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Chuck Wendig
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Samuel R. Delany
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SPOILER ALERT!

The Lightning Thief

The Lightning Thief - Rick Riordan Years ago, I read the first book in the Charlie Bone series by Jenny Nimmo, knowing that it was a shameless rip-off of the Harry Potter series. I was OK with it, but at the same time, I wasn’t expecting the book to be very good, and wasn’t really disappointed, but I was also going into the book with an attitude against it simply because it was trying very hard to be Harry Potter. The book failed for me before it started, really, but such is the case with books that I see as trying to cash in on another popular trend.

Percy Jordan is very much another Harry Potter clone. Let’s look at his character for a moment: He’s a normal kid, living a life of occasional weirdness, and he lives with his doting mother and beast of a stepfather. During the course of the opening of the book, he realizes that he has a lineage that is larger than he ever realized, and over time he realizes that he’s part of a larger prophecy, as well. Over the course of this discovery, he learns that he is a Half-Blood, and travels to a summer camp where others of his kind get training and an opportunity to be among their own kind. While he’s there, he makes a couple of friends along the way, one of whom is male and a bumbling sort of sidekick, the other of whom is female and an experienced, knowledgeable friend. He also makes enemies with another Half-Blood, partly because of some bad family history between the two of them. At the camp, there is one leader who is kind to Percy, and willing to take exceptional risks to help him advance, while there is another leader who takes a dislike to Percy and works toward making his existence there as difficult as possible. Percy also sets out on a quest, where it’s discovered that there’s an ancient evil looking toward world destruction and domination, and that this evil may even be stronger than the most powerful among the good guys. Of course, that evil isn’t defeated in the first book, but it’s very clear that this is only the start of a larger, epic story that will be comprised of smaller battles that are waged against the backdrop of this larger war versus good and evil.

So, it’s a thinly veiled rip-off, but the real point of it all is this: It doesn’t matter. I may be a little slow and dense, but it didn’t occur to me until the last 40 pages of the book that this was just a re-telling of the Harry Potter book, and the story was gripping and compelling enough for me to not really care when I realized it. Sure, once I started looking further into the similarities, I found myself a little disappointed, but the author managed to pull it off well enough that I found myself not caring. Plus, he made little changes in the details along the way to prevent it from being a carbon copy of the other series.

It also got me thinking about archetypal characters and stories, and how certain stories speak to a group of people on a subconscious level. In addition, I thought about how both the Harry Potter and the Percy Jackson series (that I know of it so far, at least) are comprised of hero’s tales, which follow a rather prescribed format. Shoot, in relation to a story that’s told using Greek mythology, it makes perfect sense. So it may be less of a rip-off and more of a timeless story. Either way, though, it’s certainly worth reading. It’s definitely been a long time since I’ve been this excited about reading an entire series!