In my opinion, there are very few “children’s” book series that rate higher than Harry Potter (I actually can’t think of any). But Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson and the Olympians is a shoe-in for second place. Percy, the half-blooded son of Poseidon, is a good hero; sometimes he’s absurdly slow and needs things explained to him (which is a good tool to use for a younger audience), but there’s no denying his bravery and loyalty.
The supporting characters are, for the most part, well rounded. Percy’s best friends Grover and Annabeth have their own issues to deal with in addition to making sure Percy doesn’t die too soon, and they each have their own moments to shine, taking the focus off of Percy once in a while. The other characters, most of whom are pulled from Greek mythology – including well-known gods and goddess as well as lesser-known monsters/creatures – have distinct personalities. I like how Riordan doesn’t sugarcoat the gods – he shows them in all their flawed glory, the way they were portrayed in the old myths. I also find their cabins at Camp Half-Blood fascinating, especially the different characteristics their children possess as a result of their godly parentage.
Like poor Harry Potter, Percy is the subject of a prophecy, and that story line carries through the five books with ease. Each book has strengths and weaknesses, though I have to admit – at the risk of offending my neice – that I didn’t love the fourth one because it felt like it dragged the most (that’s her favourite. Personally, I prefer book three). The final installment had a somewhat surprising, but still very satisfying ending, but left enough threads untied for a sequel series (there’s actually three sequel series...so far).
Often humourous and occasionally heart-wrenching, it’s easy to fall for Riordan’s vibrant writing and delightful characters. Don’t bother watching the movies though – I don’t know who adapted The Lightning Thief, but it’s not really worth your time if you enjoyed the books.