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The Science Survey

Book Review of ‘Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Chalice of the Gods’

Fourteen years after the release of ‘The Last Olympian,’ author Rick Riordan has published a new addition to ‘Percy Jackson and the Olympians.’ Demigods across the world have rejoiced over the release ‘The Chalice of the Gods,’ which follows protagonist Percy Jackson and the hoops he must jump through in order to get into college.
Sophia Markens
When I bought the Barnes and Noble exclusive edition of the ‘Chalice of the Gods,’ I received a free ‘camp half blood sticker’ with my purchase.

“Things couldn’t get worse when your parents run the universe.”

The lyrics to the 2014 musical adaptation of ‘The Lightning Thief still ring true to the life of our favorite Greek hero. Since his introduction in the 2005 book, ‘The Lighting Thief, Percy Jackson has appeared in dozens of books and gone on endless adventures. Just around eighteen years after we first met this character, it seems that Percy Jackson can not catch a break. 

Percy Jackson was originally conceived as a bedtime story for Rick Riordan’s eldest son Haley. Haley had requested that his father tell him stories about Greek gods and heroes, so Riordan compiled the knowledge of mythology that he had gained as a middle school teacher. During these story times, Riordan recalled a project he had once assigned his students where they created their own demigod and a quest. 

Riordan then began crafting the tale and character of Percy Jackson, who was meant to mirror his own son. Percy’s ADHD and dyslexia stem from Haley’s own diagnosis. Riordan wanted to create a way for Haley to see himself in more characters. Percy is a demigod, also referred to as a halfblood, the son of a mortal and Greek god of the sea, Poseidon. Percy lives in a twenty-first century world where the Greek Gods have immigrated to the West. Percy must face a plethora of Greek monsters in order to protect his life and to prevent the Titan Kronos from rising. With Haley’s encouragement, Riordan went on to write a full book, The Lightning Thief, based on the original bedtime story. Eventually, the book was picked up and sold to Miramax Books, allowing Riordan to leave his job and commit to writing more of Percy’s adventures. 

Pictured is author Rick Riordan at a book festival in 2007 promoting the fourth addition of ‘Percy Jackson and the Olympian,’ The Battle of the Labyrinth
(Photo Credit: Larry D. Moore, CC BY 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons)

The story of Percy Jackson became so beloved amongst readers that it expanded into a collection called the ‘Camp Halfblood Chronicles,containing three five-part book series, two short-story collections, two myth anthology books, a stand-alone short story, three crossover short stories, an essay collection, multiple guides, seven graphic novels, two films, a video game, a musical, and other media including a TV show coming to Disney+ on December 20th, 2023. Outside Greek mythology, Riordan also wrote trilogies about Egyptian and Norse mythology, both of which intertwined with Percy’s story and included several characters from the Camp Halfblood Chronicles. 

Aside from Percy making occasional appearances in the series ‘Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard’ and ‘The Trials of Apollo,’ and the occasional short story such as Un Natale Mezzosangue, most fans believed that Riordan was done writing Percy’s story. However, on May 20th, 2020, fans were thrilled to receive news that the original series was being adapted into a Disney+ television show. What fans did not expect was that a month after Disney dropped the first trailer on October 18th, 2022, Riordan announced a brand new novel following the trio from the original book, Percy and his best friends Annabeth and Grover.

*While extremely minimal, there are slight spoilers for ‘The Chalice of the Gods’ ahead*

The premise of the book was advertised as Percy having to go on quests for letters of recommendation from the Gods in order to get into New Rome University. At first, I was skeptical of this storyline, since previous books stated that the Romans had no contact with the gods. To my delight, ‘The Chalice of the Gods’ lacked major plot holes and quickly clarified that this stipulation was intended for Percy and Percy only, since he was never meant to be born. 

The ‘big three,’ aka Zeus, Poseidon and Hades, made an oath to no longer sire any children with mortals in order to prevent the events of a prophecy that predicted one of their children would either “preserve or raze” Olympus. Since Percy’s birth broke this pact, Zeus had an excuse to make life more difficult for his mortal nephew. Absurd as it may seem, it is fitting for Percy’s story as he is constantly being exploited by his immortal relatives, despite the fact that they owe him their lives several times over. 

