Writer's Book Club


Today the Writer’s Book Club returns to this website to discuss THE LIGHTNING THIEF by Rick Riordan!

To keep from spoiling the book for those who haven’t read it yet, I’ll post the discussion questions in the comments of this post. If you have read the book, click on “Comments” to respond with your thoughts. If you haven’t read it, then what are you waiting for?? Go out and get it!

Remember to be respectful of everyone, and the WBC should run smoothly. I’m fighting sickness, so please help me by replying to each other’s comments. I made up these questions in a groggy haze; if they’re terrible, feel free to create your own questions, LOL.

The WBC will meet again on March 3rd for the discussion of our next book: MARCELO IN THE REAL WORLD by Francisco Stork, appropriate for ages thirteen and up. The focus of my questions will be on staying true to point-of-view.

Let the discussion begin!

ETA:  Some of the discussion threads are getting long (which is awesome!), so it may get tricky to jump in with replies. If you’re trying to reply to a SPECIFIC comment, but the “Reply” option is not showing up, you’ll have to scroll up until you see the first comment of the thread—click on THAT comment’s “Reply” link. YOUR comment will then show up at the bottom of the thread, which may or may not immediately follow the comment you wanted to reply to. If necessary, use names and quotes so people know who you’re talking to or what you’re referring to. Hope that helps, but let me know if you’re having trouble. Thanks for the great discussion, everyone—I’m lovin it!


71 thoughts on “THE LIGHTNING THIEF by Rick Riordan


    1. What methods did Riordan use to share Greek mythology with a modern audience?

    2. Do you prefer traditional mythology or a new twist on the old?

    3. Riordan has to introduce Percy to a world he never knew existed. The story has to be convincing and informative, but also fast-paced so kids don’t lose interest. Not an easy task! Do you think Riordan succeeded? Why or why not?

    4. How does Riordan appeal to both kids and adults?

    5. In your opinion, what are the strengths and weaknesses of the story?

    As always, you’re welcome to share your favorite scenes and characters, or anything else you’re eager to discuss!

  2. 1. The most obvious answer to this question is that he put the characters in our time.
    However, he also put his characters smack dab in the middle of an adventure with “myths”. Stories with myths aren’t as effective when they’re simply studying about them (even if the stories parallell the character’s own life). He did a great job of making the myths vital to the story.

    2. I prefer traditional mythology. I like it when authors write a new myth. I’m thinkin’ of stories like TIL WE HAVE FACES, ENNA BURNING, and all of Howard Pyle’s books. My all time favorite book is THE WONDER CLOCK by Howard Pyle, who was incredible at writing myths and fairy tales. A true storyteller. He wrote King Author, Robin Hood, fairy tales in his own way for children to always remember.

    3. Yes, absolutely! He did an incredible job of propelling the plot or characters in every page! The only chapter that I think lagged a bit was when he described the camp. Nothing happened that chapter, and I think he could’ve added the information in another way, but that’s the only time the pace ever slowed. I heard once that someone should be able to put their finger anywhere in a book and be able to describe the conflict on that page. Percy Jackson is a phenomenal example of that.

    4. I think the appeal is the same; he doesn’t dumb down the story or diction for YA, and a good story is a good story, whether you’re 13 or 30.

    5. Strengths- compelling protagonist, pacing, plot, high stakes, voice, humor.
    Weakness- inner conflict, describing emotions (Percy’s emotions after his mom disappeared fell a little flat).

    • 1. I also love how he adapted the mythology, like moving Mt. Olympus and the Underworld to the U.S. Even the gods are modernized in a way (Ares as a biker makes me laugh).

      2. When you say “a new myth,” do you mean a new version of an old myth (like Greek myths), or brand new mythology no one has ever written before? I love King Arthur and Robin Hood stories; I’m putting Pyle on my TBR list.

      3. Yeah, describing the camp did slow the story. That’s tricky though, when you’re dealing with so much new information. It’s hard not to get bogged down with details. Maybe he could’ve spread out the info over a couple chapters, interspersed with conflict (like meeting Clarisse and Luke)?

