The Lightning Thief is kind of a cross between Harry Potter and American Gods.
Greek gods haven’t gone anywhere in the past several thousand years. They’ve been around the whole time and still up to their same old business mingling with mortals and spawning demigods. Luckily, there’s a special summer camp for these demigods. When they’re middle-schoolers and monsters start coming after them (sounds like middle school to me), they get the option of heading out to summer camp on Long Island, where they canoe and practice archery and run footraces and learn sword fighting and practice battling monsters.
My seven-year-old came in to say goodnight to me while I was reading it, and she read over my shoulder for a little while.
“It’s about Greek gods,” she said. I was impressed that she’d noticed the names and placed them so quickly.
She started asking more questions about the things she was reading where I had the book open, but I deflected her.
“It’s kind of confusing when you’ve not been reading the whole story,” I explained. “It will make more sense when we read it together.”
I’m not sure how long it will be before I think she’s ready for this series, though. This first book, at least, is pretty good, but it’s also pretty violent. There’s betrayal and swordplay and monsters and other scary stuff. And there’s this sense of mortals being stupid and oafish and the world being a dangerous and scary place, which I’m not sure is the best message for a child rather prone to anxiety anyway. Of course, she’s currently reading a kid version of Beowulf, so she’d probably be fine with that kind of thing. And she might really enjoy the idea of satyrs and centaurs and being able to talk with animals.
In addition, it feels maybe a little basic. Defeating the monsters seemed a little too easy and the schemes of the immortals a little too simple for my taste and, even worse, the characters seem a little flat. Their actions didn’t always seem to match what Riordan was saying their personality was. Their motives were difficult to figure out. I suppose I ought to cut the book a little slack since it’s meant for kids and I’m a jaded grown-up, but I don’t think that fact that it’s intended for children is a good excuse for flat characters.
But it’s better than the Magic Treehouse series, and I’m letting her read those. Maybe we’ll start on these sooner rather than later and see how it goes. I’m sure her dad would love to read these stories with her.