Ok this is going to be very long post so strap in and get ready. While the Dresden Files and Sandman slim are both long unfinished series (15 books and 10 books respectively) they each have one handy thing in common: They follow a single protagonist and their journey through their life and the world around them.
However, the novels of Rick Riordan which I always call the Camp Halfblood novels, currently sit at 22! full novels plus a few cross over short stories, and feature multiple protagonists, in multiple groups, but all in a single shared world that is connected. Yes, this is an absolutely massive series of books, and the wild thing is that all of the books are in the same universe! How is that even possible? How does that work? Well for this Series Review I am going to break down each grouping of books, give some general thoughts on how they feel and play out, and then talk about how it’s all connected at the end. I am going to try to avoid any form of spoilers because, honestly, these are personal favorites of mine and I really think you should read them yourself. If you want a TLDR Summation of Rick Riordan’s books? GO READ THEM. RIGHT NOW. Start with the Lightning Thief, and just don’t stop till you hit the end. If you are a fan of Urban Fantasy, Young Adult, and Mythology you NEED TO READ THESE BOOKS.
Additionally I will not be touching on the various short story collections for each mythology, as those are not really main series stuff and serve mostly to flesh out the mythology of the Greek, Roman, and Norse worlds that exist in these books as well as give some secondary characters the chance to shine. They are good, but they are not part of the main “Meta Narratives” if you will.
Now, with that out of the way, let’s begin! Mind you, at the time of me writing this the Trials of Apollo series is STILL being released. I will update the post when its finished with any changes in my opinion on that series.
Percy Jackson and the Olympians (Series 1, 5 Books)
Where everything started, these 5 books consist of “The Lightning Thief”, “Sea of Monsters”, “The Titans Curse”, “The Battle of the Labyrinth”, and “The Last Olympian”. These books are all told from the perspective of teenager Percy Jackson who starts the series at 12 years old and by the final book has reached 16 years old. Percy is a Demigod, ie the child of a mortal parent and Greek God. Rick Riordan cemented himself, at least for me, as a modern day classic author. Each of these novels can stand on their own and tells a complete story, but to really understand the struggles of Percy, you need to read all 5 in order. They each detail a different point in his life, the struggles of dealing with Greek Mythology in the modern world, and the people he meets along the way. These books also touch on a variety of topics many young adult novels used to shy away from. Loss, revenge, absent parents, mental illness, disabilities, and more are touched in solid ways that doesn’t shy away from the hard truths. Percy, like many Greek Demigods, has ADHD and Dyslexia for one, and its explain that these are because his brain is hard wired for both battle and reading ancient Greek. Percy is also a fairly likable character. He makes mistakes, as do his friends, but in the end he does what’s right for the world at large.
The series also does a great job modernizing classic Greek mythology and tales. We see the various gods such as Ares, Zeus, Athena, Apollo, Hermes, and more. We learn about the Titans such as Kronos and Atlas. We learn about Circe and Calypso, and Daedalus, and get to see Percy and company deal with tons of classic monsters from the Minotaur to the Furies! Everything works exceptionally well and fits together with the modern world.
Percy’s journey, like many classic Greek tales, isn’t really a happy story and is more akin to a tragedy. While the ending to the series is great and ties up everything, it also opens things up the next 5 books in the Olympian Series via a new “Great Prophecy”, which is called the Heroes of Olympus series. But before we get there? We gotta get through the Kane Chronicles!
The Kane Chronicles (Series 2, 3 Books)
This trilogy consists of “The Red Pyramid”, “The Throne of Fire”, and “The Serpents Shadow” and details the adventures of Sadie and Carter Kane, a brother sister pair who are of mixed race. Where the Percy Jackson series deals with Greek (and later Roman, but we will get to that) Mythology, and Magnus deals with Norse (Again, we are getting there), the Kane series deals with Egyptian mythology and follows a very different structure. First, we have two narrators over just one, with Sadie and Carter switching off to tell their story from their own points of view. Further, these stories are treated as recordings that were found and transcribed by the author which is an interesting narrative device.
One major difference is just how, well, depressing these books get. While Percy Jackson and the Olympians can get dark at times, and have some bittersweet moments, it still tends to end on high notes. But the Kane’s story? Almost nothing ever seems to go right, and everything seems to spiral out of control the further and further into the story and world you get. Now, at first there is no mention of the world of Percy Jackson, and until the next little block of stories (the Demigods and Magicians Crossover series) you would never have known that The Kanes and Percy existed in the same shared universe. Further, the way the Egyptians work with the Gods is VERY different. Rather than being Demigods, the Kanes and the people like them are able to directly access the power of the Egyptian Gods like Isis, Horus, Thoth, and so on. They are, in essence, wizards. There is a lot of spellcasting, a lot more focus on magic and the rules of magic, and at times these books almost feel like a kids version of the Dresden Files. I do enjoy how the books again tackle things like loss, mortality and chronic illness (there is a character who is basically dying of cancer, although its called a curse), dealing with racism and being of mixed racial heritage, being different (the Dwarf God Bes makes an appearance in the novels and is central in Book 2) and so on.