      4. A good story is a good story. True that.

      5. I agree with all the strengths you mentioned. Wow, that is a lot of strength! I think the humor is my favorite. I would’ve liked a bit more emotion. Is this lack of emotion a guy thing (as Pat mentioned), or do you think Riordan did it on purpose, so as not to repel teen boys? Inner conflict . . . hmm. Let me think about this for a minute. Wasn’t he conflicted over his mom—about how to save her? Of course, when the time came, he always made the decision fairly quickly, so it didn’t seem he agonized over it. He may have been conflicted about his dad; though again, he didn’t obviously agonize over it. I think Grover mentioned it more than Percy did. Maybe the inner conflict would be stronger if the emotions were stronger? They seem to go hand in hand.

      Thank you for all your comments, Ellie!! 😀

  3. These are some other comments I thought of while I read the book. I thought that the story had really good transitions and time lapses and “summation” of the plot. Maybe it was because it was in first-person, but that is still hard to do.
    Here’s a good example:
    “. . . the desire for revenge. Hades had tried to kill me three times to far, with the Fury, the Minotaur, and the hellhound. It was his fault my mother had disappeared in a flash of light. Now he was trying to frame me and my dad for a theft we hadn’t committed. I was ready to take him on.”
    See there. He explains what is going on in the story, and I don’t feel like he talked down to me while he did it.

    • Great example! He does handle transitions and time lapses very well. It’s also what helps make the story so fast-paced. I hate it when books spend too long rehashing the same thing, like the reader is too dumb to keep up. Riordan doesn’t make that mistake.

  4. Here’s a cool example of a GREAT detail (Grover is speaking about Hades)
    “He can melt into shadow or pass through walls. He can’t be touched, or seen, or heard. And he can radiate fear so intense it can drive you insane or stop your heart. Why do you think all rational creatures fear the dark?”
    I think this is brilliant. What a great bad guy! And I love how the “myth” explains why all rational creatures fear the dark. Cool detail that further delves me into the fantasy world.

    • Yes! I always love it when authors find an original method to connect fantasy and reality, in a rational way that seems to explain a big mystery!

      Speaking of bad guys, I also loved all the potential villains in this book. Hades, Ares, Kronos, Luke, not to mention all the different monsters. Even Zeus wanted to kill Percy! And I liked how I ended up respecting (sort of) the first bad guy blamed, Hades. I almost felt sorry for him, LOL. Bad guys can’t be ALL evil. The scariest villains have the ability to make you empathize with them, at least a little.

      • I have always felt sorry for Hades. I always feel like he got a bum deal, and because of that, nobody likes him. I mean really, what did he do to deserve such treatment? The three brothers cast lots for who got what!

      • I know! There certainly is a great many of villains to choose from. I’m hoping that Percy or Annabelle eventually turn Luke back to the “good side”. He certainly isn’t all bad. Or, at least, I hope that he’ll have a moment of indecision (like Smeagol and Wormtail). I’m kinda rooting for Luke to come back.

      • So you haven’t started on the second book yet? Luke is definitely an interesting character. I better stop there before I say too much!

      • Sorry Ellie, but I’m going to disagree with you on that. Too obvious.
        I think it would be much cooler if, instead of bringing Luke back to the light side, one of the major characters would join Luke on the Dark Side – like Annabeth.
        Oh, and of course, Percy has to die at the end of the series.

      • Of course Percy will die at the end of the series, I just hope that it’s after he’s lived a long life, married a gorgeous demi-god and has had millions of little cherub babies.

        Not EVERY Greek story has to end in a tragedy.

      • LOL! You two are cracking me up today! It’s funny to see Pat argue with someone other than me. 😀

        Happy endings are often obvious and expected. That doesn’t mean the story is PREDICTABLE. Give me a winding, bumpy ride that makes me truly doubt a happy ending is possible! Then I will appreciate that ending when I finally get there.

        Luke on the Dark Side—what is this, a Star Wars reference?!

        Percy with a million cherub babies—*snort* 😀

      • lol.
        Technically, this is an American story, just with Greek gods, so I guess he doesn’t HAVE to die at the very end. But I’d much rather have him die than say, Tyson or Thalia.

      • PAT! Watch the spoilers! Are Tyson and Thalia in Book 1?? NOOOOO.

        Just to clarify, Tyson, Thalia, and Percy may or may not die later in the series. Now carry on and pretend you never read that! 😀

        Oh yeah, I’d MUCH rather spend five books with a first-person protagonist and then have him die at the end. *where is sarcastic font when i need it?!*

      • And I don’t argue with people – I disagree with them in brotherly love. I still respect their positions and ideas and usually even understand them. lol

      • Harry Potter wasn’t written in first-person; are you saying you wanted him to die at the end of Book 7?? If the character is well-written, I never want him/her to die, no matter what the POV.

