Percy Jackson and the Olympians is a young adult fantasy novel series written by Rick Riordan. He published five books in the series: The Lightning Thief, The Sea of Monsters, The Titan’s Curse, The Battle of the Labyrinth, and The Last Olympian. The fifth book resolved the big plotline of the series. Riordan went on the publish another series called The Heroes of Olympus that featured most of the main characters from Percy Jackson and the Olympians. Below, you will find some information regarding Riordan’s critically acclaimed series regarding its basic setting, how its power system works, information on Riordan, and how well the book series was received.
Percy Jackson is set in what is called an alternate earth setting. Essentially, the world that Riordan created is earth-like in its structure and culture, with a few significant differences. The main differences are supernatural beings’ presence, namely, Greek gods, demigods, monsters, and spirits. These creatures stem from Greek mythology, allowing Riordan to weave an intricate tale utilizing well-established premises like the Minotaur and the Labyrinth or Medusa with her petrifying gaze.
Percy Jackson and the Olympians occurs near exclusively in America, a couple of notable exceptions being purely supernatural places like the underworld or Mount Olympus. A place called Camp Half-Blood features prominently as well. The camp is a sort of haven for demigods, a place for them to train their abilities in safety and avoid getting attacked by the many monsters present in Riordan’s world.
The monsters that appear in Percy Jackson and the Olympians leap straight from the ancient Greeks’ myths. An interesting tidbit about them is that they are not truly real. While the effects they have on the world around them are felt, and they kill and destroy quite easily, their intrinsic being is not like humans or demigods. Instead, all monsters are spirits born from Tartarus, one of the deepest, darkest pits in existence. Monsters form from the chaos and darkness that permeates culture, allowing them to be born into our world.
When killed, monsters disperse into nothing, the spirit animating them returning to Tartarus. There they regenerate until their spirit is strong enough to return to the physical realm once more. A note regarding regeneration: the more potent the monster, the longer it will take for them to recover from being killed. Monsters can also fade from existence. Essentially, they will no longer regenerate in Tartarus if the world no longers believes in them or forgets about them. An excellent example of this occurring is Medusa’s Gorgon sisters, who were mentioned to have faded until they vanished altogether.
Monsters also possess the ability to sense demigods. As the eternal enemy of the Olympians, they attack demigods with reckless abandon. Often a monster can sniff out a demigod from miles away. The more powerful the demigod, the stronger their “scent” is to the monsters. It is worth noting that not all monsters are inherently hostile to demigods. Some species, like the Cyclops and Pegasi, work for the Olympians. Others, like harpies, merely live on their own and only attack demigods if they are provoked.
Due to their spiritual status, normal weapons do not affect them. If shot with a gun, the bullet would pass through them harmlessly. To hurt a monster, special types of metals are needed. Two examples that appear in Percy Jackson and the Olympians are celestial bronze and stygian iron. These blessed and magical metals, when forged into weapons, are capable of killing monsters, sending their spirits back to Tartarus.
The Minotaur is one of the most famous mythological creatures. Half man, half-bull, the beast is known for its brute strength and animal intelligence. The Minotaur is the first monster Percy ever kills. He does so in The Lightning Thief, fleeing to Camp Half-Blood after being discovered by the Furies. The Minotaur was born of a woman and a bull in Greek mythology. He initially resided in the Labyrinth, a vast maze constructed by Daedalus. The demigod Theseus eventually slew the Minotaur.
Medusa, another incredibly famous monster of myth, is also faced down by Percy and his companions in The Lightning Thief. If a person looks into her eyes, they will be petrified and turn to stone. Her head is covered in snakes. In the book, she poses as an old Middle Eastern woman going by the name Aunty Em. She lures Percy, Annabeth, and Grover into her store and nearly kills them. Percy eventually chops her head off, sending her to Tartarus.
In Greek mythology, Medusa was the lover of Poseidon. They made love in the temple of Athena, greatly offending her. Athena cursed Medusa, transforming her into a monster, unfit to live in society any longer. Medusa and her two sisters, Euryale and Stheno, fled civilization. They became known as the Gorgons and killed any who drew near them. Only Medusa could turn people to stone with her gaze, though her sisters were just as monstrous as she was.
The Furies are an example of monsters that do not run wild and actively hunt demigods. Instead, they work for Hades, the god of the underworld, as some of his enforcers and punishers. Percy encounters one of them in The Lightning Thief and has several other interactions throughout the series.
Other monsters encountered in Percy Jackson and the Olympians include cyclops, both good and evil, the Nemean Lion, hellhounds, Cerberus, gryphons, various forms on giants, the Clazmonian Sow, and many, many others.
Demigods are the offspring of a human and a god. They straddle the line between mortal and immortal. Due to their parent god’s power running through their veins, they are capable of superhuman feats and have a longer lifespan than normal humans. In Greek mythology, some prominent demigods included: Hercules, otherwise known as Heracles (the son of Zeus), Perseus (also the son of Zeus), Theseus (the son of Poseidon), and Achilles (son of Thetis).
