I finally finished reading the Percy Jackson books, and let me start off by saying they were GOOD. I wish I would have read them when I was younger, but there’s a universal appeal to the story that made them just as enjoyable to read as an adult.
But something nagged at me as I was reading…
When I finished the first book and wrote my review, I took a minute to scroll through the other reviews on Goodreads. There was one gripe a lot of them had in common: Percy Jackson and Harry Potter (the books, not the characters – we’ll get to that later) were very similar.
At first I didn’t think anything of it. The first book had some similarities, but nothing that screamed HARRY POTTER! at me. The further I got into the series, the more clearly I saw why people were comparing the two stories. But is it a bad thing that the stories tend to overlap?
*Spoilers for Percy Jackson and Harry Potter below*
Percy Jackson and Harry Potter: Percy and Harry are the most similar. Both kind of stumble through life, trying to figure out why they’re such screw ups and why they can do things other people can’t (although neither exactly realizes they have ‘powers’). They’re made out to be the average Joe type who isn’t particularly smart or any more talented than the people around him, but their bravery makes up for all that.
Annabeth Chase and Hermione Granger: Annabeth and Hermione are both the intelligent member of their respective friend trios. They fight for the underdog (Hermione for house elves, Annabeth for the half-bloods who’ve gone to the dark side), and they care more about the rules than their friends.
Grover and Ron Weasely: Grover and Ron take the place of lovable, endearingly dopey sidekick. They’re the easiest to scare of their trios, both go missing at some point or another, and both return to the trio stronger and more mature.
Chiron and Dumbledore: Chiron and Dumbledore are both wise older men who council the hero of the story. Both withhold pertinent information from the heroes, afraid that they’re too young to handle it.
Kronos and Voldemort: Kronos and Voldemort are both super spooky, kill-anyone-I-have-to villains. They’ve both been defeated once, both been banished to a lesser form of life, and both use a child to come back to a human (or in Kronos’s case, titan) form.
Plot & Themes
Prophecies: Percy and Harry are both at the center of a prophecy that predicts their death and the rise of their enemies. Both prophecies are also misleading, and could have been / were about someone else in the story – Harry’s could have been for Neville, while Percy Jackson’s ended up being fulfilled by Luke.
The Maze: The labyrinth and the maze at the end of the triwizard tournament were both shifting, organic riddles filled with danger for the heroes. At the end of the books the mazes were featured in, we learn about characters who weren’t who we thought they were: Daedalus, who we thought was Quintus, and Barty Crouch Jr., who we thought was Professor Moody.
Trio of Friends Backed by Others: Perhaps the most obvious comparison is the trio of friends working to keep the villain at bay, backed by their respective organizations – Dumbledore’s Army for Harry, Camp Half-Blood for Percy – and eventually, their authority figures – the Ministry of Magic for Harry, the Gods for Percy.
Does it matter?
There are probably a lot of other ways that Percy Jackson and Harry Potter compare when you put them side by side, but does it matter?
For every element that’s similar, there are two that are different. Personally, I didn’t enjoy the story any less. As a matter of fact, the similarities are probably why I enjoyed it so much – not because I was looking for another Harry Potter, but because the things in Percy Jackson that reminded me of Harry Potter were some of my favorite parts of both stories. J.K. Rowling is a master, but that doesn’t mean that if another author uses any of the devices or techniques she did they’re ripping her off.
Besides, according to Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch, there are only 7 basic plots in the entire realm of storytelling.
What do you think?