Check out our episode here! (featuring The Lightning Thief, The Sea of Monsters and The Titan's Curse) The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan
Percy Jackson is twelve years old, has ADHD and dyslexia, and has been expelled from six schools. He really tries not to cause trouble, but things always seem to go wrong around him. Case in point, the current boarding school field trip to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. While Mr. Brunner, his Latin teacher, is awesome, Mrs. Dodds, the math teacher, is evil, and not in the usual give-you-detention-for-no-reason way. She lures Percy into the museum alone then transforms into some kind of creature from the Greek stories Mr. Brunner makes him read and attacks.
Luckily, during this attack, Mr. Brunner appears and tosses Percy a ballpoint pen that magically turns into a sword. With it, Percy is able to slay Mrs. Dodds and everything seemingly goes back to normal, except all the other students believe that someone named Mrs. Kerr is actually the math teacher. Huh? Only Grover, Percy’s best friend, seems aware that Mrs. Dodds was real, but he won’t talk about her. As the school year progresses, Percy’s grades slip, and he gets expelled and sent home, and Grover decides to accompany him. The Greyhound bus Percy and Grover are riding home breaks down, of course. Exiting the bus, they spot a fruit stand where three old ladies are knitting and cutting thread. Grover freaks out over this and asks if he can walk Percy home, Percy however ditches Grover, and heads home alone.
Percy’s mom, Sally, is married to Smelly Gabe, a truly terrible human being who hates Percy and makes Sally work her fingers to the bone while he sits at home playing poker with his smelly friends. Sally announces she and Percy are going to Montauk for the weekend, just the two of them, where they can eat blue pancakes and candy to their heart's content. With the echoes of Smelly Gabe's warnings to Percy about not trashing his car even though he’s twelve and won’t be driving, they head off for their vacation. It starts out like a normal vacation to the beach and they talk of Percy’s biological father who left when Sally was pregnant. Suddenly a hurricane cuts their conversation short and Grover shows up, who now has the lower body of a goat, and declares that “he” is after them. Sally and Grover try valiantly to get Percy to a place where he’ll be safe, but lightning strikes the car and a Minotaur attacks them and Grover gets hurt. Yes, a Minotaur. Percy and Sally try to get Grover past a huge pine tree, but the Minotaur snatches Sally causing her to dissolve. Percy is able to slay the Minotaur, cutting off one of its horns before passing out.
When Percy wakes, Grover takes him to a place called The Big House to meet Mr. D, the director at the camp they made it to, which was just past the pine tree. Mr. D is with Mr. Brunner, but Mr. Brunner says that isn’t his real name, he is actually the centaur Chiron. Mr. D is also the god of wine, Dionysus. Chiron explains that the Greek gods are real, that Mount Olympus is now in New York City, Grover is a satyr and Percy is the son of a god, they just don’t know which one yet. Welcome to Camp Half-Blood!
Chiron and a girl named Annabeth, a daughter of Athena, take Percy on a tour of the Camp, where the campers are all half-bloods, or demigods. Until Percy’s godly father is known, he will stay at the Hermes cabin, like all others who are unclaimed by a godly parent. It is here that Percy meets his counselor, Luke. He will later meet one of Ares’s daughters, Clarisse, who has a short temper and tries to shove Percy’s face in a toilet, however, somehow Percy is able to make the toilet water shoot back into her face. Annabeth and Percy discuss what’s going on as strange things are happening. Since the winter solstice, the weather makes it seem like the gods are fighting, Annabeth believes that something was stolen from the gods and she desperately wants to go on a quest to find it and prove her mettle.
