It doesn't exactly rip off J K Rowling, but it's clearly inspired by it. Percy Jackson is a 12 year old boy who has been in trouble his whole life. One fine day, it is revealed that he's actually a demigod, son of a Greek god and a human woman, and he's already in trouble. Time to step up and be hero... or something like that. Of course, he has two other friends - one boy and one girl, to help him on his quest. Hmm, I sense the author came close to be being sued by Rowling.
The author, Rick Riordan, makes clever use of Greek mythology all through the book, weaving in the characters almost every other chapter. This ploy is also what differentiates the book from the Harry Potter series. It's not so much about magic as it is about adventure and combat. Of course, adventure and combat, especially with real weapons, would seem incongruous with a 12 year old protagonist, but that's a flaw I'm willing to overlook.
The further adventures of Percy Jackson as he finds a new friend and tries to rescue an old one. The comparisons to Harry Potter refuse to die down. It's almost like the plot of this series is Harry Potter going to magical summer camp after school ends instead of his Aunt and Uncle. Still, it's a good ride and numerous characters from Greek mythology pop up to keep things interesting. Of course, the bigger story is starting to take shape, one involving a vanquished foe, a young hero and a prophecy. Sound familiar?
Percy Jackson's best friend Annabeth has been kidnapped and with a little prodding from Aphrodite, he's beginning to realise his deeper feelings for her. Meanwhile, Artemis, goddess of the hunt has also been kidnapped and then forced into a burdensome situation, pun intended. The hunters and the inhabitants of Camp Half Blood join forces and to rescue them both.
Finally, Rick Riordan breaks free of the J K Rowling comparisons with this book and the series acquires an unique identity of it's own. Lots more characters of Greek Mythology pop up on the way, adding to the great number we've already encountered in the first two books. In this third book, Rick Riordan is getting increasingly deft in using them for plot material as well as building up their characters. Combine that with the fast paced story and this book is a very enjoyable read.
Camp Half Blood, the only place Percy Jackson feels at home is threatened by the presence of a door to the Labyrinth of Crete within it's borders. Their enemies can use the labyrinth to bypass all the magical protections for the camp. Percy follows his friend Annabeth in a quest to find Daedalus, the creator of the labyrinth and safeguard the camp.
As with it's predecessor, The Titan's Curse, this book moves far away from the long shadow of Harry Potter and continues to find it's own identity and style. The author, Rick Riordan, continues to plumb the depths of Greek mythology for characters and locations (all of which have conveniently moved to the US of A, along with the centre of Western civilization), with good effect.
The story is nicely set up for the fifth and final book in the series, The Last Olympian, with Kronos finally back from the dead and the Olympian gods already at war.
The Camp Half Blood series comes to an end with this book. Percy Jackson is about to turn 16 and the full words of the great prophecy are revealed to him. Kronos launches his final attack on New York / Mount Olympus. While the gods are occupied fighting the monster Typhon in the mid-west, it's up to Percy Jackson and all his friends at Camp Half Blood to defend Manhattan from Kronos and his minions.
The book brings things to an end without falling into the trap of making things too simple. Rick Riordan might weave his story with battles and adventures but his heart, and consequently the heart of the book, is with themes of home and family. The motivation of all the half-blood heroes, on both sides, ultimately comes down to family as well.
Riordan takes a kitchen sink approach to his continued plundering of Greek mythology in the book. Unlike the previous two books, he doesn't quite have the cohesiveness or novelty here. Instead he pretty much throws in every hero and monster from the rest of the series into this book. I guess it was inevitable at some point, but it it still a wee bit disappointing considering his inventiveness thus far.
All in all, Rick Riordan does a great job over the course of the five books. He keeps things interesting all through. By the third book, he's mastered the art of twisting Greek mythology to the needs of his story. Finally, he closes it out with a sense of purpose in this book.
The Camp Half Blood series, starring Percy Jackson, written by Rick Riordan.