Author Musings #1: The Hero Villain Dynamic

Hello everyone!

I though I would expand on the part of my reviews where I talk about what writer’s can learn from the book. There’s often so much that I want to say in these small parts but it would risk derailing the entire review. Hope you enjoy it!

** Spoiler Warnings! **
Percy Jackson
Harry Potter
Lord of the Rings

The Percy Jackson series is fantastic and a wonderful read however it suffers from one core issue. The main villain, Kronos, is ultimately forgettable. For the entirety of the series he’s more of a disembodied voice than and actual threat to Percy and his friends. There’s a lack of engagement for him as an antagonist to the reader. He comes off more as a plot device than an actual villain and that has a detrimental effect on the ending. The end comes off as anti-climactic as Kronos never feels like as much of a threat. Luke comes off better as a final antagonist that would bring some emotional weight if he were in control. If there was a reason as to why one of the Greek gods couldn’t return, kill Kronos quickly, and then rejoin the fight against Typhon than maybe he might be more of a threat?

Anyone familiar with the mythology would know that Kronos is incredibly powerful and makes for a good villain. But a reader who may be unfamiliar with Greek mythology would question what it is that makes Kronos so threatening. But there’s more that could be done to flesh him out as a villain or at least the dynamic of Kronos and Percy. Especially in stories like Percy Jackson there should be some depth to the hero villain dynamic that isn’t just one is good and the other is evil. What strikes me as odd is that Riordan has proven he’s capable of this. In the third book, The Titan’s Curse, the relationship between Zoe Nightshade and Atlas is a great example of the hero villain dynamic. There’s a personal connection between the two that adds tension to the climax of the book. This relationship and character development is why the third book was my favorite in the series. Percy and Kronos? There’s no real connection there other than he was told Kronos is evil and the Greek gods are good (which even the books show they’re not).

Throughout my review of The Last Olympian, I made several references to Voldemort as a better villain than Kronos. There are strong similarities between the two, both being dark lords returning from the dead to destroy the secret magical world of the protagonist. But the difference lies in the connection to the protagonist. Voldemort killed Harry’s parents and the sacrifice Harry’s mom made to save him caused Voldemort’s downfall. Both characters have reason to hate each other and oppose each other. It’s established at the very beginning of the series and it never has to be questioned later. But with Percy and Kronos, there’s never that established reason for opposition other than everyone told him Kronos is evil.

I kept thinking throughout the series that it would weirdly make sense for Percy to join Kronos. Luke makes a lot of good points in that the Greek gods are neglectful parents that don’t help their children. For the longest time in the series, Poseidon comes off as a neglectful father who passively made Percy and his mom’s lives miserable. None of the Greek gods (save for Artemis and Hestia) act like they want to help the heroes. The gods often lie, twist their words, and betray the heroes that fight for them.

But if Riordan wanted to have his “dark lord” appear less involved directly in the protagonist’s life, The Lord of The Rings provides a better example of a threatening absentee antagonist. The beginning of the series is dedicated to who Sauron is and why he is such a threat. The readers (and the audience) sees how powerful and terrifying Sauron is as he’s destroying soldiers left and right without issue. There’s not much depth to the character but the threat he gives cannot be questioned. The introduction sets up why his resurrection cannot be allowed to happen. The world would end if Sauron was to ever return whereas Kronos seemed more dedicated to destroying Olympus and the pantheon than subjugating the world. Other than using monsters that like to eat and kill humans, there’s not a lot of evidence that he would be worse than Zeus.

Elrond is there to retell the history as well having witnessed it firsthand. The Elrond – Aragorn relationship is an amazing template for what Chiron and Percy’s relationship should have been to establish history and knowledge of Kronos as the antagonist. Aragorn has a connection to Sauron as Isildur’s heir. The temptation of the ring disgraced Isildur’s bloodline and humanity in the eyes of all the other races. Elrond helps Aragorn understand this and plays an important role in developing Aragorn to be a leader of men.

With a bit more effort, Kronos could have been made to be a more compelling villain. Riordan spends so much time showing the internal conflict for Percy with coming to terms with his family. Abandonment issues with his father and the terrifying presence of his extended family are really well done by Riordan, but it could have gone further. Kronos is technically Percy’s grandfather and could have been used to create a tense climactic end to the series. That “choice” that Percy has to make at the end could have been which side of the family he sides with. Does he side with his neglectful father and extended family that continued to threaten him or with his grandfather who offers him vengeance against the Olympians that made his life so difficult?

– Raphael

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