In Riordan’s series, demigods are hunted by monsters due to a magical trace sticking to them. This trace allows monsters to sense them from great distances. Monsters cannot truly hurt Olympians; thus, they target their children. Demigods, or half-bloods, are found when their powers begin to manifest, usually at the onset of puberty. Satyrs, benign woodland spirits, are sent to find fledgling demigods and bring them back to Camp Half-Blood, where a combination of magic and martial force keeps the monsters at bay.
At Camp Half-Blood, they are trained in combat to defend themselves beyond the camp’s borders. They learn how to read ancient Greek, a language that comes naturally to them due to their heritage and utilize any supernatural abilities their heritage provides them. A common side-effect of their powers, demigods are often diagnosed by mundane doctors with ADHD and dyslexia. Their ADHD results from heightened reflexes and physical ability, allowing them to focus better in combat. The dyslexia results from their affinity to reading ancient Greek, their heritage making understanding English a chore at the best of times.
Demigods do not know who their other parent is, even when they first come to Camp Half-Blood. Generally, after some time spent at the camp and demonstrating some of the abilities inherited from their godly parent, the god or goddess will claim them.
Many of the main characters in Percy Jackson and the Olympians are demigods. Here are some of the more prominent ones:
Percy Jackson, after which the series is named, is a son of Poseidon. Among the Olympians, the Big Three are considered the most powerful. They are Zeus, Poseidon, and Hades. Their children are incredibly powerful and often cause havoc in the world. Thus, they made a pact to have no more children with mortals. Throughout the series, it is revealed none of them kept to this promise.
Due to his father, Percy possesses many abilities related to the sea, weather, earthquakes, and ships. Percy is capable of controlling water from any source, generating water with his power, healing himself if he is in water, and changing the physical properties of water. An excellent example of the last ability is when Percy manipulates water’s surface tension to allow himself to walk on it. He is also capable of manipulating ice to a limited degree. His most potent abilities enable him to summon and control storms and cause earthquakes on a massive scale. It is worth noting that these abilities, particularly summoning earthquakes, are quite taxing, almost killing him at times.
Percy also possesses the curse of Achilles. Percy needed an edge for the coming battles. As a result, he resolved to try and gain the legendary invulnerability of Achilles. He dipped himself in the River Styx, a rather excruciating process, and his skin became invulnerable. His one weak point as a small part of his back, directly opposite his navel. Just like Achilles, if he is struck there, he will die. But despite this drawback, his combat abilities rose so dramatically as a result of the curse that he was able to fight toe to toe with gods and titans alike.
Annabeth is the daughter of Athena. Children of Athena are born strangely. Athena is a virgin goddess, meaning she cannot have physical relations with anyone, including mortals. When Athena falls in love and conceives a child with a mortal, they are born from her thoughts. It is as if the union of Athena and her lover’s minds produce the child from Athena’s power.
Annabeth is the main female protagonist of the series. Her heritage she is granted from Athena affords her an incredible intellect. She is the planner and strategist of the series, her superhuman genius and tactical skill winning the day many times. She is also naturally proficient with many weaponry types due to Athena’s status as a war goddess. She is an excellent craftswoman, able to design incredible works of architecture.
Luke is one of the main antagonists of the series. He is the son of Hermes and a former Camp Half-Blood member. Luke hates the gods due to many of their wrongdoings in his life. He hated them for leaving many children of the minor gods unclaimed. He hated them for what they did to his friend, Thalia. He cursed them for the apathy and complacency they showed in many aspects of existence.
Luke was swayed by Kronos, the Titan of Time, to join his side. He eventually became Kronos’ host, a puppet for him to control and enact his plan to destroy Olympus and kill the Olympians forever. Luke, along with Kronos, was eventually defeated. He requested Percy to demand reforms of the gods, to improve the way their children were treated, particularly those of the minor gods.
As a child of Hermes, Luke is capable of extreme speed. He also inherited the ability of teleportation, occasionally traveling through portals. He is also incredibly sneaky and good at theft. An excellent example of this is when he stole Zeus’ Master Bolt and Hades’ Helm of Darkness, kicking off The Lightning Thief’s events.
The Greek gods are a root cause of many of the problems present in this series. Despite their immortality and near unlimited power, they are still just as flawed as human beings, if not more so. They bicker between themselves and often leave their children to fend for themselves. Though in the end, they rely on their children to save them from Kronos and his legions.
The gods initially began their journey in ancient Greece. Their center of power moved over the years, shifting as the balances of power and culture changed. Mount Olympus, their home, would move to whichever country had the most power and most cultural effect on the world. For a time, the center of power was Greece, then Rome, and eventually moved on to countries like England and the United States of America.
