The Lightning Thief
First edition cover
|Cover artist||Peter Bollinger
John Rocco (later edition matching the sequels)
|Series||Percy Jackson & the Olympians (bk 1)|
|Genre||Fantasy, Greek mythology, young-adult novel|
Puffin Books, Disney-Hyperion
|July 1, 2005 (hardcover)
April 1, 2006 (paperback)
|Media type||Print (hardcover), audiobook CD|
|LC Class||PZ7.R4829 Li 2005|
|Followed by||The Sea of Monsters|
The Lightning Thief is a 2005 fantasy-adventure novel based on Greek mythology, the first young adult novel written by American author Rick Riordan. It is the first novel in the Percy Jackson & the Olympians series, which charts the adventures of modern-day twelve-year-old Percy Jackson as he discovers he is a demigod, the son of a mortal woman and the Greek god Poseidon. Percy and his friends Annabeth Chase and Grover Underwood go on a quest to prevent a war between the gods Zeus, Poseidon, and Hades.
The Lightning Thief was published in June 2005 by Miramax Books, an imprint of Hyperion Books for Children and thus Disney Publishing (succeeded by the Disney Hyperion imprint). The book has sold over 1.2 million copies in the subsequent four years, appearing on The New York Times children's Best Seller list and being listed as one of the Young Adult Library Services Association's Best Books for Young Adults, among other awards. It was adapted into a film named Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief released in the United States on February 12, 2010. The sequel to this novel is The Sea of Monsters. The book has a rating of 4.22 out of 5 on Goodreads.
Development and publication
Development for The Lightning Thief began when author Rick Riordan made up stories for his son Haley, who had been diagnosed with ADHD and dyslexia. His son had been studying Greek mythology in second grade and asked that his father come up with bedtime stories based on Greek myths. Riordan had been a Greek mythology teacher in middle school for many years and was able to remember enough stories to please his son. Soon Riordan ran out of myths and his son requested that Riordan make new ones using the characters from Greek myths with a new twist. Riordan created the fictional character Percy Jackson and his travels across the United States to recover Zeus's lightning bolt. After Riordan finished telling the story his son asked that his dad write a book based on Percy's adventures, and he did.
While he gave his manuscript to his agent and editor to review, Riordan took his book to a group of middle schoolers to critique. With their help, he came up with the name of the book and invented Percy's magic sword. Riordan first sent out the manuscript for The Lightning Thief under the pseudonym Ransom Reese as he didn't want to rely on anyone in the publisher industry. The manuscript got many rejections before an agent chose it as she liked its premise. In 2004 the book was sold to Miramax Books for enough money that Riordan could quit his job to focus on writing. The book has since been released in multiple versions (including hardcover, paperback, and audio editions) and has been translated and published all over the world.
The Lightning Thief is narrated in the first person by Percy Jackson, a 12-year-old boy with dyslexia and ADHD who lives in New York City with his mother Sally and abusive stepfather. During a school field trip to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, one of the chaperoning teachers, Mrs. Dodds, transforms into one of the three Furies of Greek myth and attacks Percy. Using a magic sword from the other chaperone, Percy destroys the monster. However, when he reunites with his schoolmates, he discovers that they do not even remember Mrs. Dodds. Over the course of the school year, Percy attempts to convince himself that this was all a dream, but his friend Grover Underwood's strange behavior leaves him in doubt. When the year ends, Percy and his mother go on a beach vacation. During a terrible storm, the two are awakened by a surprise visit from Grover—who is actually not a human teenager, but instead a young satyr. Grover tells them they are in danger, and the three drive to a mysterious summer camp and Mrs. Jackson says that she will protect Percy. They are attacked by the Minotaur, who grabs Mrs. Jackson and causes her to disappear in a blinding flash of gold light. Believing his mother has just died, Percy kills the beast with one of its own horns, then drags the unconscious Grover into the camp. Percy wakes up three days later and learns the camp is called Camp Half-Blood and that he is a demigod: the son of a human and a Greek god.
