Thursday, February 26, 2015

Book Review: Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson and The Sea of Monsters

Percy Jackson and The Sea of Monsters offers another installment of wacky, quirky mythological adventures in a modern world. Picking up a year after Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief, this installment presents a narrator that, while he has aged a year, shows little overall growth and change. Rick Riordan is not J. K. Rowling, who took a fledgling writing style at the advent of the Harry Potter series and then grew into a more versed and nuanced writer. To the contrary, Jackson remains a bumbling stumbling teenager, which he should since he is one after all one, but the prose suffers from the first person style. One gets caught up in the short attention span and endless stream of monsters that confront the protagonist, but the outcomes, much like those in the Greek Mythology the narrative incorporates are more coincidental than not.

In this installment, life has worsened for Half-Bloods as a potential war between the gods and the titans now brews. People are choosing sides, heroes are torn, and the camp’s defense system, a tree that wards off evil, has been poisoned. With the help of the gods but without the blessing of the camp’s staff, Dionysus and Tantalus, Percy finds himself at the center of a quest to heal the tree and rescue his satyr friend Grover. Grover who was once a bumbling fool, has grown and power and magic (inexplicably) and is now engaged to the Cyclops Polyphemus (think the Odyssey), and is waiting his rescue before the nuptials arrive, Polyphemus loves to eat satyrs. Thus Percy and his band of friends go off to save the world, doing so in a panic based rush. They are always in a hurry, days are numbered, civilization might fall, and Jackson somehow, often by mistake lands as the potential savior despite prophecies warning that he could cause the potential destruction.

This is not to say that the text isn’t fun—it is. Yet Riordan doesn’t show the growth one would expect, relying too much on things to magically work out, which while part of his conceit, does not make the plot deeper. One can only read through a few sudden, inexplicable, magical rescues at the absolute moment of need before you want more, and at this point the text does not offer that additional substance.

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