Title: The Sea of Monsters (Percy Jackson & The Olympians #2)
Author: Rick Riordan
Genre: Children’s fiction, fantasy
A new year, a new school to get expelled from. Sea of Monsters begins with Percy at his latest school, a feel-good new age school, and he’s managed to make it almost a whole year. He has a new friend- a giant, childish outcast named Tyson- and of course a new set of bullies bent on making his life hard. When the bullies gang up on Percy and Tyson during a dodge ball match with a group of visiting students who happen to be inhumanly strong cannibals, well, long story short the gym goes up in flames and Percy’s on the run all over again.
With the help of his friend Annabeth, Percy and Tyson escape to Camp Half-Blood, which Percy not only has to face the fact that his new buddy is a cyclops but is also Percy’s half-brother. Percy doesn’t have much time to process everything, though, because his best friend Grover is missing, he’s having dreams where Grover is trapped in a cave sewing a wedding dress, and the magical tree that has been protecting Camp Half-Blood has been poisoned, more than likely by their old friend-turned-enemy, Luke. A quest is in the air, and thanks to their new activities director, Tantalus, it’s bestowed upon… Clarisse, the bullying daughter of Ares who, by the way, wants to murder Percy. Surprise, surprise, Percy and his friends sneak off in the middle of the night to (hopefully) save the day.
To answer the question I posed in my review of The Lightning Thief: did Sea of Monsters maintain the momentum and keep me interested? Absolutely! The fast pace of the plot keeps the story from dragging. A lot of the themes remain the same and the stories are predictable, but the characters and adventures are so much for that you hardly notice. I like that Riordan brings in new characters on both sides to keep the pool fresh while continuing to develop his main characters. Tyson was a surprising and endearing new character who allowed for Percy to recognize some of his faults and become a better protagonist. Riordan also ends the story with one hell of a cliffhanger, which makes it impossible not to immediately continue to the third book.
One of the prevalent themes in this series is the questioning of authority. I like that Riordan encourages kids not to follow their elders and superiors blindly, and to stick up for themselves and their friends. Riordan is careful to also include moments where Percy wants to rebel really badly, but he recognizes that he needs to respect that particular symbol of authority. A good example of this is the camp director Dionysus, or Mr. D. Mr. D appears blase and indifferent to the fates of his campers, and Percy is constantly questioning whether Mr. D has their best interests in mind. However, Mr. D is a god, in a position of power, and Percy doesn’t really know Mr. D’s intentions yet, so he holds back around him.
I became much more emotionally invested in Percy as a character through this book, and I look forward to seeing how he grows up and develops throughout the series.