With the arrival of "The Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical" Off-Broadway next month, the original "Percy Jackson and the Olympians" series has come back into the limelight. In case you don't have the time to reread before the musical's release, or if you'd just like to relive the series' best moments, here are the top ten best-written chapters of the original series, as chosen by its fans.
10. I Set Myself On Fire (The Battle of the Labyrinth)
This chapter starts off the list mainly for its final moments, when Percy and Annabeth have their first kiss and Percy has his epic, if a little painful to read, stand-off against the telekhines. The kiss is short and Percy is forced to move on from it quickly, but it's so delightfully unexpected and followed by so much discomfort later on in the book; It's always fun to see Percy and Annabeth in the constantly clumsy early stages of their relationship. Percy's attempt to escape the telekhines, on the other hand, begins with Percy screaming while being soaked in lava and consumed by fire, and ends with him discovering that he may have inherited some of his father's "Earthshaker" abilities in the process, as he causes the entire volcano to erupt in an attempt to free himself. Both moments stand out in the end, but this chapter is also filled with smaller details and plot points that become essential as the series continues, disguised as a simple quest for Hephaestus gone sour. The chapter introduces Typhon and the threat he poses, Grover and Tyson's decision to split up from the crew to find Pan, and the revelation that the telekhines inside the forge are actually using it to create a weapon Percy doesn't recognize. In the chapters that follow, it is revealed that Percy's improvised escape plan that led to him burning to death Anakin Skywalker style actually woke Typhon, Grover's decision to split off from the group allowed him to complete his quest to find Pan, and the unknown weapon the telekhines are forging was actually Kronos' scythe, completed just in time for his resurrection. The chapter is full of moments that lead to larger plot points, and it's exciting to see those moments planted here before the chapter reaches its exciting conclusion.
9. An Old Dead Friend Comes to Visit (The Titan's Curse)
In many ways, "The Titan's Curse" marks a clear shift in the series as it moves into heavier territory, and this chapter actually takes that journey within itself. The chapter opens on Percy and Grover spending the morning sitting in the meadow, talking through a nightmare Percy had before getting to the action of the chapter: Thalia and Percy acting as co-captains in a game of capture the flag. This interaction is one the series has been leading up to since "The Sea of Monsters," when Annabeth tells Percy that he and Thalia are so alike that they either "would've been best friends or [they] would've strangled each other," so getting to see them trying to work together without Annabeth or Grover to keep them in line is, as might have been predicted, not pretty. They find themselves at odds throughout the game, all the anger and resentment they've been harboring toward each other coming to a head when Thalia loses control of her powers, leading to the series' first real example of what can happen when two powerful demigods face off. The chapter's end is unsettling, to say the least, as their fight is cut off by the creepy image of the oracle limping through the trees and whispering a prophecy foretelling death into the minds of everyone in the forest. This chapter is constantly building, taking the book from a place of calm mornings in the meadow to a place of foreboding uncertainty. The overall arc and movement is telling of what is to come.
This chapter also has Nico bouncing around in armor that's too big for him so that alone could put it on this list, honestly.
8. I Go Cruising With Explosives (The Last Olympian)
This chapter starts off the final novel of the original series and immediately lets the reader know that it will not be a smooth ride. It functions in the same way "An Old Dead Friend Comes to Visit" does, by beginning the chapter in a soothing setting and ending with a taste of what is to come. It starts with Percy and Rachel taking a drive on the beach before launching into Percy and Beckendorf trying to orchestrate one of the first missions of the war. As their plan unfolds, we get to see Percy meet Kronos in his new form again, see Ethan as a part of the Titan Army, and learn that there is a spy at camp, all leading up to the final moments when Rick Riordan actually kills a beloved character in the very first chapter, setting up the novel as one that is not exactly going to be kind to us.
