I bet you thought I’d forgotten you. Nope, not even close. The thing is, I have been reading nothing but Rick Riordan since July of last year. I journeyed with Percy Jackson and the Olympians, met Roman demigods in The Heroes of Olympus, got introduced to Egyptian magic in The Kane Chronicles, visited Valhalla in The Magnus Chase series, and met Apollo in his mortal form in The Trials of Apollo. I have not stepped out of the realm of mythology in six months. Though, technically, I am still in the mythological realm as I have just started reading Runemarks by Joanne M. Harris. Hello again, Norse mythology!
The reason I haven’t written in so long is that I would be writing the same things over and over for every series. Every book in every series. So I figured I would wait until I completed my Riordan marathon before writing about what I have observed.
Last semester was also relatively trying. It was a cold, hard slog. And that’s saying something for a Queensland summer. I essentially shut myself off from everything but assignments and Netflix. I wanted a break from typing on my laptop, just for a while.
But I’m back now, so let’s get stuck in.
First and foremost, I just want to say that Riordan may be the most inclusive author I have ever met. In Percy Jackson and the Olympians, all of our protagonists have ADHD and dyslexia. These are two attributes that don’t often surface in YA. At least, not in the YA I’ve read previously. In The Heroes of Olympus, our cast is completely multicultural. And we meet our first gay character of the series, which I adored. Though I wish the reveal wasn’t as shocking to me as it was. But that’s heteronormativity at work for you. I am working on that. The Kane Chronicles was made up of a cast of people who all descended from Egypt. There were very few Caucasian characters. Protagonists, antagonists, bit players: very few of them were white.
But I think my favourite cast of characters was in The Magnus Chase series. Our main character starts off homeless. In our main band of heroes we have a devout Muslim Valkyrie, a deaf elf who speaks in sign language, and in book two we are introduced to the very first transgender character I have ever read. This was so unbelievably amazing to me. There were so many different kinds of people represented in this series that my insides did many, many happy dances throughout the journey. This is YA at its finest. It was unbelievably satisfying.
Riordan is also exceptional with his characters. There are so many of them in his universe that it can be hard to keep track. But once you sit down and really pay attention, you see just how nuanced all of his characters actually are. This was particularly noticeable in The Kane Chronicles as both Carter and Sadie were narrators throughout the story. Their voices were very similar but there were very subtle variations in tone and turns of phrase that helped to identify brother from sister. Sadie’s phrases had the slight plummy tone that I associate with British narrators and Carter’ s showed his unusual upbringing through his more mature turn of phrase, given that his only constant company for so long was his father.
One of my housemates also reads Rick Riordan and we had a brief discussion about the use of humour in these books. We found a lot of similarities between the narrative voice in Percy Jackson and the voice in Magnus Chase. However, I posit that there is a subtle difference that makes these voices unique. This difference is also rooted in characterisation. Magnus has had a hard life, living on the streets after his mother died with no family to care for him. Well, beyond the family he made for himself on said streets. he uses humour as a defence mechanism. In horrific situations, Magnus would always make some kind of joke or humorous observation. He needed to not let on how scared he was because scared is weakness on the streets. And the weak do not survive.
With Percy, though, his humour is not quite as abrasive, for lack of a better word. he has also been labelled a troublemaker, because of a mixture of his ADHD, dyslexia, and his natural ability to attract any monster in a fifty kilometre radius. His humour humanises him. His is more of a “yes, all these scary things are happening around me but see? I’m a nice guy, I promise!”. Percy’s humour makes him more relatable whereas I always felt Magnus’ made him harder to understand. It is subtle, but it’s brilliant.
The pattern of every book is very, very similar. I think I only really noticed it because I read all of the books in sequence. These books follow the same pattern as the old myths and legends. The prophecy that kicks off the adventure, the time limit imposed by an all-powerful entity (Oracle, god, goddess, etc), and the overarching mission that keeps getting more and more convoluted as the heroes have to help this god, or this giant, or this mini-nemesis, in order to gain their assistance for the next part of the quest. These books read like the old ones, just with iPhones and denim, rather than papyrus and robes. It did become repetitive, but the structure was necessary. Riordan was writing new myths. But that doesn’t mean doing away with everything from the originals.
I could keep going, I want to keep going, but at just shy of a thousand words, I think I’d better stop.
I just want to say two final things:
- Rick Riordan is a fantastic author and you all should read at least one of his series. And
- It is good to be back.