        Besides, I’m currently writing my story in first person. You’re going to give me a complex! LOL

        Bring on the disagreeable brotherly love! 😀

      • Harry Potter did die at the end of book 7. He just came back to life.

        And what I’m saying is that if you write in 1st person, that means that it will make it very difficult, if not impossible, to kill off the main character at the end, not that you necessarily have to.

        And since this is written in first person, it is safe to say that he probably won’t die, which ruins some of the suspense for me. (Of course, he could die and then pull off a Heracles and be made one of the gods. That would make a cool ending.)

        So, you feeling the brotherly love yet? =)

      • Now you’re getting technical. So Harry dies. At least he’s alive when you close the book!

        Yes, yes, I do see what you’re saying about 1st person (but I am NOT looking forward to you tearing apart my novel. Brotherly love and all). I think there can be suspense in other ways though. Like how the prophecy will come to pass, for example. What will be the fate of the gods? Etc etc. Whether Percy lives or dies is not the driving force of suspense.

      • First of all, have I ever, ever torn apart anything you’ve written? Nope. I’ve loved it all. And if there were something I had a problem with I would tell it to you in a positive, constructive criticism sort of way, not tearing it apart. But if I tell you all the stuff I like first, and there’s a lot more that I like about your writing than dislike.

        Second of all, I’m not tearing apart Riordan’s either. As I’ve said, I liked the book a lot. There were just a few things that I didn’t like about it.

        Good grief, where did I get this undeserved rep of tearing everything apart? Just because I rant about Athena giving birth. =)

        (My own point is taken. I’ll try to rant less in the future.)

      • I was exaggerating with the “tearing apart” comment. 😀 I know you always offer positive, constructive criticism, which is wonderful. Yet it’s hard to quell the bit of panic I still feel when I’m sharing my stories with people! Irrational, I know. My CP feedback always makes the story better!

        I like your rants! I rant too little, so you’re a good balance, LOL. You made a good point about Athena. I’m still conflicted about the first-person POV though. 😀

  5. A good way of putting the “myths” into the context of the adventure was when Annabeth was scared of spiders, because Athena turned Arachne into a spider and she’s been taking revenge ever since. Instead of simply telling the story, Riordan made the story relevant to the characters!

    • So true! I think he managed to do that with almost all the characters. Even the “undetermined” kids at camp were bitter and sullen as a result. Half-bloods were always being affected by their godly parents, whether the gods claimed them or not! Even Grover’s life was influenced by his desire to find Pan. How fascinating!

  6. I liked Ellie’s comment about putting your finger anywhere in a book and being able to describe the conflict on that page and that happening with the character of Percy Jackson. I saw a recurrent theme of might over right, barbarism over culture. The writer also depicted a large group of people in the middle who just go along and don’t stand up for what is right.

    Aristotle taught that people should act on what their study of life convinced them was right. He said the good of all was served when each person did something about what he thought and believed.

    • Quoting Aristotle—way to go, Mom! I love being surrounded by all you smart people. 😀

      The conflict on every page is definitely a good point!

      Another theme I enjoyed is evident on page 351, when Percy is tempted to use Medusa’s head on Smelly Gabe (LOL). Percy thinks, “That’s what a Greek hero would do in the stories . . . that’s what Gabe deserves. But a hero’s story always ended in tragedy.”

      Later, Sally says, “You’ll be a hero, Percy. You’ll be the greatest of all.” Percy’s feats aren’t necessarily greater than those of past heroes; it’s his moral code that is greater. He stands up for what is right.

      Thanks for your comment! 😀

      • Yes! I really liked when he wanted to save the ‘mortals’ in the Arch so badly that he jumped out of the building. He really is a hero.
        Another thing I forgot to add–in so many stories recently there is an ‘accidental hero’. He seems to slip up and then save the day over and over again. He takes no credit for being cool or smart. However, Percy is great and he is unashamedly heroic. I love that!

      • I wouldn’t necessarily say that Percy’s moral code was greater than the ancient Greek heros. They had a much different moral code, and stuck to it just like he sticks to his own (except for, arguably, Heracles).

