The Sea of Monsters (Percy Jackson and the Olympians), by Rick Riordan, 2006, Book Review

This is book two in the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series. If you haven’t read them, start with my review of book one, The Lightning Thief.

sea of monstersRick Riordan did it again. I enjoyed The Sea of Monsters almost as much as The Lightning Thief. It’s a whole new adventure with many of the same characters as book one and a few new ones. Kronos is still rising, Luke is still evil, the prophecy about Percy (or another child of the Big Three?) is more fully explained, and an ultimate confrontation is obviously a few books away. I’m hooked. I’ve ordered book three.

Again, I cringed a bit at the offhand way the Greek gods produce offspring, both half-human and half-beast. Such mythology is a tricky subject to base a children’s series around, but nobody’s delving into details. And creatures with super-human powers sure provide opportunity for rousing adventures. This time around, we get a Confederate ghost ship, death-defying chariot races, sirens, rides on hippocampi, a feminist sorceress, hard-partying wild centaurs and a satyr who plays “YMCA” on his pipes.

I just love Riordan’s witty, understated writing style. I had a slew of favorite passages I wanted to share, but I trimmed it down to these:

“You’d think getting chopped into a million pieces and cast into the darkest part of the Underworld would give him a subtle clue that nobody wanted him around.”

“They reminded me of miniature cafeteria ladies who’d been crossbred with dodo birds.”

“Facing the hooves of a rearing stallion is scary enough, but when it’s a centaur, armed with a bow and whooping it up in a soda-drinking hat, even the bravest warrior would retreat.”

“I mean, I’ve met plenty of embarrassing parents, but Kronos, the evil titan lord who wanted to destroy Western Civilization? Not the kind of dad you invited to school for career day.”

“Families are messy. Immortal families are eternally messy. Sometimes the best we can do is to remind each other that we’re related, for better or worse…and try to keep the maiming and killing to a minimum.”

I have to mention some very mild profanities. Characters repeatedly utter the tongue-in-cheek “oh my gods.” At one point, someone exclaims, “D— the heroes!” And another character is told to “go to Tartarus,” a formal name for the Underworld. On the brighter side, Percy learns a sweet lesson about loving the big stupid, ugly guy for who he is, and a lot about loyalty, friendship, and brotherhood. Overall, Percy Jackson is pretty restrained in a day when more and more trash is acceptable in the children’s genre. I give the book two thumbs up.

5 thoughts on “The Sea of Monsters (Percy Jackson and the Olympians), by Rick Riordan, 2006, Book Review

      1. I did like “The Titan’s Curse” a little better. That review will show up in a couple weeks. I just finished “The Battle of the Labyrinth” and didn’t like that one as much. It included darker elements. I think the first one is still my favorite. 🙂

  1. When I first started teaching about four years ago, I was including the Hero’s Journey in my classes. Always loved this concept (and much of mythology in general). Another teacher at that time told me about a series of YA books that broached this topic pretty well for a younger crowd. Yup, it was the Percy Jackson series, maybe just a year before it started gaining momentum. They are definitely on my list.

    And it gets tricky when we try and water down old stories for a younger audience. The Grimm Fairy Tales are an excellent example of this. Zeus was a notorious philanderer. The question arises of how true to the stories should we remain.

    Paul D. Dail
    http://www.pauldail.com- A horror writer’s not necessarily horrific blog

  2. This is so true, Paul. While being familiar with the old stories is part of being educated, how much, how young can become sticky. Riordan does a pretty good job keeping his material appropriate for the middle school crowd. And his books ARE fun to read. I know these are popular with the fifth and sixth grade crowd, but the deeper into the series I delve (I’m on the last one), the more pursuaded I become to keep this one on the shelf next to Harry Potter till my kids are 12.

    Good point about the Grimm brothers. In college, I had a friend from South America to whom I read The Three Billy Goats Gruff. When I finished, he looked at me in shock and asked, “You read this to children?” I decided not to continue on to, say, the witch who roasts children in Hansel and Gretel.

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