Thursday, May 23, 2013

Book Review: The Sea of Monsters by Rick Riordan (Percy Jackson #2)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Good characters and an overall fun adventure story
Cons: A few niggles with the plot
The Bottom Line:
Greek myths; modern times
Percy is fighting monsters
Plot could be stronger

Percy Jackson Sets Out to Save a Friend in Another Fun Quest

Earlier this year, I discovered the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series, and was immediately hooked.  Percy, our thirteen year old hero, is a demigod, the son of a mortal woman and the ancient Greek god Poseidon.  The Sea of Monsters is the second book in the series, and it's another fun ride through ancient mythology with a modern twist.

It's been nine months since we last checked in on Percy, and he's managed to make it through an entire school year without any major incidents.  But his world is about to be turned upside down.  His class is attacked by monsters on the last day of school.  He is rescued by his friend Annabeth only to learn things aren't so good back at Camp Half-Blood, the camp for demigods.  Someone has poisoned the tree that creates the magical perimeter, and the camp is under attack.

And there are the dreams.  Percy keeps dreaming about his satyr friend Grover.  Last we knew, Grove set out on a quest to find the god Pan, but he's fallen into a trap and needs Percy to come rescue him or the consequences will be dire.  Can Percy, Annabeth, and Percy's new half brother Tyson survive the sea of monsters to complete their new quest?

I've got to admit I had fun reading this book.  The juxtaposition of ancient Greek myths on modern American life is quite fun.  I love how so much of what we know is explained in these books, like why the Bermuda Triangle exists.

The characters continue to grow here.  All the ones we love (or love to hate) put in appearances, some more so than others.  I felt like their growth was a direct result of who they are and what they go through.

There is an underlying story building in the series, which by necessity spoils some events from the first book.  If you don't want that to happen, don't start here.  My main point, however, is how nicely this overarching story is building.  It's obviously important and drives much of the action here.  But I still felt like we got a complete story here, although the last page left me anxious to get to the next book.

However, I didn't enjoy this book quite as much as the first.  It took me a little while to put my finger on why.  Part of the problem is mine.  More than the first in the series, I felt this was a series of adventures keeping Percy from getting to his final destination.  That may just be my mystery wired brain expecting something from a different genre.  I also felt like the story here was a little too familiar.  It borrowed a couple plot points from the first book (already), and I even found a couple parallels between this book and the second Harry Potter book.  I'm sure that last one is a coincidence, but it did stick out to me.  Finally, the climax is a dues ex machina that would make the ancient Greeks proud.

Despite the flaws, I did still enjoy the majority of the book.  Now that I've survived The Sea of Monsters, I will be moving on to see where Percy's journey takes him next.

Here is a listing of both series in the complete Percy Jackson and Heroes of Olympus sagas in order.

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