Percy Jackson has left the building. But that doesn’t mean Rick Riordan and his army of readers can’t still have fun with the Gods of Mount Olympus.
The school teacher turned blockbuster author appeared to have consigned Percy the demigod to history with 2009’s The Last Olympian. But authors hate to completely leave a world they’ve created so carefully and despite launching a new trilogy, The Kane Chronicles, inspired by Egyptian mythology, Rick has been lured back to Camp Half-Blood.
“I felt very strongly that if I carried on indefinitely that eventually I’d get tired of the Percy Jackson books and that the readers would too,” Rick says.
“That’s why I gave him his good strong ending at the end of book five. But I was also aware that the readers wanted to find out what happened next and that many of them weren’t ready to say goodbye to that world.
“So I began scheming and planning ways in which I could return to that world – but through a new lens, a fresh perspective. The Heroes of Olympus features three new characters – Jason, Piper and Leo – who alternate in telling different aspects of the story. They gave me the chance to reinvent the world, and to give it some twists that kept me interested and hopefully that keeps the readers interested as well.”
Not that Percy, the son of Poseidon and a New York housewife, is at all forgotten. “This isn’t a years after, epilogue type of story,” Rick concedes. “We pick up the action almost immediately after the previous books.” As this book gets off to an explosive start, Percy has mysteriously disappeared just three days earlier. The new characters find themselves thrust into his vacuum, and have to get to know his old buddies, including Annabeth (daughter of Athena) and Chiron (the ancient, scholarly Centaur).
Riordan’s twist this time out is that he is taking these books in a Roman direction. The Greek gods were adopted by Rome and renamed – Zeus became Jupiter, Hera became Juno and so on – but they were also given distinct characters. It is these quite different personalities that come to the fore in this planned trilogy.
“We tend to study the Greeks and Romans clumped together – but the Greco-Roman world is a misnomer, they were very different. The Greeks were Roman for much longer than they were Greek, almost,” he observes.
“As Roman Gods they reflected a different set of priorities and values. The Greeks gave us great architecture and wonderful art and drama - and all these wonderful artistic endeavours. The Romans gave us the idea of government, bureaucracy and military discipline, they were a very practical people.
“They admired the Greeks but they also looked down on them because the Greeks didn’t have their ambition.... the Greeks couldn’t help being impressed by the Romans but thought of them as crass barbarians.”
A bit like Britain and America then? He laughs: “A little bit. And it’s a pattern I’m sure we’ll see repeated again and again.”
Heroes of Olympus: The Lost Hero by Rick Riordan is out now Puffin £12.99. This interview appears in Big Issue Scotland magazine