I thought I should check out the Percy Jackson books. All I'm going to be able to review is the first book. If that sounds bad... yeah, the second book started out with a 'Insert MacGuffin and random encounter here'. Not good.
But the first book isn't bad. Not great, but I enjoyed it. Greek mythological monsters make for great bad guys, the Cronus and Ares twists were very satisfying, and the 'son of Poseidon' thing was played well. A distant father who helps him on the sly when he's in water. Sure, that's how a son of Poseidon works.
The bad parts were mostly that the book is kind of generic. Misunderstood boy finds out he's a hero and goes on a quest to find a MacGuffin. The ADHD and dyslexia elements are handled clumsily, although I don't have anything against them existing. I understand they were put in to help Riordan's son empathize. There is almost no content outside of the central plot. Characters are okay, but underexplored. I had one nitpick that bugged me the whole way. A major character is a daughter of Athena. Athena is a lesbian virgin goddess. She has exactly one child who's one of those freaky magical origin things, not the result of sex. Daughters are not an option.
So, book is kinda so-so. I enjoyed reading it, but I'm not enthusiastic about the experience. #2 immediately dropped below that mediocre standard.
There is an interesting epilogue to this. It made me think about why the Harry Potter books are better. The concepts really aren't very different, and the paragraph-to-paragraph writing isn't all that different. What made Harry Potter's uninspired idea cool was the depth with which the books explored the magical world. Harry Potter lives a magical life, with magical people, with lots of time spent developing everyone's personality and having cool magical things happen outside the central plot. Those gave the plot itself meaning, made it gripping.
That's a good lesson for a writer to learn. I hope I can hold onto it, but I worry that my books are overstuffed just clinging tightly to the plot.