      • I’m sure I’ll regret taking this bait . . . but what do you mean by different moral codes?? I realize that not everything is black and white in the world, and different cultures live by different rules. But is it EVER right to kill a human like Gabe, even if Percy has the ability to do so? So the ancient Greek heroes killed people, based on THEIR definition of who deserved to die? How is that MORAL?

      • First, I agree with Ellie with what she said about accidental heros. Great comment!
        Now, I’m sorry you took the bait as well, because now I have to defend myself, but that’ll have to wait until later. Gotta run. (Flaps his chicken wings as he runs away)

      • I thought you WANTED me to get riled up?! LOL. I look forward to your defense, Chicken!

        * I really set a good example about respecting fellow commenters, don’t I? * 😀

      • Okay,
        About Smelly Gabe. In Ancient Greece, not only would it have been alright to kill someone like him, but it would have been your moral obligation! That’s what I’m talking about. And, evidently, Riorden thought it was okay as well, because Percy’s mom went ahead and killed him. So yes, they killed people based on their definition of who deserved to die. Is it moral by today’s standards? Probably not. By theirs? Probably.

        I’m also not so sure that they looked at it from the perspective of ‘does this person DESERVE to die for what they did.’ It was more from a perspective of ‘What they did hurt me, so do I have the power to hurt them back?’

        And also, Theseus, and many others, also lived by an iron moral code, so its hard to say that Percy is different from the ancient Greek heros because he lives by such a code.

      • Why does Riordan set Percy apart and call him the greatest hero? Or is that just his bias?

        Percy wanted to kill Gabe, but he refrained. I was kinda surprised that Sally killed him. Couldn’t she just divorce him? Sure, he was a Class A jerk, but it’s not like he murdered anyone.

        I’m not claiming to know the moral code, or who should or shouldn’t die. I think I’m getting a headache just trying to ponder it! But thanks for explaining it, Pat.

      • And you know what, I’m not sure that Riorden was calling Percy the greatest hero. He’s just saying that Percy’s MOM thinks that he’ll be the greatest hero ever.

      • Yeah, Percy’s mom is no doubt biased. But Poseidon said that the lives of all Greek heroes end in tragedy. Percy knows that . . . and he’s making a conscious effort to avoid a tragic end for himself. Doesn’t that effort count for something?

      • I know whether Percy lives or dies isn’t the only method for providing suspense, but Riordan has set it up to be one of the major methods.

        And yeah, Percy’s effort does count for something.

  7. I enjoyed Ellie’s and Donna’s comments. Well thought out.
    I also enjoyed the book a lot, though I did have some problems with it.

    1. Same as Ellie.

    2. I much prefer traditional mythology. I would’ve liked the book a lot more if he’d used the characters but came up with his own myths/stories, rather than rehashing.

    3. Yes, for the most part.

    4. He appeals to both.

    5. Strengths – characterizations: I love both Percy’s and Annabeth’s characters, especially how they have flaws that turn into strengths in the ‘mythological’ world, I also like how he characterizes the ‘gods’ and ‘monsters.’
    story pacing – it kept my interest thoughout;
    descriptions – as mentioned above.

    Weaknesses – unoriginality – I didn’t need Procrastes and Medusa rehashed. Booo! Come up with new monsters and myths!
    Needs to get his info strait – As a Pinochle player it was obvious to me that he had no idea what Pinochle was; also, it’s obvious he’d never been to the St. Louis Arch-it’s impossible to reach the river if you jumped from the top (both of these bothered me a little because they disrupted the flow of the story for me)

    A couple of other comments:
    I didn’t think he did too bad of a job describing emotions, but then again, I’m a guy like him.
    I thought his excuse for using old monsters was LAME! ‘Monsters don’t really die, they’re just banished for a time.’
    I cannot stand the idea of Athena having children! I cannot! Even if in future books he explains it away by her giving birth the same way Zeus gave birth to her. This is just not right! Part of being a virgin goddess is not having children. Plus, this flies in the face of ancient Greek culture, which used the birth of Athena as proof that men were superior to women (because Zeus could give birth without the aid of a woman), which is extrememly chauvanistic and I hate it, but it is part of their culture. I also find it fascinating that it is conception and child birth that were used in ancient times to prove superiority. Oh well, I’ve ranted long enough. Sorry.

    • Your rants are always entertaining. 😀 Plus, you warned me about this rant, so I was expecting it!