Here is the sculpture ‘Ganymede with Jupiter’s Eagle’ by Bertel Thorvaldsen, located in the Thorvaldsen Museum, Copenhagen. (Photo Credit: Bertel Thorvaldsen, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons)

Being the iconic trio that they are, Percy’s girlfriend Annabeth and best friend Grover immediately sign themselves up to help Percy with this task, just as they did back in ‘The Lightning Thief.’ This book introduces the god Ganymede, cupbearer of Olympus, who begs Percy to find his stolen chalice in exchange for a letter of recommendation.

I was slightly taken aback by the tragic description of Ganymede’s tale. Ganymede was born mortal, but after his attractiveness caught Zeus’s eye, he was abducted, turned immortal, and made into the official cupbearer of the gods. In Riordan’s depiction of the character, Ganymede is clearly miserable in the role that was forced upon him, as a slave of the gods, and forever Zeus’s eye candy. 

Riordan has always highlighted some of the corruption of the gods, such as their blatant disregard for mortals and their children, so it was typical for him to once again bring up the downsides of immortality. What I was surprised to see was how he so blatantly hinted at the perverseness and power imbalances involved in Ganymede’s story. Since the series is aimed towards children, Riordan typically tones down some of the more raunchy and explicit parts of the original Greek myths. In this book, however, he freely depicts Zeus as the objectifier whom he is in the original Greek myths. Part of this is due to Riordan knowing he is writing to an older audience, since the readers of the original books have grown up. 

When I first heard about the premise of the book, I was excited to learn that my favorite childhood characters would be entering their senior year at the same time as me. Reading about Percy going through the college process while simultaneously experiencing it myself was an incredibly relatable experience. 

From the endless tasks of the college process to the general omission of important information from his guidance counselor, Riordan perfectly captured the stress and confusion of being a high school senior. Seeing the fumbling tween boy I met as an energetic child turn into an adult alongside me, as if we grew up together, was an incredible experience. It is fitting, as the series itself is 18 years old, that its new addition fully embraces the themes of maturity and growing up. 

A huge theme of the book is Percy’s acceptance of growing old. While Percy has lived the life of a champion, this is not the life that he desires; instead, he craves stability and normalcy. 

This new installation cements Percy’s wishes. He wants nothing more than to graduate from high school, to go to college with his girlfriend, and for them to grow old together. Percy accepts his mortality, and if anything, he cherishes it. It is clear through this book how much Percy has grown and matured since his first quest. 

Here is a self portrait of me reading the ‘Heroes of Olympus; The Lost’ at a Barnes and Nobel in 2015. (Sophia Markens)

Although readers knew the basic storyline going in, I was under the impression that this would be a stand-alone novel and the end of Percy’s story. The further I got into the book and the more I discovered that Percy was still on his first quest, I realized there was more to come as by the end of the book. Percy is still in need of two more godly recommendations. Sure enough, shortly after the release of ‘The Chalice of the Gods,’ Riordan announced the second installment in this journey, ‘Wrath of the Triple Goddess,’ during an event with Seattle Arts & Lectures. The book, due to be released on September 24th, 2024, will follow Percy on his quest for his next letter of recommendation. It can only be assumed that this storyline will turn into a trilogy, a book for each letter, and we will have a third book in the year following. 

Overall, I immensely enjoyed reading ‘The Chalice of the Gods.’ It is not as complex or impactful as Riordan’s previous novels, as it is more of a light read, filled with humor and nostalgia compared with its predecessors. For those who have read Riordan’s previous works, especially readers who are still in high school, I urge you to read the newest addition. The book somehow simultaneously brings you back to your childhood while also reminding you that you have have grown up. 

Seeing the fumbling tween boy I met as an energetic child turn into an adult alongside me, as if we grew up together, was an incredible experience.

About the Contributor
Sophia Markens, Staff Reporter
Sophia Markens is a Managing Editor and Social Media Editor for ‘The Science Survey.’ For the past two years, she has been writing and editing for the paper. She likes to express herself through creative writing and enjoys researching and reporting on new and interesting topics, along with being able to share her work and interest with readers. She finds journalistic photography appealing because it creates a lens into the mind of the writer, helping the readers to visualize their work. She loves spending time with her family and two kittens, along with getting boba with her best friend. She also loves to read and watch her favorite television shows such as Community, Fleabag and Yellowjackets. Her favorite thing to do is to travel around the United States and the world, experiencing different cultures and immersing herself in nature. Sophia is interested in furthering her education in sociology and film, as she hopes to one day help create shows and movies.