I remember the day that I bought Percy Jackson and the lightning thief. It was a world book day, and we had vouchers that allowed £1 off a book so my mum took my brothers and me to a bookshop where we could choose a book. I spent some time looking around, but nothing in particular caught my fancy. (How?!) Then my mum suggested Percy Jackson. I read the blurb and although I was unsure about having a male main character, my younger self obviously decided it would do because I bought it. I was eight or nine at that point. I am now 17.
I have many memories of Rick Riordan’s books since then. I remember comparing favourite passages of the Son of Neptune with my primary school friends, I remember reading the Sea of Monsters and adoring Circe, I remember the torturous wait for The Blood of Olympus to be released. After that I paused for a while, with no new books and a new school to contend with. Yet the moment I saw that Rick Riordan had released two new series, Magnus Chase and The Trials of Apollo, I set my heart upon tracking them down and reading them ASAP. And even though I am irrevocably changed from the little girl who first read these books, they still retained their magic. I still raced through them, falling in love with the characters, perhaps even more this time because I was a teenager and I understood some of the things the characters were going through. I just finished reading The Tyrant’s Tomb in the Trials of Apollo series and without spoilers, it felt like my childhood was ending slightly, despite the fact there will be another book.
Rick Riordan’s books are a wonder. There is no debating that. I truly believe that anyone, of any age could enjoy them, and that they should. These books are so much more than fantasy-adventure books for children based on Greek, Roman, Norse and Egyptian mythology. They mix fantasy and the real world perfectly, with a hefty dollop of humour and sarcasm. No matter how many books Riordan writes in this world (and there’s quite a few now!) it never feels tired or overwritten. It just adds to the awesome.
The range of characters is astounding, each realistic and profoundly individual. You cannot help but fall in love with them, their quirks and habits and hopes and fears. Rick Riordan showed me that things society deems as flaws or disadvantages are not unilaterally so, taking dyslexia and ADHD as common characteristics for demigods because it helps them with reading Ancient Greek and being alert on the battlefield. Riordan has an incredible range of diversity, much more so than I see in most adult literature, and he had it when I needed it most. Characters struggling with their sexuality and hating themselves for it resounded with me deeply as I came to terms with my own, and the hardships that Riordan shows the characters overcoming, from their childhoods and personal lives, showed me that negative events do not have to define my future and there is always hope. Being different does not mean being wrong, or broken, or undeserving of happiness.
Gently, almost imperceptibly, Riordan weaves in messages that I am thoroughly glad I grew up with. It’s okay to be different, everyone has different strengths and together we can be stronger than apart. That it’s okay to be wrong, and what is important is learning from your mistakes, apologising and making reparations for what you have done. That it’s okay to show emotions, and it does not make you weak or unlovable. I am sure there are many more, and one I particularly noticed in the Tyrant’s Tomb was the way Riordan portrays battles. There is an element of fun, because of course these are first and foremost children’s books, of slaying monsters and awesome skills. But Riordan does not shy away from showing the aftermath, the heartbreak and devastation and grief that follows, the pain and destruction war causes. This can be so easily glossed over, making war seem heroic and brave rather than the devastating event that it is. I finally cracked and cried when I came to the line ‘We didn’t count the dead. They weren’t numbers. They were people we had known, friends we had fought with.’ It just seemed so relevant in the world we live in today, full of politicians quoting statistics and percentages like they are merely facts and figures, instead of people’s lives.
This is one of the few series that I have cried at character deaths, and it does not surprise me, for I have grown up with these characters, spent years following their stories. I very rarely reread books and yet my Rick Riordan books all have cracked spines from where I have spent hours poring over the pages, each time noticing some new details that makes me smile. The humour of the books, ever witty and sarcastic is my exact sense of humour and it does make me wonder whether I liked the books because of my sense of humour, or if I developed my sense of humour liking the books. Hearing of a new Rick Riordan book being released fills me with excitement every single time. They are so easy to slip into and get carried away by the story, so disappointing when they finish. Over the years they have been my solace, my guide and my reassurance that everything is going to be okay.
So, thank you, Rick Riordan. Thank you for the books that have shaped my life as I know it. I cannot imagine life without them, and I wouldn’t want to. Even if sometimes I love your books so much it hurts, reading them feels like coming home.