Rick Riordan, and it was fantastic. I started reading Riordan's books back in the summer of 2010 after seeing previews for the movie version of "The Lightning Thief", the first book in the Percy Jackson & the Olympians series. I wanted to read it before seeing the movie, and once I started I was totally hooked.
Riordan's books are technically intermediate reader level, but don't let that stop you. I've found that I really like reading books from the young adult and intermediate sections, particularly when it comes to genres like science fiction and fantasy. The stories tend to be more character driven and not as technical, and that often makes for a fantastic read.
In the world of Percy Jackson, "the gods of Olympus are alive and well in the 21st Century! They still
fall in love with mortals and have children who are half-god,
half-human, like the heroes of the old Greek myths.*" These children, or demi-gods, end up at Camp Half Blood, where they learn about their heritage, discover the gifts their parents have passed down to them, and sometimes embark on quests that affect the fate of the Gods and the world we live in.
I've read all the books in the Percy Jackson & the Olympians Series, and now the first two in The Heroes of Olympus series. One of the things I absolutely love about these books is the amount I've learned about Greek and Roman mythology. In fact, I was amused last year when I saw the new Clash of the Titans and was able to recognize the characters and their relationships because I'd recently finished "The Lightning Thief!" I can definitely say that I would not be tempted to sit down and read a dry book full of straight information about Greek and Roman Gods. It might be interesting, but there is a kind of magic in the way that Riordan is able to teach you about them almost without you realizing that you're learning.
Riordan's books also all feature teenage heroes. These kids are thrust into unfamiliar and sometimes frightening situations, and must figure out how to make the right choice, even when it's not always easy. The demi-gods in Riordan's books are also kids who have ADD and dyslexia. It's woven into the story that in our world, they are diagnosed with these because they are meant to be in battle, not to sit still. They are meant to read Greek and Latin, so have a hard time reading modern English. The idea that you can be struggling in the modern world but also be destined for something great is really powerful. There is a lot to be said for heroes that you can relate to. I love the idea of inspiring kids imaginations while also telling them that they can grow to be heroes by the actions they choose in life.
For anyone that has enjoyed books like Harry Potter and The Hobbit, books of epic battles and quests for good, these books are perfect. I am eagerly awaiting the day when my son gets old enough for me to read these out loud to him.
Riordan has also created a second world in The Kane Chronicles series. In this series, Carter and Sadie Kane discover that they are descended from the most powerful magicians in ancient Egypt. They must learn to use their powers to right the world when a magical accident releases the ancient Egyptian Gods into the modern world. I've read both books published so far in this series, and enjoyed them immensely as well.
As an added bonus, I've listened to the first two books in The Heroes of Olympus series as audio books, and Joshua Swanson does a fantastic job. There's not much worse than trying to listen to a good story when the narrating voice is not right. Swanson does different character voices so well, and it's a joy to listen to.
My only complaint is that I know the next Heroes of Olympus book isn't coming out for another year! I can't wait.
* From Rick Riordan's Website