Percy Jackson breathes new life into familiar Greek myths and introduces several less-popular men and women. You’ve got Hercules and Theseus, of course, but also Phaethon, Orpheus, and Bellerophon. Most importantly (to my interests), Riordan tells the stories of four heroines! The ancient Greeks weren’t huge on female inspiration, and I appreciate Riordan’s intentionality in choosing to include Psyche, Otrera, Atalanta, and Cyrene.
The tone of the book is irreverent and modern, much like the Percy Jackson books, which makes sense as Percy is the “author” of these stories. He has no problem calling out the gods on their weird and/or horrible actions. For instance, when describing Danae’s imprisonment, Percy says:
Zeus peered down from the heavens with his super-keen X-ray vision. He saw the beautiful princess trapped in her bronze cell, lamenting her cruel fate.
“Dude, that is wrong,” Zeus said to himself. “What kind of father imprisons his own daughter so she can’t fall in love or have kids?”
(Actually, that was exactly the sort of thing Zeus might do, but whatever.
“She’s kind of hot, though,” Zeus muttered. “I think I’ll pay that lady a visit.”
Zeus was always doing stuff like this. He’d fall in love with some mortal girl on first sight, drop into her life like a romantic hydrogen bomb, mess up her entire existence, and then head back to Mount Olympus, leaving his girlfriend to raise a kid all by herself. But really…I’m sure his intentions were honorable. (Cough. Yeah, right. Cough.)
This balance between telling ancient stories with a modern twist allows Riordan – I mean, Percy – to offer some insightful modern social criticisms, masked as ancient social criticisms. My favorite of these moments was in Atalanta’s story, when two centaurs attempt to marry (aka rape) her.
“Marry me or die!” Rhoikos yelled.
He expected Atalanta to collapse in a puddle of tears. Instead, she dropped her deer carcass, calmly nocked an arrow, and shot Rhoikos through the center of his forehead. The centaur toppled over dead.
Hylaios roared in outrage. “How dare you kill my friend?”
“Back off,” Atalanta warned, “or you’re next.”
“I will have you for my wife!”
“Yeah…that’s not happening.”
Hylaios leveled his spear and charged. Atalanta shot him through the heart.
She dipped an arrow in centaur blood and wrote across their dead withers: NO MEANS NO. Then she left them to rot.
I loved this book! It’s a fun way to immerse yourself in ancient stories without having to think very hard. Hahaha. I’m definitely checking out Percy’s book about the gods and goddesses next.
Who cut off Medusa’s head? Who was raised by a she-bear? Who tamed Pegasus? And whatever happened to that Golden Fleece?
It takes a demigod to know the answers, and Percy Jackson can fill you in on all the daring deeds of Perseus, Atalanta, Bellerophon, and the rest of the major Greek heroes. Told in the funny, irreverent style readers have come to expect from Percy (I’ve had some experiences in my time, but the heroes I’m going to tell you about were the original old-school hard-luck cases. They boldly screwed up where no one had screwed up before…) and enhanced with vibrant artwork by Caldecott Honoree John Rocco, this story collection will become the new must-have classic for Rick Riordan’s legions of devoted fans – and for anyone who needs a hero.
Release Date: August 2015