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!




The Lightning Thief ***H***

My agent suggested that I read The Lightning Thief because I’m writing a Middle Grade book and the pacing in this MG series is considered perfect.

The books are exciting page turners. I also adore this series because it’s all about the gods and goddesses from the Greek myths (existing above modern day Manhattan.) I loved the Greek myths as a kid and love them now. I’ve heard the Greek myths described as the narratives of the patriarchy taking over the matriarchy. I don’t know if that’s true, but I can see why the theory exists. There are many strong, cool females in those myths– many more than we have in books or movies that dominate the culture in 2012. The women of the Greek myths are also beautiful and smart and strong– a combination pretty forbidden nowadays. But the men rule. That is true in this series as well.

Our hero is Percy. He is the son of Poseidon, the sea god. Percy, like all heroes, is a half-blood: half god and half human. I like this kid. He’s smart, funny, resourceful, sweet, and humble. He, like many modern day heroes in kidworld, has a smart, strong girl sidekick: Annabeth, daughter of Athena. She helps him along on his quest. There’s quite a lot of talk in this book about “the big three:” Zeus, Poseidon, and Hades. Those are the three most powerful gods whose children are the most powerful heroes. If you read this series with your kids, I suggest discussing with them why the goddesses aren’t allowed to be in the big three and why that’s not fair, beyond their specific roles in the myths.

Besides Annabeth, there are other strong females in this series.

I recommend reading it to your sons and daughters. I’d love to recommend many more companion books where the boys help the girls along on their quests.

My eight year daughter tore through this series and said she liked it better than Harry Potter (but that could’ve been because she was done with HP– she lives in the present.)

Reel Girl rates The Lighting Thief ***H***