Quickly, Percy falls into the routine of the camp, but he can’t help but feel that it’s possible that his mom is still alive but imprisoned in the Underworld and he needs to free her. He also begins to see that some kids, like Luke, resent their immortal parents for not being part of their lives. He understands, he still doesn’t know who his own father is. Like many others, he hasn’t been claimed. Odd things like being naturally good at canoeing and pulling off tricky sword maneuvers despite being soaking wet still don’t clue him in. Grover tells Percy about his assignment to protect him, and that it isn’t over yet. Grover also tells Percy why there are no children of Zeus, Hades or Poseidon, The Big Three, at camp though there are representative cabins for them. After World War II, in which their children caused quite a few of the problems, the three promised not to father more children. Zeus, of course, messed up seventeen years ago and had a daughter named Thalia, but monsters attacked her, Luke and Annabeth as they tried to make it to camp. Thalia sacrificed herself to keep the monsters back and Zeus transformed her into the great pine tree that helps protect the border. There is a prophecy that everyone fears which says that a child of one of The Big Three will help Kronos destroy Olympus.
Campers at Camp Half-Blood regularly play Capture the Flag, and Annabeth has invited Percy to join her team. She assigns him to stand guard by a stream. Clarisse and other children of Ares attack Percy, but when he falls into the water, he regains his strength and is able to fight them. During the skirmish, his team wins. Immediately after, a hellhound attempts to kill Percy, and a trident appears above Percy’s head. This can only mean one thing… that Percy is the son of Poseidon. Oh, this can’t be good… but at least he gets his own cabin.
During the night, Percy dreams of two men fighting and in the morning, he receives a quest. Chiron tells him that Poseidon and Zeus are fighting because Zeus’s thunderbolt is missing and he believes Percy took it. Chiron takes Percy to the Big House attic and tells him to speak to the Oracle who is a spirit inhabiting a horrific mummified body. The Oracle says that Percy will go west to face a god who turned, that he’ll find and return what was stolen, that a friend will betray him, and that he’ll fail at what matters most.
Chiron says that Percy must journey to the Underworld and retrieve the thunderbolt from Hades’ possession because he probably has it. The Underworld is, of course, located in Los Angeles. Percy instantly thinks this is his opportunity to rescue his mom. Grover and Annabeth will aid Percy in his quest and before they leave, Luke gifts Percy a pair of winged shoes that Percy passes on to Grover. As the son of Poseidon and the number one lightning thief suspect, it is advisable that he avoid the skies since that is Zeus’ domain and Zeus hates him. Chiron also has a gift for Percy, his pen, which transforms into a sword called Riptide. He has been keeping it safe for a child of Poseidon.
Percy, Grover and Annabeth take a bus to LA as the faster method of flying is clearly not possible. On the bus, the Furies attack and ask where “it” is. Percy, Annabeth and Grover manage to escape and hike through the middle of nowhere until they reach Aunty Em’s Garden Gnome Emporium. Grover insists that he can smell monsters and one gnome has a striking resemblance to his Uncle Ferdinand, but Annabeth and Percy are single-mindedly intent on the delicious free burgers Aunty Em, the owner, is giving them. Aunty Em is somewhat a strange figure, she is dressed in a long gown with a veil covering her face. The delicious food starts making Percy sleepy and content, then Aunty Em asks to take their photo in order to capture them as gnomes. Percy agrees despite Grover's protests, but realizes as she is posing them that Aunty Em is actually Medusa, that her garden statues are petrified people, and yes that really is Grover’s Uncle Ferdinand. Percy is able to slay Medusa with Riptide and careful use of reflective garden ornaments. He then mails Medusa’s head to Mount Olympus.
