By Janie Walenda
Long before I made movies and television my entire personality, I was a massive bookworm. My mom always had the slightly nice, but still annoying problem of constantly telling her kids, “Can you put down the book for one second and set the table.” And while I am a lifelong fan of all the “Anne of Green Gables” books, the Percy Jackson series was the first modern series that I became properly obsessed with.
My journey with the books is common to many of my peers; become obsessed with “Percy Jackson and the Olympians,” enjoy the sequel series “Heroes of Olympus,” and embark on the optional sidequest of becoming obsessed with “The Kane Chronicles” only to fall off the bandwagon with“Magnus Chase” or “Trials of Apollo.” But author Rick Riordan’s latest installment, “Chalice of the Gods,” returns to the beloved format and characters of the original “Percy Jackson and the Olympians” series. But as much as this entry is a nostalgic kick in the pants, there’s a surprise nestled in the layers of sarcasm and shenanigans: an emotionally resonant and relatable thematic storyline.
But first, the sarcasm and shenanigans. The return to Percy’s first-person POV also means the return to the constant snarky commentary that fans fell in love with. I already shared my book with three different people, and all of us reported laughing out loud multiple times. While it certainly feels more childish now that I’m older, it’s such an effective recreation of the original series that it maintains the charm of rereading a childhood favorite, despite being a brand-new book.
The real hook of “Chalice of the Gods,” however, is the reunion of the main trio Percy, Annabeth and Grover. Their dynamic does reflect the character’s growth since “The Last Olympian” while still feeling true to their interactions in the original series. Seeing these characters deal with a “routine” quest opens up a lot of fun scenarios, oftentimes being self-aware of what their next steps will be or how certain characters are likely to react. Seeing them handle new adventures that are firmly in their element is a nice change of pace from the typical chaos of heroes thrown in over their heads.
This is helped by the book’s smaller-scale plot, as there is not a whiff of doomsday found anywhere in the pages. Instead, the story is fairly straightforward: Percy needs reference letters from the gods to get into college at New Rome, and of course, the only way to get those letters is by completing potentially murderous quests. Along the way, somewhere in between the killer chickens and brunch invasions, the trio learns a heartwarming lesson about growing up.
Triteness aside, it’s this lesson that took me the most off-guard. While Riordan’s past books always had themes and morals, this is the first time I’ve seen him build the story and quests around the theme. His other books are very firmly in the category of action-adventure children’s and teen’s novels, but “Chalice of the Gods” also feels like a myth of its own packed with nuance and meaning.
Percy’s primary goal in this story is to go to college, something I’m going to assume most of us share. But as the story goes on, even as he’s in the middle of risking life and limb for his recommendation letters, he realizes what leaving for college is really going to mean. It means that no matter how many times he visits, his home is no longer with his family in New York. It means that his family will go through life without him, and he’ll miss out on watching their lives grow and change. This revelation is actually enough to even make him consider not going to college. Turns out that even after fighting monsters on the regular, growing up is still scary for everyone.
The Percy Jackson books were always meant for kids and teenagers, and “Chalice of the Gods” is no different. After almost twenty years since “The Lightning Thief” came out, countless kids grew up with these books and many are still just as in love with the series as they were at the age of twelve. And so, in many ways “Chalice of the Gods” feels as though it was written directly to these fans. But beyond just returning to the formula of the original series, Riordan uses this book to remind us that the growth we’ve had since we were kids is something to celebrate, and that it’s not just okay to grow old, but that it is actually something to embrace.
Janie Walenda is a junior Global Business major and the A&E editor for Cedars. She is passionate about musicals, animation and cold brew. When she isn’t obsessing over her own nerdy interests, she’s usually absorbing her friends’ nerdy interests.
Image courtesy of Disney Hyperion.