Percy and his companions encounter many gods throughout the series. Some of the most prominent ones are those dubbed ‘Olympians.’ Olympians are the most powerful of the gods. They are afforded thrones, from which they draw much of their power. Their thrones are a significant representation of who they are. A notable exception to the Olympians is Hades. He remains one of the most powerful gods but was cast out due to prejudice and petty arguments.
The Olympians are as follows:
- Hestia, the goddess of Hearth and Home
- Demeter, the goddess of the Harvest and Agriculture
- Hera, the goddess of Marriage, Women, Family, she is the Queen of Olympus
- Poseidon, the god of the Seas, Earthquakes, and Horses, he is the King of Atlantis
- Zeus, the god of the Sky, King of the Gods and Olympus
- Apollo, the god of the Sun, Medicine, Music, and Prophecy
- Artemis, goddess of the Moon and the Hunt
- Ares, the god of War
- Athena, the goddess of Wisdom, War, and Strategy
- Dionysus, the god of Wine and Madness
- Hephaestus, the god of Blacksmiths and Fire
- Hermes, the god of Thieves, Travelers, Merchants, and is the Messenger of the gods
- Aphrodite, the goddess of Love and Beauty
The Mist is an interesting construct Riordan placed within his world. It serves the purpose of dividing the supernatural from the mundane. Essentially, without a connection to the supernatural world, like the blood of a god, people will remain unaware of the monsters around them. If they see a monster killing a demigod, they will not see the monster, but they will see something is wrong, like an adult attacking a teenager. The Mist can even be strong enough to affect demigods and their ability to see monsters. An excellent example of this is when Laistrygonian giants shrouded themselves from Percy’s sight, appearing as tall, mean students until they decided to reveal themselves.
The Mist was not always present in the world. During Percy Jackson and the Olympians’ events, the reason why the Mist exists remains unknown to the main characters. Regardless, it is a unique obstacle to overcome. Normal humans can still be killed by monsters and affected by magic, as evinced by the number of statues Medusa had in her emporium, but they are wholly unaware of what is going on around them.
Even when an average human is made aware of the supernatural world around them, they will likely not see what is going on. A good example of this is Paul Blofis, Sally Jackson’s boyfriend, who eventually learns of the supernatural and even kills a monster. Despite this firsthand experience, he still cannot see what is going on.
As with everything, exceptions to the Mist abound. Sally Jackson was always able to see through the Mist for some reason. Initially, it is what caught the eye of Poseidon and attracted him to her. This attraction resulted in Percy’s birth. Another exception is Rachel Elizabeth Dare, a seemingly normal human. Her ability to see was likely because of her potential to become the next Oracle, supernatural sight needed to cope with her other abilities.
Rick Riordan, full name Richard Russell Riordan Jr., was born on June 5, 1964, in San Antonio, Texas. In college, he studied history and English and received his teacher’s certification from UTSA. He taught middle school for 15 years, after which he became a full-time author.
Percy Jackson and the Olympians stemmed from bedtime stories told to his son, Haley. Haley always wanted to hear the stories of Greek and Roman mythology. Eventually, Riordan ran out of stories to tell. His son told him he should make new stories based on the characters he had grown to know and love.
Riordan decided to do so and spun for his son the tale of Percy Jackson attempting to find Zeus’ lost lightning bolt set in modern America. The story took three days to tell. After he completed telling it, his son told him he should write it as a story. Thus, Percy Jackson was officially born. Riordan’s decision to give Percy and many other demigods ADHD and dyslexia was no accident either. Haley was recently diagnosed with both, causing him great difficulty in school. As a middle school teacher and a father, Riordan wanted his son and other children to know that is was not a bad thing to be different. Instead, being different is often the mark of greatness, which he had Percy discover for himself.
Percy Jackson and the Olympians follows the story of Percy Jackson, Annabeth Chase, Grover Underwood, and Luke Castellan and a host of other gods, monsters, demigods, and humans. The ultimate premise of the story is stopping Kronos, the most powerful Titan, to destroy Mount Olympus and the world.
Percy and his friends face many dangers, including traversing the deadly Labyrinth, facing down giant cyclops, and dueling Titans. On their journey, they grow in power and maturity, learning life lessons about themselves and the world that aid them in their quest. Riordan blends ancient Greek culture into the modern world perfectly, spinning a grand tale of sacrifice, loyalty, and morality.
Reception and Popularity:
All five books of Percy Jackson and the Olympians were incredibly well-received. All of them one several awards and took the young population of the world by storm. Riordan’s subsequent series following many of the same characters, The Heroes of Olympus, received similar laudation.
Two major motion pictures were made, loosely telling the tale of the first two books in the series: The Lightning Thief and The Sea of Monsters. No further movies were made due to a lack of interest in the films. This lack of interest stemmed from deviations from the source material, much of what made the books great lost in translation to the movies. In recent news, Disney Plus announced they will be making a TV show based on the five books of Riordan’s original series. Riordan will also have much more creative input with the show than he did with the movies. Not much is currently known about the series, style of delivery, or cast.