That night, Grover tells Percy that it’s his dream to become a searcher. Millennia ago, the god Pan was lost and now, a satyr may apply for a searcher license to be given permission to go looking for him. Though no satyr has ever come back from their search, and yes Uncle Ferdinand was a searcher, Grover is confident he will succeed. They also discuss the Furies and come to the conclusion that they aren’t searching for Percy, rather something. Later, Percy has another vivid dream, this time of a voice in a horrible pit that tries to use Percy to drag itself out. The next morning, they are able to catch the train to Denver. On a layover in St. Louis, Annabeth insists they visit the Gateway Arch. While Percy doesn’t like the idea, he goes along. They are ride to the top in the elevator with a woman and her Chihuahua. Obviously this is no ordinary woman and her dog, and when Grover and Annabeth head back down, the woman turns into Echidna and the Chihuahua turns into the Chimera. In order to escape, Percy dives off the monument and into the Mississippi River. While in the water, he receives a message. He must go to Santa Monica beach before going into the Underworld, and he mustn’t trust the gifts.
With seven days to complete their quest, Percy, Grover and Annabeth arrive in Denver. They check in with Camp Half-Blood using an Iris message, a sort of video call using rainbows. Percy speaks to Luke and tells him about his dreams. What do they mean? Is he on the right track? Luke is sure that Hades stole the bolt and that he is heading in the right direction, but he mentions something odd about no one turning into a pine tree. After their call, they head to a diner where a seriously built biker walks in and offers to pay for their meal. The biker is Ares, the god of war, and he needs Percy to do him a favor. He wants Percy to fetch his shield from a waterpark, he kinda left it there after a hook up with Aphrodite, and in exchange, he will transport them to LA. Percy agrees but only when Ares says he has information about his mom. At the waterpark, Percy discovers Ares’s shield in a ride, but when he touches the shield, he sees live images of Mount Olympus. He is not happy that Ares tricked them, but he accepts Ares’s offer of a backpack with food and clothes and information that his mom isn’t dead.
Sharing a truck with three abused zoo animals, Percy, Grover and Annabeth continue their journey west. Percy tells the others about Luke’s strange pine tree comment and Annabeth and Grover explain what happened to Thalia. A short time later, Percy and Annabeth are talking about the animosity between Poseidon and Athena, they fought once, does the Trojan War sound familiar? but the worry is they will fight again. They promise that no matter what may happen with their parents, they will fight together. That night, Percy has another dream about the voice in the pit, but this time, there is a second voice, and he recognizes it.
When they reach Las Vegas the following day, Percy lets his traveling companions go free. The animals, not Grover and Annabeth. They check into the Lotus Hotel where they are given a luxury suite and unlimited charge cards which they take full advantage of in the games hall. It takes a while but Percy realizes that not everything is as it should be. Some of the kids playing games are dressed weird and use out of date slang. He works out that the kids are being hypnotized and that some have been there for decades. Percy is able to drag Annabeth and Grover out of the hotel and discovers they now have only one day left to complete their quest. Percy has also lost his recollections of his dream. Hailing a taxi and charging the fare to one of the Lotus Hotel cards, they make it to LA and Santa Monica. Percy wades out into the ocean where he meets a sea spirit, Nereid, whose voice he recognizes from his dive into the Mississippi. Nereid gives Percy three pearls, with the advice that, if he ever needs help, all he has to do is smash one.
The Underworld is obscured by a recording studio, and as they are trying to sneak in, Percy, Annabeth and Grover are caught by Crusty, the monster Procrustes, who stretches or cuts people to fit on six-foot-long mattresses. Percy is able to trick Crusty into his own trap and cuts off his head with Riptide, he is then able to free Annabeth and Grover. In the lobby of the Underworld, Mr. Charon, NOT Chiron!, refuses to take Percy to the Underworld until Percy tells Hades to give Charon a raise. Annabeth is then able to get them past Cerberus, the three-headed dog, by playing fetch with him. Then they enter Hades’s palace. Unfortunately as Grover steps inside, his shoes, or Luke's shoes, sprout wings and carry him away, straight to the pit from Percy’s dreams. Grover escapes because the shoes fit poorly around his hooves. Finally, they come face to face with Hades.
