Riordan was my inspiration to start creative writing, almost as soon as I finished Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief when I was 10 1/2 years old. His Heroes of Olympus series still stands as one of my favourites and shares a place of pride on my bookshelf along with the Percy Jackson series.
And then I picked up this book.
In this short story collection, Percy Jackson takes the tales of famous Greek Heroes into a modern lens and recites the tales of ones as famous as Hercules or as underrated as Atalanta.
I didn’t think I’d have big issues with any of Rick Riordan’s work, especially his character voices, but I for some reason did have a problem with Percy’s voice in this one. The modern lens he put things through was framed as the reality to what happened and it broke immersion way too much. The funny quips and dialogue between characters was fine, but I loathed every time he directly put something from modern society into the plot. We know there wasn’t an ancient greek walmart, and so every time I saw that I just blinked.
But the odd thing is, I was fine and thoroughly enjoyed Percy’s voice with the origin stories of the Greek Gods. I don’t know why it doesn’t translate well here when talking about Greek Heroes. Maybe it’s the fact that each hero gets stripped of the core of their stories as they get turned into what feels like Tom and Jerry episodes, making fun of violence and tragedy.
Orpheus was a key example of this one, and his tale was also told in my favourite musical Hadestown. It wasn’t told in a traditional sense either. Instead of having his story with 21st century twists in it, it took place during the industrial revolution. The medium of the industrial setting added more to the story than I can say in Hadestown, talking about how with music and artistic expression we lose our senses of self and love.
Percy Jackson’s take just turned him into a generic husk of a D&D bard. Like not even with emotion and character like all the best bards in D&D do have – this is the kind of bard that gets memed over being a douchebag with a guitar but on a battlefield. That is not Orpheus.
Few of these heroes seemed to keep their substance or their cores with the way that Percy referred to them, or if they are it is done so as a side note. This is to the point that I believe in some cases it genuinely disrespects the core of the Greek Hero. Rarely were the hardships key to the hero’s’ journey communicated as harrowing. Except perhaps a harrowingly long journey. This was fine with the Gods and their menial issues and the power they held, but the purpose of a mortal hero is within their suffering. And it is made a joke.
In the Percy Jackson and Heroes of Olympus novels, Riordan and his narrative voice knew when to take things seriously and when to emphasise the suffering and the comedy within the tale of these heroes. There wasn’t anything of this nature present, as if the core of Percy Jackson had gone.
So yeah, this book stripped the concept of Greek Heroes INCLUDING Percy Jackson himself. It’s only redeeming quality is the dialogue quips between characters without 21st century product placement. Those were funny.
Percy Jackson and the Greek Heroes gets a score of 2/5. This was just a marginally funny classical studies shitpost.
Yours in writing