Rick Riordan and the persistence of the Minority Feisty

My nine year old daughter is tearing through the Rick Riordan books for the third time. Third time. She’s obsessed. She reads them at breakfast and then in the car on the way to school. She’ll forget the book at school and beg me to go to the bookstore down the street and buy her another because she can’t imagine getting through the night without huddling under her covers, reading, with her flashlight. Of course, I refuse, so she calls up her seven year old cousin who is also addicted and asks to borrow it. She won’t give it up because she’s reading it.

Middle Grade experts recommended that I read Rick Riordan since I am writing an MG book and he has “perfect pacing.”

I read the first three and liked them very much. The characters and stories are compelling, and I’ve always loved Greek Mythology, though there is a challenge for female characters in a series based on legends of a patriarchy. That patriarchy is not something in the background but an integral part of the narrative. In the three books I read, there is a lot of talk about “the big three:” Zeus, Poseidon, and Hades. When I blogged about Lightning Thief, I rated it ***H***.

There is a strong female character, Annabeth. It is striking how similar the gender ratio and relationships are to the Harry Potter series: two boys and a girl who are BFFs. This is the essence of the Minority Feisty set up: there is a girl and she is strong, so we can all sigh with relief, but she is not the protagonist. She helps the male on his quest.

I know, don’t judge a book by its cover, but but there are so many Riordan books, and so many covers. Let’s check them out and see what they have in common.

The Lightning Thief:


Here’s the movie poster from 2010:


Sea of Monsters, the second book in the series:


Here’s the movie poster, coming out this year and shown in Reel Girl’s Gallery of Girls Gone Missing From Children’s Movies in 2013. On Google, you can find posters with Annabeth, but I doubt that is the version our kids will see around town. This movie, like the Harry Potter movies, prominently displays the male protag’s name.

Percy Jackson 2 Sea of Monsters

Next in the series is The Titan’s Curse and the cover shows a solo male astride a magical creature. It’s a beautiful, exciting image and a thrill females in the imaginary world rarely get to experience:


Battle of the Labyrinth:


The Last Olympian:


So that’s the first Riordan series: 5 books, 2 movies, male protag/ male star, male solo on 4 out of 5 books. Male’s name in the title every time. Once again, I am a fan of Riordan. These books are great. But just imagine your kids– girls and boys– getting the opportunity to read a fantasy series of 5 books with a female protag, her female BFF and male BFF helping her on her quest. And just to be clear, this series is the definition quest narrative.

Girls fare better in the Egypt series: The Red Pyramid is narrated by siblings Sadie and Carter. Though there are more males than females, there is another very cool female, Zia. I wish the book was all about her. The cover is good, too. Sadie makes it on, though behind Carter.

Riordan_Red pyramid

And now, my favorite Riordan cover: Throne of Fire.



The Serpent’s Shadow also has a pretty great cover:


The next Riordan series, Heroes of Olympus, goes back to the standard Minority Feisty imagery. Here’s the first cover. See those three on the cover? They are not Percy, Annabeth, and Gus. They are Jason, Piper, and Leo. Guess who the protag is?

The Lost Hero

In Son of Neptune, Percy is the protag again, and this time, his friends are Hazel and Frank. It’s remarkable how consistent, persistent, and repetitive the Minority Feisty model is in the imaginary world.


Are you ready for the next one, and this is the BEST one, really according to my daughter and her aunt: Mark of Athena. YAY. A female makes it into the title! There are 7 main characters in this one and 3 are female. Less than half, so still the Minority Feisty, but not a bad showing for the consistent sexism in fantasy kidworld, right? But check out the cover:


WTF? No girl riding a pegasus and the owl of Athena fading into the background. ARGH!




12 thoughts on “Rick Riordan and the persistence of the Minority Feisty

  1. I find the lack of concern over a child who just lost his mom, equally upsetting and patriarchal. No one seems to care at all that the only family member Percy had growing up is gone. The story is exciting, but I told my son I would only read the first Patriarchy Jackson book with him, he’s on his own for the rest of the series. The movie is considerably more sexist and awful. I am not a fan…at all. For kids a little older, Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor is amazing. Her adult books are great too.

