You’ve been obsessively reading books by Rick Riordan recently, I think you’ve read nearly 20 so far and you’ve been counting down the days till today, when a new one is published. Can you tell me what kind of books he’s writing, that have got you so hooked?
It’s got that Harry Potter-type feel because it’s about kids—ranging up to age 18—in one place, a summer camp in Long Island (for the Percy Jackson series). One thing I really like is the concept of adding myths to the modern world and how he integrates the Greek and Roman myths, the Norse myths and the Egyptian myths.
So how interesting would these books be, if you didn’t already know a lot about Greek or other myths?
If you know the 12 major Olympians you’re pretty much set, because everything else is explained in the books. For example, when he talks about Iris he says that she is the goddess of the rainbow. So, you learn a lot about Greek mythology, about plague spirits, the names of creatures. For example, I learned that the Roman name for Hecate—the Greek goddess of magic, crossroads and torches (I’d already heard about her in Mythos by Stephen Fry)—is Trivia.
In the Norse series, the main character, Magnus Chase, actually dies in the first book and goes to Hotel Valhalla, where people go if they die with a weapon in their hand or courageously. So in that series you learn about Norse mythology, for example that the Norse universe has nine realms.
In the Heroes of Olympus series, which starts with The Lost Hero, the main protagonist, Percy Jackson, doesn’t appear in the first book, but it’s later revealed there are also Roman demigods who support the Roman way of life. So, in that series, you learn about the Roman myths. Roman gods are more disciplined, scarier, and more warlike than their Greek versions. There are also tons of Gods that are completely Roman, there is no Greek equivalent. There are also differences: for example, the Roman form of Minerva (Athena) is not so much a god of war, that attribute goes more to Mars, Bellona and Mithras.
OK, I am getting a bit confused between all the series.
I’m going to list them.
Greek and Roman myths:
1. Percy Jackson and the Olympians (there are 5 books in this series)
2. Heroes of Olympus (5 books)
3. Trials of Apollo (5 books: the fifth one is coming out today!)
In the first series, the main enemy is Kronos and the other Titans. In the second series the main enemies are the giants and Gaia. The first series is about Greek myths. In the second series, they find out that in addition to their camp, in Long Island, there’s a camp in California, in the Berkeley Hills, which is a camp that supports the Roman aspects (‘aspect’ is their personality when they change into Romans).
Then there’s the Magnus Chase series, which is three books, and is about Norse mythology, and the Kane Chronicles, which is another series of three books, which is about Egyptian mythology.
What’s the first book in the entire series?
Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief. All Rick Riordan’s books are really good, I haven’t recommended this one because it’s not my favourite, but you do need to read it to know what is going on. In fact, you need to read all the books in order, because each has major character developments and new characters, and if you don’t, you’ll get extremely lost. So, basically, you need to read the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series first, to understand how it all works.
The Percy Jackson series has sold tens of millions of copies in the US and millions in the UK as well (I don’t remember the exact number), so Rick Riordan has sold a lot of books, plus he has a really big following for new books and a lot of fans like him.
They’ve also been made into movies, but if you read the books, and then you see the movies, you’ll realize the movies, in my opinion, and also of a lot of the fans who read the books, hate them, due to their inaccuracies. Rick Riordan was not involved in the production. But some good news: Rick Riordan is releasing his Egyptian series as a Netflix adaptation and he announced in May that there will be Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief episodes on Disney Plus.
OK, let’s get on to the books you’re recommending as the best books that Rick Riordan has written. Two of the books you’ve chosen are from the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series, which, as we’ve discussed, are set in this Long Island summer camp, Camp Half-Blood. Let’s start with The Battle of the Labyrinth.
Yes. I’ve chosen the fourth book in the series, which takes place when he’s 14 about to turn 15 (his birthday is on August 18th). He goes on a quest with his two best friends and his half-brother, who is a Cyclops and they go into the Labyrinth.
I should mention that Poseidon is Percy Jackson’s dad and that the Cyclops are mainly from Poseidon’s heritage, according to Greek myth. I should also mention that the gods follow ‘the Flame of the West’, so they base themselves in the most powerful place in the West, which has been America since 1860. So all major structures, including Mount Olympus and the Labyrinth, have moved to the United States.
Is it the same labyrinth as…?
Yes, the same one the Minotaur lived in, that Daedalus designed, but it has grown so is now under the entire USA with lots of entrances around the country. When a monster is killed its essence goes into Tartarus where it re-forms (this takes from 2 weeks to 100 years). The Minotaur was killed by Theseus and is re-formed and comes to hunt demigods again and again. They have to go into the Labyrinth and persuade Daedalus not to let an army from Kronos go through the Labyrinth to attack Camp Half-Blood.
Is Percy Jackson a demigod?
Yes, I already told you he’s the son of Poseidon.
OK, OK, let’s go on to your next choice of best Rick Riordan books. This is The Last Olympian. Presumably this is the last book in the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series?