I will admit as well that I am not as in love with these books as I am with the Percy Jackson and Magnus Chase stuff. I find the world, while interesting, to be bogged down in the details of Egyptian mythology a bit too much, and the super dark tones and depressing narrative to be something I just don’t enjoy coming back to. The trilogy does tie up everything pretty well and ends on a mostly positive but still rather bittersweet note, and I would not be against seeing more of the Kanes in the future (there are hints at the end that leave the world open to being returned to) especially if the books were a bit more positive, but if there was any block of books you could safely skip in the Camp Halfblood world, this and the novella crossover series would be the ones. The books themselves have no connection to Percy or Magnus until the Crossover, and that crossover series is really only there to establish and connect the two world together. There is a comment at the end of the last book talking about working with Demigods against a greater threat (which sounds like a setup for a major crossover event) but so far nothing has come of it.
Now, logically I should do those crossover novellas next, however I want to jump ahead and do the next set of Percy Jackson novels, the Heroes of Olympus.
The Heroes of Olympus (Series 3, 5 Books)
And now we return to the world of Percy Jackson. This series consists of 5 novels, starting with “The Lost Hero” and then continuing with “The Son of Neptune”, “The Mark of Athena”, “The House of Hades”, and ending with “The Blood of Olympus” and whooooo boy, this is a wild series. First, one change is that the books are no longer written in First Person perspective (IE I talked to Sadie) but rather third (Percy looked at Nico), and this is because the cast of main characters and viewpoint characters expands from JUST Percy Jackson to SEVEN/EIGHT total demigods. We have Percy, Annabeth, Leo, Piper, Jason, Frank, Hazel, and sometimes Nico. There is a ton of stuff going on here. The first two books each deal with a different group of three (Book 1 has Jason, Leo, and Piper while Book 2 is Percy, Frank, and Hazel) as viewpoint characters. These books, much like the Kane books are very dark, but at the same time somehow feel more hopeful. The heroes seem better equipped to deal with the situations they are dealing with as well as their own personal issues, and the very real possible destruction of the world at the hands of the primary villain.
These books deal with the same themes as his previous works: loss, mental illness such as imposter syndrome, personal identity, sexuality, love, duty, and sacrifice. Nothing is held back in these novels either, with the battles feeling like the heroes could lose at any time and the stakes feeling major pretty much constantly. Obviously, now, we know that they don’t fail because Trials of Apollo exists, but the way everything plays out, the things that the 7 have to endure is frightening and a little disturbing at times. House of Hades specifically is incredibly messed up with what Percy and Annabeth specifically have to deal with in their portion of the book, although Mark of Athena is also several levels of messed up when dealing with phobias and the like. I do want to take a moment to also mention a specific scene in House of Hades involving Nico and Jason. It’s a moment where the duo have to meet and deal with Cupid to obtain a magical item that is very important to the quest, and it’s one of the most gut-wrenching and heartbreaking moments in the series as well as some massive character development for the duo. Additionally, some old characters from the first 5 books also show up again, and new alliances are formed and new love is found. Hell Book 5 even adds a new Viewpoint character which grants a new perspective on things. Its gripping, exciting, and while at first it seems like it’s going to end on a downer, the surprise at the end wraps up everything nicely for everyone.
The characters also each get their time to shine, to show off their abilities, and to grow as people and heroes, which is good considering we have 7 bloody viewpoints that are shifted through almost on a chapter by chapter basis. Each character also has their own voice and personality which shines through their perspectives as well. It’s really well done and I was always able to follow the group and their trials easily enough. It’s just…excellent fiction all around and a fantastic capstone to the story of Percy and company. After the trials our heroes faced in these novels they deserve a chance to rest.
So how does one follow up such a crazy 10 book story? Why, by changing to a new Pantheon, a new tone, and this time connecting it directly in the main books to the world of Percy. I am talking about the magic of Magnus Chase, my favorite of all the Rick Riordan series.
Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard (Series 4, 3 Books, connects with Percy Jackson, runs concurrently with the Trials of Apollo to a point timeline wise)
Straight up, this is my favorite 3 books in Riordan’s entire catalogue thus far. The series includes the books Sword of Summer, Hammer of Thor, and Ship of the Dead. The adventures of Magnus and his friends through the Nine Worlds is exceptionally written and deals with a lot of various topical issues such as gender, sexuality, disabilities, friendship, toxic relationships, prejudice, racism, and more. Further, Magnus himself is actually not a fighter, not really anyway. He is quickly revealed to be a demigod of a Vanir god, which are the more nonviolent gods in the Norse pantheon (Thor and Odin are Aesir, which are the more warrior / militant gods for example) and is actually more along the lines of a healer and support member for his group of friends. The characters and the way the story plays out are what make this adventure so much fun as well even when it gets dark and depressing. Magnus himself starts the series as a homeless kid living on the street since his mother died, and we quickly find out that Annabeth Chase (yes, Annabeth from the Percy series) is his cousin and is looking for him. From there Magnus, well, dies. This is not a spoiler as the book literally opens up with him telling you the story of how he died. He is then taken to Valhalla by a Muslim Valkyrie (yes, really) who is related to yet another Norse god. From there he goes on adventures dealing with Loki (because who else is going to screw with the Norse pantheon but Loki) and all of that madman’s schemes in an attempt to start Ragnarok and hasten the end of the Nine Worlds.
