Sep 2, 2010

Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Sea of Monsters - Rick Riordan

The thing that I really like about Percy Jackson and the Olympians, is that it knows its place. The series is adequately written, fast-paced and fun, and while it steals openly from Harry Potter, it makes no pretense to compete with Joan Rowling's bespectacled wizard. Actually, you might say that this is the softcore version of Harry Potter (that is, if you can picture Harry and "hardcore" in the same sentence, without getting a horse into the picture).

A year has passed since the events of The Lightning Thief. Percy has spent most of it in school, without getting kicked, and things are definitely looking up. Of course, it doesn't take long before everything goes to Hades, and he is soon set on a quest to save not only his friend Grover (who has been kidnapped by a cyclops), but also the tree of Thalia, daughter of Zeus, which has been poisoned by the traitor Luke. The second part is terribly important, as the tree's life is connected to the barrier that protects Camp Half Blood from monsters, and when it dies, the demigods will be fair game for the supernatural beasts that hunt them.

The thirst thing that you will notice about The Sea of Monsters is the fact that it is not predictable. Rick Riordan has made a huge leap forward in that regard, and unlike The Lightning Thief, plot-twists here are a lot more unexpected, and better executed. In fact, the very end of the book is a shocking plot-twist, as well as a cliff-hanger, so be warned. Other good things about the book include a new member of Percy's ka-tet - the strange Tyson, who I found a lot more likable than Grover - and a huge flock of man-eating giant sheep!!!

Unfortunately, not everything about Percy's second adventure is better than the first. For one, although the overall story is a step forward, the places and monsters characters encounter are not on the level of those in The Lightning Thief. The "theme-park" element that I mentioned in my previous review of the series is still as strong as before, and not getting any less noticeable. Also, I hate it when YA authors use the "Authority Sux" cliche, where the authority figure is so absurdly obtuse, mean, annoying and disliking the main character, that said character has no other choice, but to break all the rules to do what needs to be done. I didn't like it with Snape, and I don't like it here.

So, basically, The Sea of Monsters is more of the same, somewhat better than the first book, but outside of the plot structure - not hugely. If you liked The Lightning Thief, you'll like this one as well. If you didn't, then it's highly unlikely that the second story will change your mind.


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