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Read a full summary of The Lightning Thief, book #1 in Rick Riordan’s popular Percy Jackson and the Olympians series, right here! This page is full of spoilers, so beware. If you are wondering what happened in The Lightning Thief, then you are in the right place!

Special thanks to Baala, a new BSR contributor who wrote this great recap! Check out her work at the Book Fairies and visit her Instagram page, too.

Rick Riordan

4.7 stars on Amazon
3.27 stars on Goodreads
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***** Everything below is a SPOILER *****

Main Characters and Other Information

Percy Jackson– Demigod son of Poseidon and Sally Jackson, also known as Perseus. Narrator and protagonist of the series.

Annabeth Chase– Demigod daughter of Athena and Professor Frederick Chase. 

Grover Underwood– Satyr Guardian and Best Friend of Percy Jackson. Served as protector to Annabeth Chase, Thalia Grace, and Luke Castellan when taking them to Camp Half-Blood.

Luke Castellan– Demigod son of Hermes and May Castellan. Arrived at Camp Half-Blood with Annabeth Chase.

Chiron– The director at Camp Half-Blood. He is an immortal centaur, son of Kronos and the Oceanid Philyra, and a famed trainer of heroes. Chiron went under the alias “Mr. Brunner” when he posed as a teacher at Yancy Academy.

Sally Jackson– Mortal mother of Percy Jackson and widow of Gabe Ugliano.

Gabe Ugliano– Ex-Husband of Sally Jackson and Step-father of Percy Jackson.

What happened in The Lightning Thief?

Percy Jackson, a twelve-year-old boy diagnosed with ADHD and Dyslexia, is on a field-trip when he spots his classmate, Nancy Bobofit, bullying his best friend, Grover Underwood. Because of his anger, a water fountain suddenly explodes, drenching Nancy from head to toe. Because of the Mist, the supernatural event was made to seem as if Percy pushed Nancy into the fountain. Their pre-algebra teacher, Mrs. Dodds, then takes Percy for a private talk, presumably to scold him; however, she turns into a Fury, a mythical creature from Greek mythology. She attempts to kill him, but the Latin teacher, Mr. Brunner, suddenly charges in and throws Percy a pen that changes into a sword when he uncaps it. 

For the remainder of the school year, everyone on campus believes Mrs. Dodds had never existed, and their pre-algebra teacher is instead Mrs. Kerr, a teacher Percy has never seen before. Percy suspects something is amiss because whenever he asks Grover, he hesitates. Percy is almost led to believe Mrs. Dodds was a fantasy, too, until he eavesdrops on Grover and Mr. Brunner whispering otherwise about Mrs. Dodds.

On his way home with Grover, he spots three old crones (who we later learn are the Fates) knitting and then cutting a piece of string. Grover remarks on how things are worse than they seem and explains to Percy the Fates are the ones who decide the lifespan of a being. The string in their hand is the lifeline of a person. When cut, it signifies their death. Frightened by this, Percy assumes the string of yarn the Fates cut was his. When they reach Manhattan, Percy ditches Grover, thinking he is crazy. Percy reaches his home and sees his mother, Sally Jackson, who tells him they are leaving immediately for a vacation in Montauk.

In the middle of a storm in Montauk, Grover appears at their vacation home to tell Sally that Percy must flee to Camp Half-Blood. While driving to the camp, Percy discovers his mother and Grover are familiar with one another and Grover is a goat from the waist down, making him a Satyr. As they travel closer to the camp, they are attacked by a Minotaur. While trapped inside the car, Sally tells Percy to escape and run for the pine tree. Percy disagrees and shouts that he is not leaving her behind. Sally distracts the Minotaur, helping Percy and Grover reach the tree. The Minotaur then grabs her, and she dissolves into a golden shower of light. Percy becomes outraged and charges towards the Minotaur, grabs its horn, and stabs it, causing the monster to crumble into dust. 

Percy is able to walk to the camp’s borders with Grover before he collapses on the porch in front of a man and a girl. Weaving in and out of consciousness, he sees a girl is tending to him. When he finally becomes stable, Grover gives him back the Minotaur horn and takes him to the man he had seen earlier. He learns the man is Mr. Brunner and is told everything he had learned in Greek mythology is true.

Percy is introduced to Mr. D, who is the Greek god Dionysus, and Mr. Brunner reveals himself to be the centaur Chiron. Chiron hands Percy over to the girl, Annabeth Chase, who took care of him while he was unconscious. She gives him a tour of the camp and explains in detail their identity as demigods. He is taken to the Hermes Cabin, where he will be staying, and is introduced to the head counselor, Luke Castellan.

During a game of Capture the Flag, Percy learns he is healed by water after he is attacked by a hellhound. He is then claimed as a son of Poseidon through a hologram of a glowing green trident above his head. This comes as a surprise to the camp, because it is revealed the three elder gods—Zeus, Poseidon, and Hades—had taken an oath to not have any demigod children. Percy was proof that Poseidon broke his oath.