I can’t really go too deep into this without spoilers, but let me just say that Alex Fierro is one of the best written characters I have ever encountered. He/She (Alex is Genderfluid you see) is feisty, strong willed, and takes no prisoners whatsoever. Hearth and Blitz are also amazing. With Hearth being a Deaf Elf who is trying to relearn Rune Magic and Blitz being a Dwarf who wants to open a fashion store selling boutique handcrafted clothing items. And both use their skills to aid their friends, and deal with their family traumas throughout the books as well. And everyone here is dealing with some trauma let me tell you. Hearth in particular is really depressing due to how his family has treated him, but he does overcome it over time with the help of Magnus and company. Samira is another one that is pretty unique, being a person trying to balance her two worlds (her life in the mortal world and her job as a Valkyrie). And the ending is one of the most unique ways to end such an adventure honestly, and it made me laugh quite a bit. The representation of the Norse gods as well is hilarious. Odin as a motivational speaker, Heimdall obsessed with his Phablet of Doom, Thor with his goats and obsession with mortal TV shows, ect. All done in great detail with perfectly fitting updates to modern times. Also Magnus does fall for someone in the books (because of course we gotta have romance) but it feels natural and the person whom he falls for might surprise ya!
Honestly, what I hope to see here is more of Magnus in the future, maybe a full crossover with the Olympians given his ties to the world and relationship with Annabeth and Percy by the end. This series is heartwarming, gutwrenching, and is the best of the bunch so far. And now, finally, let’s talk Trials of Apollo.
The Trials of Apollo (Series 5, 5 Books, 3 released at time of writing)
This is the most recent series by Riordan, and is currently (at the time of writing this) still ongoing. There are a planned 5 books, and currently only The Hidden Oracle, The Dark Prophecy, and The Burning Maze have been released to date. The upcoming book is titled The Tyrants Tomb, and right now no one has any idea what Book 5 will be.
I am going to lay it out there that, when I first read The Hidden Oracle I was not sold on this series at all. Apollo, at the start, is really hard to like as a character. I found him annoying, self centered, egotistical, and unwilling to learn. Which, when I thought about it and as I got further in both that book and the series as a whole, made sense. You see, Apollo, due in part to the events in the Heroes of Olympus, has taken some of the blame for the war with the Giants and Zeus has cast him out of Olympus and into the body of a mortal to try to correct some errors and mistakes. However, we discover that something MUCH more dangerous is going on in the world, as it seems that both the Oracle of Delphi AND other ancient oracles have been taken by an unknown enemy which has caused the power of Prophecy to no longer work for our heroes.
The villains in this series are absolutely horrifying, and nothing about their historical characters are held back. If you were not familiar with these folks before reading this you will get an accurate portrayal of them let me tell you. As the series moves forward, however, Apollo (as Lester) starts to change and learn. He starts to grow fond of Meg, a demigod who befriends him early on and becomes his keeper. He meets up with characters from the previous books such as Percy, Leo, Calypso, Annabeth, Jason, and so on. They never take center stage but all serve to show us how they have been growing since the Giants war, and most get involved in some fashion or another with Apollo’s own quest to free the ancient ways of Prophecy from the hands of the baddies.
By Book 3, The Burning Maze, I was hooked and willing to go along for the ride. Apollo at this point, while still a bit of a coward and still a bit of whiner due to not having his godly powers, was starting to finally grow on me. Plus, he started to show flashes of, well, humanity. Also, some of the events that take place in The Burning Maze were soul destroying and I did not see Riordan doing what he did. He basically pulled a George RR Martin on one of his characters and I about flipped my shit. Seriously, while it was mentioned that something MIGHT happen to this character in the book, by this point stuff like these threats had occurred a few times and never had panned out the way you would expect em to. At least the character went out showing their nobility and grace. And seeing the threat actually happen the way it was prophesied was perfect.
I am actually excited for The Tyrants Tomb, and with its upcoming release I am eager to see how things progress. This section WILL be updated once that book is released to discuss it in specific, but for now, Trials is ranked prolly 3rd or 4th in my love of his books.
Demigods and Magicians crossover collection (3 Novellas, Features Percy Jackson and Annabeth Chase, as well as Sadie and Kane Carter)
These are pretty much a trio of Novellas that have Percy and Annabeth team up with Sadie and Kane Carter to deal with a threat. The first book is Percy/Kane, second is Annabeth/Sadie, and the third is all four. Honestly, its completely skippable as a series and you won’t miss much doing so.
For fun I want to end this massive series review with my own personal rankings of the series. Mind you, they are all worth reading in my opinion, but if you were only going to choose one or two, here is how I would rate them.
- 1. Magnus Chase
- 2. Heroes of Olympus
- 3. Percy Jackson
- 4. Trials of Apollo
- 5. Kane Chronicles
- 6. Percy/Kane Crossover Novellas