The Sea of Monsters by Rick Riordan
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
Okay, so, I was pleasantly surprised by my second run-in with Rick Riordan. That said, my buddy JN, who lent me the book, warned me that the second book wasn’t nearly as good, but to keep hope alive, because books three and four were excellent.
With that warning in view, I dove into The Sea of Monsters.
And, BLAMMO, I get hit with a cheap retread of The Odyssey. Don’t get me wrong; I love The Odyssey. But Riordan’s version was particularly lacking luster.
After Perseus “Percy” Jackson discovers his heritage as a demigod (he’s a son of Poseidon — authenticity points to Riordan for not trying to sugarcoat the gods’ proclivity for adultery), he spent a whirlwind summer quelling a war between the gods. Now that he’s back to his normal life, he’s trying to make it through another school year before he can get back to Camp Half-Blood, the summer camp for demigods.
But before Percy is able to finish his first-ever school year without getting kicked out, the Laistrygonians, posing as giant middle schoolers, try to kill him. He’s saved by his new friend Tyson, who’s a bit slow, but super-strong. As it turns out, Tyson’s a baby Cyclops, and Percy’s half-brother.
Riordan plays with themes of sibling rivalry, but only for a little while, which is fine since that storyline wasn’t going anywhere anyway. For his part, Tyson is one part Sloth from The Goonies, one part Jar-Jar Binks, and was far from a welcome addition to the series, although he did grow on me in Book 4 (oops, SPOILER!).
So, anyway, the quest in this book is that someone has poisoned Thalia’s Tree. Thalia was a daughter of Zeus who was killed in a battle at Camp Half-Blood, and the tree which protects the camp from monsters was named in her honor. The only way to heal the tree and protect Camp Half-Blood is to find the Golden Fleece, which has been stolen by Polyphemus, Odysseus’ old Cyclops nemesis.
To complicate matters, Polyphemus has captured Grover, who was searching for the god Pan. Grover’s only alive because he’s tricked Polyphemus into thinking he’s a female Cyclops. He’s desperately employing Penelope’s trick of unraveling his bridal garment on the loom, but he doesn’t know how much longer he can keep up this ruse before Polyphemus insists on getting married.
And they don’t have much time; half-blood-turned-traitor Luke, son of Hermes, is trying to get to the Fleece first in order to reassemble and heal the Titan Kronos, who is mounting a Voldemortian effort to regenerate his body and revive his powers in order to destroy the world with his evil.
The heroes, led this time by Clarisse, daughter of Ares and self-avowed nemesis to Percy, will have to pass unharmed through the Sea of Monsters (featuring Scylla and Charybdis, natch), retrieve Grover and the Golden Fleece, and return to Camp Half-Blood in time to save Thalia’s Tree and Camp Half-Blood.
That description actually sounds a lot more exciting than the book actually was. I think Riordan just tried to cram way too much into this story. Besides introducing a new character, he’s also trying to tackle an classical tale of epic adventure in a mere 279 pages. In a children’s book. That’s just way too much for one person to chew.
Aside from these shortcomings and some instances in which the reader is asked to suspend his or her disbelief even more than normal, this volume is a rather weak read, but still a heck of a lot better than Riordan’s contribution to the 39 Clues series.
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