Percy is granted a quest to find Zeus’ Master Bolt, which Chiron believes Hades has stolen; however, Zeus believes Percy was the one who stole the bolt. Zeus gives Percy ten days before the summer solstice to find the Master Bolt. Before the quest, Percy is also given magic shoes as a “gift” from Luke. However, Chiron tells him it is a terrible idea to use the shoes because he would be interfering with Zeus’ domain. So Percy gives the pair to Grover. Chiron also gifts a pen to Percy, claiming it is a gift from Poseidon. When uncapped, a sword called Riptide (also known as Anaklusmos) appears. Accompanied by Annabeth and Grover, Percy travels west toward the Underworld in Los Angeles.

When the Trio get on the bus to New Jersey, three old ladies step on as well. Percy recognizes one of them as Mrs. Dodds and discovers the old ladies are the notorious Furies. The Furies attack them, and the Trio then escapes to Aunty Em’s Garden Gnome Emporium. After they are served food, Aunty Em lures them to the back of her emporium, saying she wants to take their picture to serve as her models for her next art piece. She instead tries to turn them to stone, revealing herself to be Medusa. Percy manages to cut off her head and proceeds to get on a train with Annabeth and Grover to the Gateway Arch.

When Percy is in an elevator on the way to the top of the Arch, a lady reveals herself to be Echidna, along with her dog, which is actually the Chimera. Percy battles the Chimera and is poisoned during the fight. Knowing the water beneath him will purge the poison from his system, Percy jumps into the Mississippi River to escape the Chimera.

After Percy lands in the river, he discovers he has the power to breathe and stay dry underwater. Then Percy finds his friends, and they get back on the train and are taken to Denver. When stopping at a diner, Ares comes in and tells them to retrieve his shield from Waterland, and in turn, he will give them a ride west and information about Percy’s mom. They go to Waterland and find out the ride was set up with a trap by Hephaestus. They manage to escape the trap with Aphrodite’s Scarf and Ares’ shield and go back to the diner. Ares shows them a truck and reveals Percy’s mother is not dead; instead, she has been taken as a hostage by Hades.

Once they reach Las Vegas, a bellhop from the Lotus Hotel and Casino invites them to come in. Immediately, without even having to pay for anything, the trio are given a room and are led down to the arcade. After a while of playing, Percy finds a boy name Darrin who believes the current year is 1977, as well as others who believe it is 1985 and 1993. Percy finds Annabeth and Grover, and they immediately leave the hotel, believing it to be some sort of magical trap. They are relieved to find out from a newspaper it is still the same year; however, five days have already passed, leaving only one day to retrieve the Master Bolt.

They eventually make it to the ocean, which a Nereid from the Mississippi River had instructed Percy to go to. Percy meets the same Nereid again, and she gives him three pearls, instructing him to use them when they are in great need. While searching for the entrance to the Underworld, the Trio encounters Procrustes. He traps Annabeth and Grover using his signature technique—causing them to lie down on a bed while being stretched by ropes until they are exactly the same height of the bed—until Percy tricks him into lying down on one such bed. Procrustes is killed, and the trio proceed to DOA Recording Studios, the cover place for the gates to the Underworld. Percy bribes Charon into letting them ride across the River Styx with him.

How did The Lightning Thief end?

Once inside, they discover the entrance to the Underworld proper is being guarded by Cerberus. Annabeth then plays with the giant dog by using a red ball, distracting him and giving Percy and Grover enough time to slip past. They walk through the Fields of Asphodel and pass by the path to the pit of Tartarus. As they approach the entrance to Tartarus, Luke’s shoes try to pull Grover into it, but he manages to slip free.

They manage to get to Hades’ palace, where Percy confronts Hades, who believes Percy stole the Master Bolt as well as his Helm of Darkness. Percy realizes Ares has tricked him when he discovers the Master Bolt is in his backpack. He and his friends then use the pearls to flee from the Underworld without his mother, as he was forced to leave her, thus fulfilling the line in the prophecy that states, “You shall fail to save what matters most in the end“.

The pearls return Percy, Grover, and Annabeth back to the ocean, where Percy had received the pearls from. They reach the shore, where they meet Ares and confront him. Percy then challenges Ares to a fight, using Riptide to battle. Percy eventually stabs him in the heel, and Ares starts to bleed ichor. Ares is about to kill Percy when an evil force in the form of a dark aura convinces him to not strike Percy. Ares then leaves, giving Percy the Helm of Darkness. Percy tosses it to the Furies, and they take it back to Hades.

Percy flies back to New York City to give the lightning bolt to Zeus, despite the dangers of flying, due to the Poseidon-Zeus rivalry. He proceeds to the Empire State Building and reaches the top, where Olympus is currently located. Zeus accepts the bolt and Percy has a short talk with his father Poseidon before returning to camp, where he learns his mother is alive. He bumps into Luke in the woods surrounding the camp, where he reveals he stole the bolt and helm for Kronos, and then calls out a poisonous scorpion which stings Percy, nearly killing him.

Luke then manages to escape from Camp Half-Blood.  At the end of the book, Chiron cures Percy and they, along with Annabeth, discuss Luke’s betrayal. The camp beads are also awarded, and the bead for Percy’s first year is a black bead painted with a green trident in the middle. Annabeth and Percy part ways, with her leaving Camp Half-Blood for the first time to live with her dad, step-mother, and two half siblings and Percy leaving to attend another school.

There you go! That’s what happened in The Lightning Thief. We hope you enjoyed this The Lightning Thief summary with spoilers.

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