battle of the Labyrinth.
(This will contain very minor spoilers)
The series’ hallmark,to me, is the sharp writing and realistic characters. Percy, while his problems aren’t exactly normal, what with deadly enemies and vengeful gods, not to mention quite a few life-threatening situations. Yet Percy is relatable as well, as he’s burdened with typical teenage worries: fear of fitting in, family troubles, etc. The rest of the characters are just are razor-sharp, with faults and fears even as they battle mysterious creatures and experience perilous adventures.
The Battle of the Labyrinth starts with a familiar scene to the series’ readers: Percy entering yet another school. And as you would expect, things are off to a very weird start. Familiar characters remain and new characters appear. Soon things take off with a bang.
Riordan’s captivating action and the dialogue creates a bigger fan out of me with each new installment. The books are incredibly engaging, and aren’t bogged down in endless descriptions, but get right to the heart of the action, yet achieve an equal balance of character and adventure. The language is universal, as are the themes: identity, family, love, loss, making the series’ appeal to a wide audience. Percy and his friends (and foes) come across on the page so well, they become old friends and as the action escalates, you’re right there with them.
As previously mentioned on this blog, I’d prepared a presentation at a children’s literature conference on the use of the hero’s journey in the Percy Jackson series. As the series progresses, Riordan’s development of the convergence of both worlds – mortal and god – is even more refined and clever in The Battle of the Labyrinth with more enemies, and is a rollercoaster ride (we begin with a cliche, we close with a cliche) to the very last page. Amongst demonic cheerleaders, an odd dude ranch, the Sphinx, and of course, the Labyrinth, it’ll be difficult to pull yourself away.
Okay, bring on the next one! No, seriously.
Copy for review provided by the publisher
I conducted this interview with Rick Riordan in March as part of a presentation on the hero’s journey I was giving at a children’s literature conference. The presentation focused on his Percy Jackson series and the Harry Potter books.
The latest in Percy Jackson and the Olympians series is The Titan’s Curse, now available in hardcover from Hyperion books.
What qualities do you feel embody a hero?
In real life, I don’t think most heroes would think of themselves as heroes. They are simply people who rise to a challenge out of necessity. In literature, a hero is someone who does something noble or seemingly insurmountable — something we wish we could do. Heroes are projections of what we wish we could be. They give us hope and make us feel better about the human character.
Would you categorize Percy as a “reluctant hero”?
Definitely, but I’d say most heroes are reluctant. If they weren’t reluctant to face a dragon, or go on a dangerous voyage, or topple an evil king, they’d have to be crazy.
Do you feel those who aid the main character, such as Grover and Annabeth, are heroes in their own right?
The hero’s assistants always get a bum rap. Absolutely, they are heroic, though often they function as parts of the hero’s psyche. (Wow, I’m starting to sound like an English teacher, huh?) Not that I thought about it consciously as I wrote the books, but Grover is Percy’s emotional side. He can express fear and doubt when Percy, as an adolescent boy, can’t articulate those things. Annabeth is Percy’s rational side. She can think through things and look at options that sometimes evade Percy in his moments of battle panic.
What is your favorite example of the “Hero’s Journey” in literature?
I think the classic is Odysseus. It’s hard to do better than that. He struggles toward a goal we can all understand — the desire to return home — and he does it with only his wits to keep him alive. What could be more heroic or compelling?
How important was the Hero’s Journey and/or Joseph Campbell’s “Hero with a Thousand Faces” in the creation of the Percy Jackson series?
I’ve never read Joseph Campbell. I’m familiar with the concepts, but I’ve never had a desire to read it. The thing is, archetypes are supposed to be subconscious. A lot of what I write, I don’t analyze. I never sit down and say, “Okay, this chapter needs a metaphor about man as hero. This chapter needs more Jungian symbolism.” Bleh. I just try to write a good story. Am I aware of the hero’s quest? Sure, because I’ve read it in so many forms as a student of literature, but as a writer, I don’t think that way and I don’t consciously try to follow any sort of paradigm. That’s for English teachers. Often people will analyze my work and tell me my themes, and I’ll say, “Wow, I have themes? Cool.”