Review written by Jeff Dougan.
The Sea of Monsters is the second book in the first pentad of books featuring Percy Jackson. You’ll want to read these in order—I reviewed the first one here, and for purposes of introduction will just note that I like the series a LOT. The second book opens up roughly a year after the first, and Percy hasn’t seen Grover in close to nine months. There are problems at camp, too, because the tree that helps reinforce the magical boundaries seems to be dying. Because Chiron is suspected of being the poisoner, Tantalus has been temporarily released from the Underworld and awards the quest to Clarisse. With a little divine help (from Hermes), Percy, Annabeth, and his newly-discovered cyclops half-brother Tyson run away to try to find where Grover is and, with it, the Golden Fleece which is the only thing that might heal the tree.
Their first stop is a cruise ship called the Princess Andromeda, which seems to have no crew or passengers. What it does have is Luke Castellan (who had stolen the master lightning bolt and tried to kill Percy) and a whole army of monsters. Percy, Annabeth, and Tyson have a series of adventures that take them past several monsters from The Odyssey, including Scylla & Charybdis, Circe, and Polyphemus the Cyclops. Shortly before meeting Polyphemus, they also reunite with Clarisse, and all four campers have to work together to outwit Polyphemus in order to recover the Fleece and return to Florida. They send Clarisse back to camp by air shortly before Luke and the monsters attack Percy, only to be saved by Chiron and a dozen or so other centaurs. After returning to camp, the Fleece is placed over the tree. Its magic works too well, as the tree spits out Thalia, the daughter of Zeus who was transformed into the tree many years ago.
SPOILER ALERT: Things you might want to know before suggesting this to your kid
This is the first book where Percy really thinks about the genealogical ramifications of being a demi-god. Last year, he was busy trying to figure everything out and stay alive, and so although he noticed in passing that none of the campers (even in the same cabin) had the same sets of parents, it really comes home to him that, despite the oath made by Zeus, Poseidon, and Hades not to have any more children, that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have siblings of another sort.
The encounter at Circe’s island plays into lots and lots of tropes, most principally about sorcery being a woman’s trade and the general likening of men to animals. I’ll grant that this is lifted straight from the original encounter in the Odyssey, but I still don’t like it.
Just like in the first book, there’s some rude humor that’s less crass than Captain Underpants and mostly in the chapter titles. The use of “Oh my gods” and similar turns of phrase shows up again, too. In the audio editions, the plural form of gods is more obvious than to a rapid reader in the print editions.
The encounters with Scylla and Charybdis, the Sirens, and Polyphemus are varying styles of intense. The former features the ship that Percy & Annabeth are on getting destroyed only to get a last-minute rescue by Clarisse. The Siren encounter has Percy working like crazy to keep Annabeth from committing suicide by Siren. The last has everybody afraid for their life for a while.
The 900-lb. Gorilla
If you are a person who objects to Harry Potter on the grounds that in those books magic is real, potentially used for good, and explicitly non-Christian, I doubt that you’re reading this review. However, if you are, you definitely won’t want your kids reading any of the books Rick Riordan has written for kids. The entire series starts from a supposition that non-Christian gods are real, have power, and can do good things for the world. All of the important characters in the series act in ways that are entirely consistent with that premise.
A must-read for fans of the first book, The Lightning Thief. You definitely want to read this series in order.
The Sea of Monsters by Rick Riordan
Published in 2006 by Miramax Books
Book 2 in the Percy Jackson & the Olympians series