Percy Jackson's Greek Heroes

Book review by
Carrie R. Wheadon, Common Sense Media
Percy Jackson's Greek Heroes Book Poster Image
Often tragic, often bloody stories with a fun Percy twist.

Parents say

age 12+
Based on 4 reviews

Kids say

age 9+
Based on 7 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

In-depth profiles of 12 Greek heroes, plus two very helpful two-page-spread maps to show readers where the heroes lived, performed their feats, and suffered various trials. An extensive index shows you where to look for minor characters, specific deeds, mentions of gods, places, and more. Includes some background of life during the time of the ancient Greeks, especially how difficult life was for women.

Positive Messages

The biggest takeaway: Being a hero doesn't make you faultless. Many -- especially Hercules -- make huge mistakes and atone for them and become heroic again. Some perform heroic deeds and, because of some fatal flaw, die in disgrace. Often the fatal flaw is too much pride, sometimes it's simple recklessness and impulsivity, sometimes it's jealousy or anger.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The heroic -- saving the masses from murderous, rampaging beasts especially -- mixes with the truly shocking -- such as murdering one's family in a rage or pushing someone off a cliff. What makes many of these characters heroes is how they atone for their misdeeds. Many still meet inglorious ends when they can't overcome their fatal flaws. Also, the author takes pains to include four female heroes in the group of 12, pointing out that most of them didn't get their due at the time.

Violence

A hero's work back in ancient Greece had quite a body count. Much of the worst of the recounting comes with a quick "gross-out" warning from Percy, the narrator. The worst of it includes killing one's own family in jealous rages. (Worst: Medea kills her own sons to punish Jason; Theseus kills his son out of jealously; Hercules takes out his family in a sudden rage more than once.) Heads (including Medusa's) and body parts are hacked off on about five occasions. (Worst: Daughters are tricked into hacking up their father.) A necklace is made of ears, noses, and hands of enemies, and there's a rumor Amazon warriors cut off one of their breasts so they could shoot a bow and throw a spear better. Some people are killed with scalding water or poison on the skin, many are clubbed to death by Hercules' metal club, some are pushed off cliffs or sacrificed, many are killed in wars (especially with the Amazons), Atalanta stabs to death hordes of men in a contest to win her affections, the Minotaur (after growing up being tortured) gets his horn torn off and is gored by it. Some receive horrible news and either hang themselves or throw themselves off cliffs. Talk of a village of women who kill all their husbands that led to warriors being called Amazons. And many mentions of babies left in the woods to die.  

Sex

Plenty of talk of gods falling for mortals and having affairs with them without much detail. Mention that Hercules took women as "spoils of war." A mention of "godly body fluid" on a hankie that gave birth to a god. A big "gross-out alert" from Percy about Pasiphae's affair with a bull (Aphrodite tricked her into it). A couple rolls around and kisses in front of Zeus' altar. The Amazons "got chummy with" Gargareans at a "sleepover party" once a year and had babies nine months later.

Language

"To Hades with it" comes up a few times; "airhole," "butt-brain," "hella," "hussy."

Consumerism

Quick mentions used for humor since we're talking about Ancient Greece: iPhone, the game Hungry Hungry Hippos, Yelp, Amazon, Foot Locker, Adidas, Starbucks.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

