I don't normally write book reviews, especially not of books I haven't even finished, but I was so expressed with this one that I can't wait to write about it. Or more, I want to celebrate the author in general. I've done my best to avoid spoilers, sorry if I let anything slip by mistake.
Rick Riordan is technically a children's author, but I would highly recommend his books to everyone. Unless your bigoted, but more on that later. His writing is fast paced, genuinely funny enough to have made me laugh out loud a few times, and educational when it comes to the subject matter of ancient religions. (Greek, Roman, Egyptian and Norse so far.) He has a way of wrapping our reality into the myths in such a unique style that you can't help but be hooked.
Let's start with his first series, "Percy Jackson and The Olympians" which follows the story of a demi-god Percy Jackson who is the son of Poseidon. Percy, like all demi-god's, has powers inherited from his godly parent. In Percy's case his powers include manipulating water, breathing under water and talking to horses as, at least in Greek mythology, they were created by Poseidon. The first book is good, they get better to the point they were truly outstanding. They have made films of the first two books, "The Lightning Thief" and "The Sea of Monsters", but the films don't do the books justice. Really the only remarkable thing about the films is Sean Bean is in them (or at least the first) as Zeus and doesn't die. I don't recommend the films, though they might be decent for those who didn't read the books.
With his first series criticised for lack of diversity, the two main human characters were white, his second sequel series "The Heroes of Olympus" which deals with both Greek and Roman demi-gods, is a lot more diverse. The series introduces main characters, who whilst are all American, have African, Mexican, Native American and Chinese origins. At least on their mortal sides. Like the white characters their ethnicity has very little to do with their personality or their plot. The African American character grew up in 50's America so racism is mentioned in her story line, or more how wonderful she finds the present day where she's treated with respect, and the native American girl does mention native American legends that tie into the Greek mythology. It's just so inclusive. Later in this series Cupid forces a supporting character to come out as gay in front of one of the main characters. Is this character freaked out to learn his friend is gay? Not at all. Who cares about sexuality? Especially not when comparing it to some of the things the Greek God's got up to.
Then we have one of the two projects he's currently working on. "The Trials of Apollo" which is about Apollo being punished by his father Zeus and forced to live as a human teenager. The books makes it very clear that Apollo is bi-sexual and he frequently mentions his two great loves, Daphne and Hyacinthus. Apollo also has a gay son, which he accepts without question.... well not quite, but he's more concerned by the father of his son's boyfriend than anything else.
Needless to say these books have been inclusive on every level. Sexuality, race and gender having no effect on how the main characters treat each other. It's just so nice to read books like this, really every teenager should be forced to read them all.
This brings us onto "Magnus Chase and the God's of Asgard". I've mentioned this before as the character Sam (Samirah Al-Abbas) was so wonderful to me. She's a Muslim, but like everything else that's treated with respect and acceptance. She's a brilliant example of fitting your own relgion into a world where the God's of Asgard are real. She believes that they're powerful beings, but Allah is still the grand creator of the world. She's also a daughter of Loki, which is what causes her difficulties. By the end of the first book she is finally trusted by those around her, having finally learnt not to judge her by the identity of her father. This is important as we're now moving on to another child of Loki, Alex. Like Sam, Alex has an evil god for a father, but as Sam as set the standard that Loki's children can be trusted this causes Alex no issues.
When Magnus first meets Alex he see's a pretty boy. Really his reaction made me think that we were having a gay protagonist, but not quite. In the same scene Alex refers to herself as a girl, demands that Magnus and his friends use feminine pronouns and describes herself as "transgender and gender fluid". This is pretty much accepted without question at the time, they were on a battle field, but Magnus can't help but stare as it's now very clear that Alex is a girl. The book doesn't explain if this is because Alex has used her shapeshifting power, or it's Magnus' perspective of her that's changed, but either way the metaphor there is perfectly clear. Magnus saw a boy, was corrected, and accepted Alex was a girl. It's also made clear that Magnus is attracted to Alex, he's even teased about it by his friends. Apparently it's normal for children of his particular godly parent to be attracted to both genders, though Magnus neither confirms or denies any of this about himself. His friends to are equally accepting. Alex is judged entirely by her personality, not her gender identity or sexuality. It's just so refreshing to see a series that not only accepts people for who they are, but also doesn't make a big deal about it.
Other insights into the subject are Magnus' memories from when he lived on the streets, and how it was common to find transgender teenagers ending up hooked on drugs after being kicked out by their parents. It's clear he blames the parents who can't accept their children and thinks very little of such people. In another insight into his mind he tries to understand Alex's fear by comparing it to a time when a teacher forced him to write with his right hand, opposed to his left. It's made clear as uncomfortable as that made him feel, it's nothing compared to what Alex must fear.
I am just so impressed with the way the series has handled this topic. Though given it's record I shouldn't be. Please, if you're even slightly interested in mythology, give these books a try. Any of them. Though perhaps don't start with the Kane Chronicles. They're not his best work.