      Regarding question #2: I think I did a bad job of phrasing this, because I’m misunderstanding the answers. I thought “traditional mythology” meant writing myths the same way they’ve always been written, i.e., rehashing. How can you prefer traditional mythology but not want the same stories? How would Riordan use the same characters but none of the same backgrounds? Again, I think this is my fault, not yours; I’m just trying to understand properly.

      I noticed the Pinochle mistakes, too! I’m glad you remembered to point that out. And I’ve been to the Arch, but it was too long ago, so I didn’t remember that when I read it. But you’re right—the Arch isn’t close enough to the river! Not good.

      Unoriginality . . . isn’t all mythology somewhat like that? You take an old idea and make it your own. Riordan took Medusa and showed us how she might look like after all these years—her two sisters dead, and she running Aunty Em’s Garden Gnome Emporium! That in itself does take some originality. I liked seeing the twist that modern society had put on all these monsters. To me, unoriginal would mean setting the story in ancient Greek culture and just retelling the same characters in the same situations.

      “I don’t think he did too bad of a job describing emotions, but then again, I’m a guy like him.” LOL, I don’t think I’ll tackle this one today. 😀

      Not sure how I feel about Athena having children. My brain power is waning. Can someone else offer opinions on this, please?

      As always, Pat, thanks for providing conflict! LOL. 😀

      • I guess by traditional mythology, I mean that I like the original stories better than the rehashing by Riorden. Yes, he does show what the old myths would look like in modern day, and I know some people like that, but I’m not a big fan of that. I’d prefer original stories by him, which I probably wouldn’t like as much as the original mythology, but it would be better than the rehashing. I still liked the book though.
        I guess what I’m saying is I like them best in this order: Traditional myth; original modern myths; then the rehashing.
        He could use the same backgrounds, but just give me new stories, that could even be based off of the backgrounds.
        Aww shoot, I was trying to rile you up with that whole Athena having kids thing. Why did your brain power have to wane now?
        And hey, if I didn’t provide conflict, it might not be as fun!
        One last comment: All men are chauvanistic pigs! It’s just that some of us fight against it more than others.

      • Okay, I understand what you’re saying now. Thanks for ordering your preferences; that is something my puny brain can comprehend! 😀

        Yes, I’m sure you were trying to rile me up! Normally it would, but this one is tripping me up. Not the chauvinistic part, but the fact that it contradicts the ancient mythology. I thought Riordan usually adapted the myths instead of contradicting them. I’m trying to figure out why he would mess with it in this case. Still confused. Sigh.

    • Wow. I never noticed those details about Pinochle and the Arch before, but that sounds like really lazy writing. And one that is so easily corrected! Why would he make such an obvious mistake? They should’ve been playing a game that he knew better.
      And now that I think about it, Athena having children does bother me. It seems a bit disrespectful to the original story and characters.

      • This reminds of what you said during the SHIVER discussion, about how you noticed the medical mistakes. Really, isn’t that what copy editors are for—to catch those errors, even if the author failed to do so? It’s like double laziness then.

        So in the ancient myths, Athena was a virgin who never had any children by any methods? It does seem odd that Riordan changed that aspect. And Annabeth isn’t the only child—Athena’s cabin had several other campers. Hmm . . .

    • OH, don’t make me feel sorry for you! 😀 You’re not JUST entertaining; you’re also an intelligent, fighting-the-chauvinistic pig (in YOUR words, not mine!). Conflict is always fun, as proved in Percy Jackson! 😀

      • rofl.
        I meant it in a happy, really am glad that I can be entertaining way – not a woe-is-me, I’m looking for a compliment way.
        btw, thanks for the compliment.

      • LOL, you sounded so self-deprecating! Via Internet, you need to add an EXCLAMATION POINT! or SMILEY FACE so I know you’re really, really happy!!! 😀 😀 😀 Jeesh, now I’m just getting annoying.

        BTW, you’re welcome. 😉

      • I don’t think it’s possible for you to annoy me. You’re too smart and nice (except on the basketball court).

        And I make all my smilies like that. That way I can be a little different. =)

      • Oddly enough, I now feel challenged to annoy you.

        I don’t think you need to use smileys to stand out in this book club. You are, after all, the only guy. 😀

        I didn’t miss that compliment you slipped in there. Thanks! I’ll try to rein in my basketball persona.

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