I’ve been wanting to talk about this for a long time, so bear with me here folks.
It’s time to talk about Uncle Rick.
There will be spoilers (duh)
Just in case you didn’t know, Rick Riordan, one of my favorite authors of all time, is best known for writing the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series. It’s a wildly popular book series based on classic Greek mythology. It’s so popular that he’s written TWO spinoff series, The Heroes of Olympus and Trials of Apollo series, along with two other series Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard and The Kane Chronicles, all based on different mythologies. (Greek, Roman, Norse, and Egyptian)
This has gotten mixed reviews from audiences. Some people criticize Riordan’s writing, saying that he’s beating a dead horse, while others praise him for managing to get an entire generation interested in mythology. Recently, he’s been getting lots of attention because of the diversity of the characters he’s writing.
Some people are upset by his inclusion of openly LGBTQIA+ characters in his recent books. Others are offended by a muslim main character who wears a hijab. People have stopped reading his books, claiming he’s becoming “Too political.” I don’t understand that. Having a diverse cast of characters in a book isn’t political, it’s an accurate representation of real life.
Then there’s the group of people who, although they are excited about the diversity in Rick’s books, criticize him because they feel like he’s jumping on the band wagon. They accuse him of adding diverse representation into his books to get more readers.
All I can think is that these people must not have read his earlier series, because for as long as I’ve been reading his books (And I’ve been reading them for a while now) Rick has always been wonderful at representation.
Here’s why I think Rick Riordan gets diversity right.
Let’s start with Percy Jackson shall we?
The idea for the Percy Jackson series came from the bedtime stories that Rick used to tell his son Hayley. He started out with actual greek myths, but when he ran out of those, Hayley suggested he make up his own. Thus Percy Jackson was born.
Because Hayley had recently been diagnosed with ADHD and Dyslexia, and was struggling with them, Riordan made Percy struggle with them too. In the series, most of the demigods have ADHD and Dyslexia because of their godly blood. They didn’t succeed despite of those things, they were able to fight monsters because they were different.
Although it dealt with things like learning disabilities, bullying, mental illness, and abuse, The original Percy Jackson series was, admittedly, not very racially diverse. Rick got lots criticism for that. He also gets criticism for adding racially diverse characters to his Heroes of Olympus series because it felt “Too Forced”
It kind of makes me want to scream.
Four out of seven of the main characters the Heroes of Olympus series are POC characters.
Leo Valdez is a Hispanic son of Hephaestus, Piper McLean, daughter of Aphrodite, is half Cherokee, Frank Zhang is a Chinese Canadian son of Mars, and Hazel Levesque, daughter of Hades, is black.
I’ve seen people online who claim that characters like Piper and Frank have very little characterization outside of their race. They even claimed that Piper being Native American is unrealistic because of how “rare” Native American people are. (Obviously this person doesn’t live anywhere near Oklahoma, the state where Piper was born.) While these characters do often mention their cultures, I don’t see it as Rick’s way of reminding everybody “Look at these diverse characters!”
Culture is something that is very important to some people. The values of your culture can help define who you are, as is the case for Reyna Arellano, or it can connect you to family, as is the case for Piper and Frank. The two of them are both dealing with the whole “Woah Greek/Roman gods are real!” situation. It makes perfect sense to me that they would relate this new world back to the cultures they grew up with/around.
And then there’s Nico DiAngelo.
Rick has gotten such backlash because of his decision to have Nico DiAngelo come out as gay during the Heroes of Olympus series. I think many of the people who were upset were probably fangirls who considered Nico to be their fictional boyfriend.
Throughout the PJO and HoO series Nico DiAngelo has had such an important redemption arc. We’ve watched him struggle to come to terms with himself, trying find a place to belong after the death of his sister. We’ve seen him tempted by darkness, but eventually pulling through in order to help his friends. Don’t even get me started on how wonderful his relationship with his half sister Hazel is. It makes me indescribably happy to see him happy again in the ToA series.
Rick has stuck with the LGBT+ inclusion in the Trials of Apollo series, which features an openly bisexual main character. There are also two happy, loving same sex couples featured in the series.
Riordan’s Magnus Chase series has been getting tons of praise for it’s inclusion of:
- Magnus himself, who is homeless at the beginning of the series.
- Samirah Al Abbas, an Arab American Valkyrie, who wears a hijab throughout the series and is generally badass.
- Blitzen, a male dwarf with a passion for fashion.
- Hearthstone, a deaf elf who communicates through sign language. Throughout the series other characters are shown learning sign language so that they can easily communicate with him.
- And of course Alex Fierro, who is not only transgender/gender-fluid, but is also the main love interest in the series. I could write a whole separate post on how well I think Alex’s sexuality and pronoun use are addressed. While I myself do not identify as trans, I do believe that Riordan did a great job of explaining what it means to be trans/gender fluid, while still clarifying that everyone’s experiences are different.
Then there’s the Kane Chronicles, a.k.a the series that everyone always forgets about.
This series is the reason I get confused when people are surprised by the racially diverse characters in Rick’s newer books. Like, how can anyone be surprised by that when the Kane Chronicles exists?
You see, unlike pretty much every Hollywood movie about Egypt ever created, Rick acknowledges the fact that Egyptians are POC. This means that a majority of the main characters in The Kane Chronicles are either POC, or an Egyptian god with an animal for a head.
The two main characters, Carter and Sadie Kane, are siblings from a mixed race family. Despite the fact that they we’re raised in separate households, they still have one of the best brother sister relationships I’ve ever read about. They argue a lot, but Sadie, who inherited their mother’s blonde hair and fair skin, actually gets incredibly offended whenever people assume they aren’t related.
I find it really puzzling that The Kane Chronicles is so unpopular compared to Rick’s other series. I recently reread the series and I loved it just as much as the PJO and HoO books. Naturally, I did what I usually do when I love a book series. I made a Kane Chronicles playlist. Unlike my Lunar Chronicles playlist, this playlist is actually designed to follow the storyline of The Kane Chronicles. Meaning that it’s totally composed of songs that remind me of different scenes in the trilogy.
Link Here: https://play.spotify.com/user/evalyn4200/playlist/0q4fppNVFig4Wk9JXRByj9
Want to share your thoughts on Rick Riordan’s writing? Do you agree that The Kane Chronicles is underrated? Have a guess at which songs correspond to which scenes? Leave a comment. I’d love to hear from you!