Yes, it’s the last book in the first series. It’s a buildup of everything that has happened for the last four books and a major part of this book, about half of it, is a battle, which is incredibly interesting, considering I like battles. It’s a huge battle between the main forces of Kronos against the Camp Half-Blood demigods. They use all ancient Greek weapons—swords, shields, spears, bows and arrows—and it takes place in Manhattan, because Mount Olympus is on top of the Empire State Building (it’s hidden by ‘mist’ to look like sky to mortals).
Zeus and Hera live on the Empire State Building?
Yes, it’s literally Mount Olympus on top of the Empire State Building.
Do the gods have the same character as they do in the Greek myths?
Yes, but Rick Riordan adds lots of details, like Apollo is always making up really bad haiku poems because he visited Japan and Artemis really hates all boys and men.
Now for the next book in your personal list of best Rick Riordan books, you’ve chosen the second book in the second series (Heroes of Olympus), which is called The Son of Neptune.
In this book Percy reappears (after not appearing in the first book in this series, which upset a lot of people) in a Roman camp with no memories. Camp Half-Blood is in Long Island, and Camp Jupiter is in California, in the Oakland Hills. He has to immerse himself in Roman Army training, and goes on a quest with two people, to retrieve the legion’s eagle which they’d lost when travelling to Alaska. Alaska is called the land beyond gods, so gods cannot interfere. Along the way, they go through multiple adventures. They find the legion’s eagle with a giant who can’t be killed as long as it’s on its homeland, so they have to lure it away. At the end of the book there is another huge battle between the Romans and the giants’ armies.
And the other book in the same series you’re recommending is The Mark of Athena.
The Mark of Athena is the third book in the series. It’s my favourite book out of all of them, because it’s finally a combination of the Roman and Greeks getting together and going on a big quest to destroy Gaia, the primordial embodiment of the Earth.
Why would you want to destroy her?
Because she had children, the giants and the Titans, and the Titans were her favourite children. She went to sleep, and when she woke up the titans had been overthrown so she made the giants and made them go after the gods. The gods managed to defeat them and make Gaia go back to sleep. Now she is trying to wake up again, and there’s a lot of side adventures along the way.
It’s one of the more funny books out of the series, and Gaia is in Greece so a lot takes place in Greece. On the way to Greece they stop in Rome to destroy twin giants called Otis and Ephialtes, because their friend, Nico di Angelo, is imprisoned by the giants. The end of the book is the biggest cliffhanger you can imagine, so afterwards you do have to finish the series.
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These books by Rick Riordan are the best books I’ve ever read. I read a lot of books, I just read them to pass the time. These books actually latched onto me and I couldn’t stop reading them. They gave me entertainment and something to look forward to. With most fiction books I just read them and finish and never look back or want to read them again. But I’ve done that multiple times with these books, I think I’ve read The Mark of Athena nine times.
But you don’t like the Egyptian series?
I just haven’t had time to get into them yet. I think they are really good. You just need to get used to them, eventually I think I will get going on them. After you’ve read Percy Jackson, it doesn’t get you hooked as quickly. What I mean is that with Percy Jackson, you’re immediately hooked in the first chapter, but not so much with the Mark of Kane. But I think all of Rick Riordan’s books on mythology are good.
Do you think it’s because you know less about Egyptian mythology?
I think that’s part of it. They’re all magicians casting spells with hieroglyphs, so it’s hard to get used to, whereas you already know so much about Greek myths before.
How come you know so much about myths?
From Stephen Fry’s Mythos (and when I was really young, Atticus the Storyteller’s 100 Greek Myths), but then Rick Riordan taught me more fine details.
What do you know about Rick Riordan and why he wrote these books?
A lot of people call Rick Riordan ‘Uncle Rick.’ He originally wrote them because his son had ADHD and dyslexia and he loved Greek myths. To help him with that, he taught his son more about Greek myths which he loved. At the time, Rick Riordan was an English teacher. And Haley, his son, said, ‘You should write it in a book.’ The first book is dedicated to Haley. Haley even wrote a short story, which was actually pretty good, when he was 16.
In the books, Percy Jackson has ADHD and dyslexia too. It helps in battle, you can look around more easily, and dyslexia makes you hardwired for reading Ancient Greek.
Finally let’s leave the Greco-Roman world and look at the one book you’ve chosen from Rick Riordan’s Magnus Chase series. This is called The Sword of Summer. What’s this book about?
Magnus Chase is a demigod, the son of the god Frey. His mother was killed by wolves. He doesn’t know who his Dad is and he has a phobia of wolves. He lives in Boston and is a homeless person. The Percy Jackson series are about the Greek gods, this series is about the Norse gods and this is the first book in the series.
Magnus has two friends, called Blitz and Hearth, who pretend to be homeless as well to look after him. Hearth is deaf and can’t speak and is an elf and Blitz is a dwarf.
He has two uncles, one is a professor, the other is the dad of Annabeth Chase in the Percy Jackson series. Before she died, Magnus’s mum told him not to speak to her brothers, but of course he does, and ends up in Valhalla.
I actually only started reading this series because Percy Jackson appears in one of the books. It’s still one of the best series I’ve read, but since it had no Percy Jackson in it, it doesn’t get as much love.
Why do you like Percy Jackson, the character, so much?
I don’t know.
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