The Sea of Monsters
by Rick Riordan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
The Sea of Monsters / 9781423131960
I came to the Percy Jackson franchise after seeing the movie adaptation; I enjoyed "The Lightning Thief", but I thought the writing could have been a little tighter and better overall. Still, I was charmed enough by the world and the premise to dive into "The Sea of Monsters", and I'm so glad I did -- this second book in the series is even better than the first.
When Percy is called upon to return to Camp Half-Blood and undertake a secret quest to save his best friend Grover, he doesn't hesitate. Still, he's a bit underwhelmed to join forces with the tempestuous Clarisse, daughter of his sworn enemy Ares, and his half-brother Tyson, a big, blundering baby Cyclops.
There's so much heart and spirit brought to this novel. I really love how Riordan captures Percy's ambivalence about his baby brother, Tyson -- Percy is understandably frustrated and confused by his father's actions without ever becoming a complete jerk. It's impossible not to love Tyson, and Percy comes around to realizing just how wonderful his family is, without the book ever delving deep into syrupy "after school special" territory. In the same way, the rivalry between Percy and Clarisse is very natural and pleasant to follow, with both children behaving like realistic kids with difficult backgrounds and distant parents.
The mythology has really been polished to a mirror shine with this installment -- it really feels like this is the book where Riordan hit his stride with the series. Instead of the monsters all being basic re-colors of certain legendary stories, the new monsters and situations seem to really work within the narrative as a meaningful whole within the story. Particularly delightful and terrifying is Grover's situation, with a beautiful swirl of both the Odysseus AND Penelope stories in one -- pure poetry!
"The Sea of Monsters" is the book that convinced me to go ahead and buy the rest of the Percy Jackson series. If you liked "The Lightning Thief", you'll love this follow-up novel; if you weren't 100% thrilled with the first, give this one a try anyway, as I really think it achieves the vision that the first novel started with.
~ Ana Mardoll
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