Saturday, August 3, 2013

Books Like Percy Jackson and the Olympians - The Best Mythic Fantasy Books for Ages 10 and Up

Percy Jackson 5-book boxed set
Available from Amazon
Rick Riordan's mythical, modern fantasy adventure stories are, without fail, entertaining reads.  But when you reach the end of Percy Jackson and the Olympians, what do you read next?

I have some suggestions.  I read a lot of fantasy myself, from the juvenile stacks to adult.  Lately I've been reading a lot looking for new series for my daughter, who is an eleven-year-old advanced reader with very particular tastes.

Here are my favorites - and hers - which are heroic fantasy adventures with a heavy dose of mythology.

Camp Halfblood's adventures continue in The Lost Hero, the first of Rick Riordan's new Heroes of Olympus series.  It just so happened that I picked up The Lost Hero before I'd read the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series, and I like this book even better.  In it, we have all the things that made Percy Jackson and the Olympians great: friendship, adventure, old gods and mythical creatures in our modern world, but with an excellent new twist.

The author tells the story from the point of view of three different characters - two boys and a girl.  Each protagonist is distinct, compelling, and delightfully human in their demi-godhood.  As a parent who likes a good mix of strong female protagonists on her daughter's bookshelf, this is a clear win.

I also really enjoyed Rick Riordan's The Red Pyramid, the first of the Kane Chronicles series, which incorporates Egyptian myth and all new characters in a modern setting. For something like Percy Jackson and the Olympians, but different, you really can't go wrong with this one.

Told from the point of view of a brother and sister, who happen to be mixed race, Red Pyramid touches on what that means for each of them from their point of view: the boy is darker skinned, the girl so light people sometimes don't realize her father and brother are her family.  My own family has similar life experiences, so I found this aspect of the characters especially compelling.

Another unique element I found delightful was the secondary character, Bast.  My daughter loves cats, to the point of preferring books about cats to all others.  So this character pretty much single-handedly sold this series for her.

Brandon Mull's Fablehaven series is the story of two children, Kendra and Seth, who discover their grandparents are caretakers for a modern sanctuary of mythical creatures.  Fairies, naiads, giants, satyrs, and other beings from myth and fairy tale roam the preserve much as they did in our old stories, with peace held by an ancient treaty.

While the purpose of the caretakers is keep these mythical creatures safe from the modern world, a rival group wants to use that power, setting up the conflict that drives the series.

Fablehaven is another of my daughter's favorite series - the presence of Fairy Folk drew her right in.  (We're currently attempting to share Book 2, as we're both reading it, and can barely stand to put the adventure down.)  The author tells the story from the perspectives of both Kendra and Seth, with Kendra being the more studious and responsible older sister while Seth is younger and more adventurous, which is compelling for my daughter and her younger brothers as well.

Akata Witch is the unusual tale of a girl, albino with African features, born in America,  now living in Nigeria.  As if that does not set her apart enough, she learns she has magic.  With others who possess magic, too, she studies the seen and unseen, and learns to manipulate reality.

Of course, no list of the best fantasy books would be complete without J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series.  If you've been giving these a miss because of the movies, as I did, trust me, you've got to read them.  The books have so much depth of story the movies, by their very nature, could not present.

They're truly some of the best fantasy written, with the beings of fairy tale living hidden in plain view in modern England, revealed to the eyes of one small boy as he learns that he is far from the unwanted orphan he's been raised as.  As Harry enters the world of Hogwarts and learns to fight the evil threatening wizard-kind, he also discovers the powers of love and friendship.

If you like strong young teens embarking on adventure, and don't mind that the tale is otherworldly fantasy rather than our modern world, try Farwalker's Quest and the Troll Fell Trilogy.  I've reviewed both here on my blog so simply click the links to read more about them.  I liked them both very much, for different reasons.

For a touch of horror, older readers may enjoy The Last Apprentice Series (Young Adult), in which a young boy becomes apprenticed to a "Spook" - a hunter of the monstrous supernatural.  Chills and thrills await as he learns to be a Spook, making mistakes and forbidden friends along the way.  In most of the books in the series, the tale is told by the boy himself.  The setting is medieval Britain.

Another YA series I would list with Percy-Jackson-style mythic fantasy is Shadowmagic.  Conor is an ordinary young man with a normal girlfriend and a devoted but geeky father - or so he thinks.  Just before graduation, his father's stories of who they are and where they came from all fall apart as they are abducted and taken to Tir Nan Og, where Celtic myth is alive and well and trying to kill him.  I loved the humor and the Celtic influences in this story.  I have a longer review on the first book here if you'd like to check that out.

Know more books fans of Percy Jackson and the Olympians will love?  Feel free to share in the comments.

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