I'll come out and admit it. I have been reading Rick Riordan's books. So far I have read all 5 of his Percy Jackson and the Olympians and this first 4 books of the Heroes of Olympus.
I would love to have a good excuse for this, like I get paid to write reviews of kids books, but I do not. The only real excuse I have is that I teach in a school where students read things like this and so I want to know what they are reading. (That is the reason I read the first Twilight book, but I only read one of those.)
The real reason I have read his books, at least this particular series, is that I enjoy mythology. Greek, Roman, and Norse myths in particular have always held a fascination for me, and I enjoy stories, movies, and books, that indulge in these myths.
But something about Riordan's books has always made me a bit uneasy. And it took me 9 books and several conversations with my wife (who goes so far as to pretend to be interested even when she is not) to figure out what it was.
I think it is this: Rick Riordan has a childish view of mythology, whereas those who came before him had a child-like view.
C.S. Lewis, for example, also wrote books for children that delved into mythology (The Chronicles of Narnia). But Lewis engages the mythological world from a childlike sense of wonder and awe.
The mythological characters of Narnia, whether good or evil, are never silly or trite. They are powerful, hideous, beautiful, humble, noble, frightful, and more.
Lewis engages his mythological world from a point of view of child-like wonder and faith. Riordan, on the other hand, engages his world from a childish point of view.
The gods of Olympus are not only petty and imperfect, as they were in the original Greek myths, they are childish, dumb, and goofy. When Percy Jackson encounters a Titan, or a giant, of a primordial god he has no sense of fear or awe. These creatures are described in plainly modern terms, wearing modern clothes, speaking in modern English, and reflecting modern attitudes.
And it makes me sick. Really, I can compare reading Riordan with reading Dostoevsky in this way only: his descriptions of the world in which we live churn my stomach. The story is engaging, but the world is gross.
Lewis took an ordinary person and placed them in an extraordinary place. Riordan took extraordinary myths and dressed them up in everything that is silly, ridiculous, and wrong with the modern world. There is nothing for our children to be in awe of.
In the end it comes off as very childish. And what I was looking for was something to inspire within me something child-like.