7. I Take the Worst Bath Ever (The Last Olympian)
Outside of the fact that this chapter takes on some interesting new meaning after Nico's feelings for Percy are revealed in the later books, it is also the culmination of the cliffhanger at the end of "The Battle of the Labyrinth," when Nico approaches Percy with what he believes is the only way Percy can stand a chance in the coming war, an idea that is only truly revealed to us in this chapter. It opens with Percy being woken up by Nico, who's trying to rescue Percy from the prison Hades has left him in. Though it takes some convincing to get Percy to trust Nico enough to follow him from the cell, the two eventually make their way through the guards and back to the River Styx, where Percy is approached by the spirit of Achilles warning him that while the curse may make him stronger, it will make his weaknesses worse. When combined with Percy taking on Hades' army and Hades himself on his own after his dip in the Styx, Achilles' warning makes it hard not to wonder what consequences that kind of power will have, especially as the chapter ends with Percy telling Nico that he's going to go find Luke. The chapter may resolve the question of how Nico was planning on helping Percy, but it doesn't offer any kind of security in its resolution, only anticipation of what is to come.
6. We Trash the Eternal City (The Last Olympian)
Considering it's the conclusion to the main arc of the books, it's not surprising that this chapter makes the list. It opens on Olympus in ruins, an image Luke has been describing since the beginning, and takes the main trio into their final battle with Kronos and the final resolution to the great prophecy, though, in true vintage Rick Riordan style, not in the way anyone expects. The final moments also subvert expectations of the final fight between the hero and villain, since Kronos' defeat is more Annabeth's doing than Percy's or Luke's, proving, as she always does, that she is "nobody's sidekick."
5. I Open a Coffin (The Battle of the Labyrinth)
Though this chapter starts with cute moments like Percy flying and finally cooperating with Nico, it mainly makes it onto the list for its plot twist. When Percy opens the golden coffin that's been haunting the books since "The Sea of Monsters," he finds not only the final stages of the plot to resurrect Kronos, but an uncomfortably familiar face that we might have seen coming if we and the characters within the story had only listened to Luke. It's the moment the series has been leading to, where we finally get to see Kronos awake and using his powers outside of Percy's dreams. Percy's reaction to the scene is endlessly relatable, as he defies the expected reaction we see in characters like Harry Potter, who decides he wants to "die upright like his father" when approached with the resurrection of Voldemort, and instead sees Kronos raise his scythe and immediately turns and runs. Percy has rarely run from a fight in the previous books, so when he tries to escape and finds himself trapped by Kronos anyway, it really makes the whole situation feel hopeless. The chapter also ends with Rachel hitting the lord of the titan's with a blue plastic hairbrush, so it's clearly a good one.
4. We Break a Bridge (The Last Olympian)
This entire chapter takes place on Williamsburg Bridge and is filled with moments that make this one of the most memorable of the battlefields in "The Last Olympian." The battle begins by showcasing how far Percy's come in his fighting skills, as he faces off against one of the first monsters he ever fought, the minotaur, and starts to get some use out of his new invincibility, leaving just twenty out of two hundred soldiers alive and letting loose "a crazy laugh that scared me as much as it did my enemies." The battle takes a turn, though, when Annabeth is stabbed while trying to protect Percy's weak point and Percy destroys the bridge in an effort to keep Kronos' army from crossing into Manhattan, accidentally killing Michael Yew in the process. Since Percy can't physically be hurt at this point, it becomes clear that any pain that comes to Percy from here on will have to come at the expense of those around him. The stakes become higher, especially because now we've seen that even a character as essential to the story as Annabeth isn't going to be kept safe by virtue of being a main character.
3. Annabeth Tries to Swim Home (The Sea of Monsters)
This chapter stands out not only from "The Sea of Monsters" but from the series as a whole because it's one of a few moments where a change in Percy's perspective deeply affects the way the chapter is told. As they approach the island of the sirens, Percy puts wax in his ears so that he can guide the boat while Annabeth is tied to the ship so that she can hear the sirens without being able to swim after them. This means that the entire chapter has to be narrated in the absence of sound. Annabeth's screams are described physically, written with a focus on tears and facial expressions, and any dialogue is lost, most notably Annabeth's whisper at the end that was never heard.