Percy demands Hades return Zeus’ thunderbolt and begs Hades to not start a war. Hades insists that he doesn’t want a war, the Underworld has too many dead people already! Hades then admits that his own magical object, the Helm of Darkness, is missing. Oh no. Hades thinks Percy has both the helm and the thunderbolt, so he conjures Sally and threatens to kill her if Percy doesn’t return them. Percy then looks into the backpack Ares gave him and discovers the thunderbolt inside. Annabeth and Grover are willing to sacrifice themselves for Sally by taking her place in order to save her, but Percy knows that his mom would never forgive him if he allowed that. Instead, Percy gives his friends the pearls from the sea spirit, and they are able to escape through the ocean. Percy promises to come back for his mom.
Ares is on the beach and reveals that he set Percy up with the thunderbolt (obviously) he wants a war (again, obviously) oh, and he also has the Helm of Darkness. Percy challenges Ares to a fight and believes he can win because he suspects that the being in the pit from his dreams and in the Underworld is actually controlling Ares. Percy is able to injure Ares, but a dark force passing through actually ends the fight. Media and police swarm the scene and they are able to sell the fight as “rescue." All the while Percy has been at Camp Half-Blood and traveling across the country, Smelly Gabe has been talking to reporters about how much of a criminal Percy is, how he probably hurt his mom, ran away and most horrifically of all, messed up his car. Percy tries to raise money for airplane tickets back to New York by telling the reporters he was kidnapped and Smelly Gabe will be so happy to have him back if only he could afford the flight, and as a thank you to the people of LA, Smelly Gabe will give them all one free electrical appliance from his store. Money is raised, plane tickets bought, a hair-raising cross-country flight occurs, and Percy, Annabeth and Grover make it back to New York with Zeus's thunderbolt in a backpack. Hades' Helm is returned to him by the Furies.
In New York, Percy goes alone to the Empire State Building. When he reaches the throne room of Olympus, he bows to Poseidon, who seems distant, before showing deference to Zeus. Percy returns Zeus’s thunderbolt and tells Zeus everything, including about what’s in the pit in the Underworld, then Zeus suddenly disappears. Poseidon confirms that Kronos, his, Hades’ and Zeus’s father, lives in that pit. Poseidon unsuccessfully tries to convince Percy that Kronos is powerless, as Percy’s dreams tell him otherwise. Poseidon also lets Percy know that his mom is back home. Percy leaves, and on his way out, Poseidon praises him.
Percy returns back to Smelly Gabe's apartment and his mom is there. Smelly Gabe seems more vicious than usual, especially when Percy realizes that he’s been hitting his mom. In his bedroom, Percy finds a package, the same one he sent to Olympus from Aunty Em’s, and it is unopened. Percy tells Sally what’s in the box, Medusa’s head, and leaves it in her care as he returns to Camp Half-Blood. Back at the camp, Percy has to say goodbye to Grover who has received his license and will be leaving for his search for Pan. Percy also receives a letter from his mom who has sold her first and what will be her only sculpture (yes, it’s petrified Smelly Gabe) and is going to use the money to pay for college. She also offers to let Percy live at home to attend school and spend summers at Camp Half-Blood.
The summer is over and the last morning of camp rolls around. Percy still hasn’t decided what to do, should he become an all year rounder like Annabeth, or return to his mom and the new school she has found that will accept him despite his many expulsions? He agrees to go monster hunting with Luke in the woods as a distraction where Luke reveals that he’s a double agent who is actually working for Kronos! Luke stole the thunderbolt during a field trip to Mount Olympus and he also stole the Helm. To dispose of Percy, he sets a pit scorpion loose, which will cause a horrible, painful death. Percy manages to defeat the scorpion and runs to the Big House. Chiron convinces Percy that he can’t do anything about Luke or Kronos at the moment, but knows that Percy will be a great hero one day. Percy decides to go home for the year, and to his surprise, so is Annabeth. She’s going to try to live at home with her dad and her half-siblings. As he gets ready to leave, Percy promises Poseidon that he’ll return next summer.