Percy settles into camp life and meets several other demigods, including Luke Castellan, a gifted swordsman and Percy's first new friend, and Annabeth Chase. Several strange incidents begin to reveal his powers as a demigod. After he is attacked during a game of Capture the Flag by a hellhound, Percy is publicly claimed by his father, the god Poseidon. A few days later, the centaur activities director Chiron explains to Percy how the three eldest male gods (Poseidon, Zeus, and Hades) swore an oath not to have children more than 70 years ago; Percy represents a violation of that oath. This, coupled with the fact that Zeus's master lightning bolt has recently been stolen, has bred much suspicion between the gods. Percy is tasked with locating that bolt to appease the gods before an all-out war can break out. He chooses Annabeth and Grover to accompany him on a quest to the realm of Hades, the most likely culprit.
Before he leaves, Percy is given Chiron's magic sword Anaklusmos and Luke's flying sneakers. The trio then travels towards Los Angeles, the entrance to Hades's realm. Along the way, they are attacked by the Furies, Medusa, Echidna and the Chimera, and several other monsters. Percy gradually learns more about his companions, his powers, and the world of the Greek gods. Along the way, they do a favor for the god Ares, who gives them a backpack full of supplies and transportation to Nevada. When they arrive in Hades's realm, Grover is nearly dragged into Tartarus by Percy's flying shoes. The battered group finally meet Hades, who reveals that his Helm of Darkness (his symbol of power) has been stolen too. Hades accuses Percy of stealing his helm and threatens to kill Sally Jackson (who has been the god's hostage the whole time) and release all the dead back into the real world unless it is returned. When Percy finds the missing master bolt inside his backpack, the group realizes that Ares has been manipulating them. Narrowly escaping the Underworld, Percy challenges Ares to a duel. When the demigod wins, he gives the Helm of Darkness to the Furies; Hades then realizes that Percy was not the thief and returns Mrs. Jackson to their apartment in New York.
Percy takes the master bolt back to Zeus, who rewards the young hero by not killing him for Poseidon's broken oath. Percy returns to camp a hero and enjoys the rest of his summer there. On the last day of camp, however, he goes into the woods with Luke, who reveals himself to be the real thief of the Helm and bolt, following the orders of Kronos. Kronos also manipulated power-hungry Ares into taking part in the scheme. Percy cannot believe that Luke, an all-around nice guy, would do such a thing, and so Luke explains his belief that the gods are irresponsible and poor leaders who must be overthrown. He offers Percy the chance to join him, and when the other demigod does not, tries to kill him with a poisonous scorpion. Percy manages to kill the arachnid, but is badly poisoned. When he has recovered, Percy is given the choice of whether to return home for the school year or stay at camp year round. After much thought he decides to spend the school year with his mother (who is no longer with her abusive husband) even though it will be more dangerous for him with Luke and Kronos on the loose. Grover and Annabeth also leave the camp for the year, but promise to keep in touch with Percy.
Percy is given a prophecy by the camp's Oracle before his quest, which reads: You shall go west, and face the god who has turned.
You shall find what was stolen, and see it safely returned.
You shall be betrayed by one who calls you a friend.
And you shall fail to save what matters most, in the end.
- At first, it is assumed that Percy had to travel west from New York to L.A. to confront Hades, though it is later revealed that he really had to meet Ares.
- Percy locates both Zeus's master bolt, which was always known to be missing, and also Hades's Helm.
- Luke betrays Percy after treating him like a friend. The son of Hermes not only gifts Percy cursed shoes, but also tries to kill him with a scorpion.
- When Hades captures the quest group, Percy uses three magic pearls from his father to save himself, Annabeth, and Grover. He is forced to leave "what matters most" - his mother - behind in order to stop the war between Zeus, Poseidon, and Hades. He also does not help his mother rid herself of her abusive husband Gabe Ugliano. Sally is saved in the first case by Hades's choice to free her after he receives his Helm, and in the second, by her own choice to stand up to "Smelly Gabe".