  2. i cant help but disagree, all the girls introduced are strong characters that often go against their own supposed personalities i.e. child of aphrodite is a tomboy. And as you go along you find the leader of the Romans is a girl and the 2nd an evil ass of a boy. This minority is very common in friendships as well. But what tips it is that the author is male and thus would understand and write from a male perspective much better than a female. And to do this with a greek and Roman patriarchal background and make nearly all the woman strong and special, especially the new oracle of delphi. You have to understand that stand that logically Rick is doing and working with what he kows and is researched by its own mythology. Read Patricia Briggs Mercy Thompson series and you’ll see more of a womans perspective because she is a female author. Rick does not downplay any of the females usefulness or even advanced maturity with many times the girls shaking their heads at the boys immaturity or need to hit things.
    Also growing up the male to female ratio was always skewed in the males favor, but not by any choice, it just happened that way, just as it happens the other nowadays with a large group of girls with some boys tagging along. They were just people with personalities that worked well together.

  3. Hi Margot,

    Have you seen the trailers for Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters? As far as I can tell the impetus for Percy’s quest is his refusal to accept that the daughter of Athena is chosen to face off against Kronos because she is widely acknowledged as the best of the demi-gods.

  4. i need book 3,4,5 i am getting so upset that i don’t have it and i need more movie of percy jackson too !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  5. I love fanfiction and the idea of authors reusing plots and ideas in any context to further our appreciation and understanding of our lives and our literary tradition. I think the idea of each successive generation building upon the work of the past is spectacular. But, I have to say it still bugs the hell out of me that Rick Riordan basically seems like a fanfiction writer who has written a Greek mythology/fantasy crossover with his own original characters. Invent your own characters separate from the mythology? Fine. Invent characters who are the children of the protagonists of a story who are awesome and celebrated for their complete awesomeness? Now, you’ve lost me.

    I know his books have introduced a lot of young people to Greek mythology so I kind of wanted to at least give them a chance but this article has dissuaded me from doing so.

  6. I think we’ve discussed here before how disturbing I found the narrative pattern in Battle of the Labyrinth, which is the only one I’ve read. It was officially Annabeth’s quest, but Percy keeps taking over, giving orders, ignoring hers, making the decisions, and no one EVER tells him to pull his bloody head in.

    • Hi Orlando,

      Yes, I think you wrote that when I blogged about Lighting Thief, and that made me not want to read it. Thanks for your comments again.


  7. I’m a big fan of the Harry Potter books, and have read them all. I remember when Percy Jackson came out and started getting famous, but i never give a chance to that book, because i though it was going to be the same has Harry Potter. Now i know the true reason i never give a chance to this books was because i knew it would be a story about a male protagonist and any female would be side kick or love interests.
    Last year i got addicted to The Hunger Games books, (not a book for children, i know), but the fact that the main character is female is one of the reasons i love the books and the movies, problably if the protagonist was a boy i wouldn’t watch it, i guess, me and many other women/girls, got sick of always reading a book, watchign a movie from the male perspective, even if the book/movie is great, it piss me off the lack of female protagonist, i’m done with sidekicks/love interests female characters, even if they are great characters, they’re not the main character, and being the main character is pretty important when you barely see girls/women in that position on adventure/action books/movies.

    • Hi Osakadaloh,

      Couldn’t agree more with everything you wrote. i do like the Percy Jackson but so sick of the Minority Feisty bullshit.


    • I’ve also read all the Harry Potter books. I received the first four in a set for Christmas and I was hooked. I don’t think her writing is stellar though her worldbuilding is very impressive. But I feel like when the series started both the books and the movies put Hermione at the frontlines and as it continued she fell further and further into sidekick/helper status.

      • Hi Cat,

        I think JK Rowling is amazing at plotting and writing scary scenes. I’ll let you know how I feel about the evolution of Herminone when I’m done.


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