This chapter is also full of memorable moments, since it begins by introducing two concepts that will become important down the line: the fact that Hephaestus' forges can be found in the hearts of volcanoes, and the fact that Percy dreamed of Thalia opening Kronos' coffin and reacting with horror. It also provides a brief look into Annabeth's mind and past, as well as one of the most touching moments in Percy and Annabeth's relationship as Percy holds her until she stops crying in an air pocket beneath the waves. Though it's unfortunately rare to find someone whose favorite book of the series is "The Sea of Monsters," it's just as rare to find someone who doesn't list this chapter as one of their favorites, whether it be because of the way the story is told, the foreshadowing hidden in its smaller moments, or how it formed Annabeth's character.
2. I Take a Permanent Vacation (The Battle of the Labyrinth)
Percy wakes up from the explosion in "I Set Myself on Fire" to the sound of waves and Calypso's voice, and what follows is a neat little love story tied up in a single chapter, yet developed enough that I find myself tearing up at the end basically every time I read it. It's sweet and simple, full of descriptions of crystal-covered caves and stargazing and gardening, and serves as a brief oasis in a series that's on the brink of war. This chapter essentially tells an entire story in a few pages and then offers Percy the chance to make it last longer, to avoid the prophecy and "grow flowers in the garden and talk to songbirds and walk on the beach under perfect blue skies," in true Disney Princess fashion. Calypso presents a life of perfection to him, and even though we know that he has to turn it down so that the story can continue, it's impossible not to feel a little heartbroken when his loyalty to his friends back home forces him to leave her behind.
1. I Put on a Few Million Extra Pounds (The Titan's Curse)
Of all of the chapters in the original series, this chapter is most often chosen as a favorite. It combines so much of what made the rest of this list, from illustrating the books' changing tone to using foreshadowing and important relationships to its advantage to using Percy's narration to his disadvantage. The previous chapter ended with Zoe revealing that Atlas was her father, and though the book doesn't bring the prophecy up at that moment, you can instantly guess at how this battle is going to end from the line that has been repeatedly brought up in relation to Thalia: "And one shall perish by a parent's hand." The scene that follows is interesting, partially because it provides one of the only interactions between the demigod trio that started it all, Luke, Thalia, and Annabeth, and partially because it provides a piece of foreshadowing for "I Open a Coffin," as Luke begins to plead with Thalia to join him: "It's my last chance. He will use the other way if you don't agree. Please." This moment asks readers to feel the same sympathy for Luke that Percy suddenly finds himself feeling, which the books before this have never really asked the reader to do. The battle that comes out of this uses the same narrative technique as "Annabeth Tries to Swim Home," as Percy tries to narrate from beneath the weight of the sky, forcing him to try to focus through pain and blurred vision. His narration becomes a series of moments, Artemis moving as "a blur of silver," Luke and Thalia being given a few lines of attention while surrounded by lightning, Zoe being shot with an arrow but landing just outside of Percy's vision. This type of narration appears again at the end of the chapter, as Percy has to look away after seeing Luke's broken form on the rocks and can't look at Zoe's wound long enough to describe it at the end of the chapter. The chapter spends so much time without the light-hearted tone that the majority of book has that when Percy lies dazed in the Artemis' chariot and murmurs that it reminds him of Santa Claus' sleigh, it hardly lifts the mood, only drives home the fact that these are only kids. In the end, the entire chapter marks the shift in tone and stakes that "An Old Dead Friend Comes to Visit" foreshadowed earlier in the book.
There are plenty of other chapters in the series that deserve to be mentioned, from "We Visit The Garden Gnome Emporium" in "The Lightning Thief" to "I Scoop Poop" in "The Battle of the Labyrinth," so if there's a chapter you think should've made the list, or one you think shouldn't have, leave a comment below!