The Lightning Thief received mostly positive reviews. Common Sense Media said, "There are two levels of fun in The Lightning Thief. One is the fast-paced quest of a young hero and his friends to save the world..." and added, "Another level of fun here – laughing at the wicked ways the author has updated the gods and monsters for the 21st century". However, it did criticize some aspects of the book describing the prose as "choppy and attitude-filled" and complaining that "[t]he characters aren't emotionally involving". Its overall rating was 4 stars out of 5. Numerous other reviews were more positive. The New York Times praised The Lightning Thief as "perfectly paced, with electrifying moments chasing each other like heartbeats". School Library Journal said in its starred review that the book was "[a]n adventure-quest with a hip edge" and that "[r]eaders will be eager to follow the young protagonist's next move". Kirkus Reviews reviews said, "The sardonic tone of the narrator's voice lends a refreshing air of realism to this riotously paced quest tale of heroism that questions the realities of our world, family, friendship and loyalty." Eoin Colfer, author of Artemis Fowl called it "A fantastic blend of myth and modern". Finally, Publishers Weekly also praised the book, regarding it as "swift and humorous" and added that the book would "leave many readers eager for the next installment."
On April 8, 2007, The Lightning Thief was ranked ninth on The New York Times Best Seller list for children's books. The Lightning Thief was the winner of the School Library Journal Best Book of 2005 as well one of the books in the Chicago Public Library Best of the Best Books List, 2005. It was also in the VOYA Top Shelf Fiction List and was the winner of the Red House Children's Book Award Winner (UK), 2006; Askews Torchlight Award (UK), 2006; and the Mark Twain Award (Missouri Association of School Librarians), 2008. It was an American Library Association Notable Book, 2006 and a New York Times Notable Book (2005). It received the Young Reader's Choice Award in 2008 and the Rebecca Caudill Young Reader's Book Award in 2009. Scholastic Parent & Child magazine also included the novel within its 100 "Greatest Books for Kids." When asked about the various awards, Rick Riordan said: "The ultimate compliment for a children's writer is when the kids like it."
In June 2004, 20th Century Fox acquired the feature film rights to the book. In April 2007, director Chris Columbus was hired to helm the project. The film, titled Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief, was released in the United States on February 12, 2010 and had Logan Lerman as Percy Jackson, Alexandra Daddario as Annabeth Chase, Brandon T. Jackson as Grover Underwood, Jake Abel as Luke Castellan, and Pierce Brosnan as Chiron. The film received mixed reviews from critics upon release and grossed $226 million at the worldwide box office. A sequel, Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters, was released in 2013.
Kirkus Reviews magazine said, "the narrator’s voice lends a refreshing air of realism to this riotously paced quest tale of heroism that questions the realities of our world, family, friendship and loyalty". AudioFile Magazine praised the audiobook, "adults and children alike will be spellbound as they listen to this deeply imaginative tale unfold." School Library Journal both praised and criticized the audio book saying "Although some of Jesse Bernstein's accents fail (the monster from Georgia, for instance, has no Southern trace in her voice), he does a fine job of keeping the main character's tones and accents distinguishable".
A one-hour musical aimed at young audiences was planned to hit the road on a nationwide tour in September 2014 following a stint in New York City in 2014. A two-hour version of the musical previewed Off-Broadway on March 23, 2017 at the Lucille Lortel Theatre. On April 21, a cast recording was announced to be released on June 30 on the Broadway Records label.
The Lightning Thief is followed by The Sea of Monsters in which Percy and Annabeth rescue Grover who has been imprisoned by Polyphemus, the Cyclopes, and recover the Golden Fleece to save the camp. They are accompanied by Percy's Cyclops half brother, Tyson and Clarisse La Rue in this mission.
Like The Lightning Thief, it won several prizes and received generally positive reviews as well. It sold over 100,000 copies in paperback. It was followed by The Titan's Curse, The Battle of the Labyrinth, and The Last Olympian as well as an entire new sequel-series, The Heroes of Olympus, and later, The Trials of Apollo.
Foreign language editions
The Lightning Thief was published in Chinese, Italian, Turkish, Danish, Croatian, Czech, Finnish, French, Dutch, German, Hebrew, Portuguese, Brazilian Portuguese, Indonesian, Serbian, Norwegian, Spanish, and Catalan. The French, German, and Spanish editions were published in 2006. The other translations of the book were published in 2008. The Icelandic publisher Odinseye released another edition in 2012. The novel is also on sale in Taiwan, published by Yuan Liou Publishing. In Czech it is called 'Percy Jackson Zlodej blesku'.
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