A few times, heavy drinking leads to fighting and killing. Theseus goes out drinking with the wrong crowd. Centaurs get drunk and fight. Talk of the wine god and his followers.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson's Greek Heroes is a hefty gift-size volume that profiles 12 heroes, as narrated by Percy Jackson from the bestselling series. It helps a little to read the Percy Jackson books first and the companion gift-size book Percy Jackson's Greek Gods. If they do so, readers will instantly connect with the narrator and get his sometimes sardonic, sometimes goofy sense of humor. As in Greek Gods, Percy's wit helps smooth things over when the content gets mature. These heroes are not flawless mortals -- far from it. The body count is high. The worst of it includes killing one's own family (Medea kills her sons to punish Jason, Theseus kills his son out of jealously, Hercules takes out his family in a sudden rage more than once). Heads (Medusa's and others') and body parts are hacked off on about five occasions. (Worst: Daughters are tricked into hacking up their father.) Many are killed in battle, and there's talk of babies left in the woods to die (although a she-bear found baby Atalanta and raised her). There's plenty of talk of gods and mortals having affairs without much detail and a big "gross-out" alert from Percy about Pasiphae's affair with a bull (Aphrodite tricked her into it). The Amazons "got chummy with" Gargareans at a "sleepover party" once a year and had babies nine months later. There's some drunkenness that often leads to fighting and killing with later regret. Kudos to author Riordan for the extra effort to include four female heroes in the dozen, while pointing out that at the time they didn't get their due. Parents should definitely read along with kids for a great refresher on all these legendary characters. You can talk about the hard lessons the heroes learn along the way, as well as each hero's fatal flaw and how it often leads to his or her undoing.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byKjbartolotta September 9, 2015

Fun, but lacking, introduction to mythology

As a part of the ever-expanding Percy Jackson brand this book is just fine, but as a primer on Greek heroes I find it somewhat lacking. Narrated by Percy himsel... Continue reading
Parent Written bySouad G. April 1, 2018

My 10-year old loves this!

My 13 and 10 year olds think this book is awesome! I personally have not read it but heard snippets. The book is based on Greek mythology, which makes for an ea... Continue reading
Kid, 8 years old April 9, 2017

This book is awesome!

I really enjoyed it because the stories of these mythological heroes are so entertaining! But it does have a lot of violence that will frighten young people. Th... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written byForeverMind September 19, 2018

Fun and (in a way) educative

It's a great book for kids. I read this when I was 12 and found it engaging as well as hilarious. Some stories are pretty gross if you think too much about... Continue reading

What's the story?

Demigod Percy Jackson offers up the stories of 12 heroes: Perseus, Psyche, Phaethon, Otrera, Daedalus, Theseus, Atalanta, Bellerophon, Cyrene, Orpheus, Hercules, and Jason. He relays the deeds these characters are still famous for today -- slaying the Minotaur, playing a mean lyre, founding the Amazons, retrieving the Golden Fleece, and more -- and, in equal measure, shows where they went wrong. Or, as Percy puts it in the introduction, how they "boldly screwed up where no one had screwed up before." Most stories in PERCY JACKSON'S GREEK HEROES end in tragedy, but not all do. At the end of Psyche's story, Percy marvels at the happy ending but promises the next hero he talks about -- Phaethon -- is a "total car wreck of a demigod." 

Is it any good?

If it's possible, this giant, brilliantly illustrated volume is even more absorbing than Percy's take on Greek gods. As in Percy Jackson's Greek Gods, we get the warts-and-all portraits, and there are plenty of warts. Who recalled Hercules had such an anger-management problem? Or that the brilliant inventor Daedalus had such a horrible jealous streak? Author Rick Riordan takes pains to include some fascinating women in the mix -- no doubt they were harder to research than the men, and the extra effort is appreciated. Atalanta and Otrera are especially fascinating as extreme Wonder Women whom no man dared mess with.

Two maps help orient the reader quite well in ancient times. And Percy's modern sardonic-teen voice keeps readers laughing and the pages turning, especially when the character names get unpronounceable and the subject matter gets either too gross or too grim. This is a great book for parents to enjoy right along with kids.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about fatal flaws. What are they? How do they lead to some heroes' undoing?

  • Were you surprised that characters called heroes could have such dark pasts? What makes someone a hero? (Percy asks if the character Daedalus is a hero. What do you think?)

  • Phineas, a gifted seer, was punished by Zeus for telling people their entire fates. Do you think Zeus was right? Would you like to know everything that's going to happen to you? How is this dangerous?

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