Title: Percy Jackson and the Sea of Monsters
Author: Rick Riordan
Review: Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson and the Sea of Monsters, is the second book in the Percy Jackson & the Olympians series. After reading Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief, I have been eagerly awaiting this sequel and I should say the second book doesn’t disappoint — it is every bit as whacky and as exciting and as readable as the first one.
To those of you who are unaware, here’s a quick update on the basic premise of this series: We all know (or have heard) of the mythological gods that dwelled on mount Olympus. These Grecian gods, like the Hindu devas that we are probably more familiar with, too dabbled a lot in the affairs of the mortals. And like the Hindu devas, the Olympian gods were known for consorting with any human (or animal, or spirit) that caught their fancy. Usually, as a result of these divine dalliances, there were numerous off-springs, “demi-gods” roaming the earth in the ancient days.
Well, the Greek gods of old are still around (they are immortal after all), moving as the center of western civilization shifts with time. Today, Zeus lives atop the Empire State Building. The dominion of Hades is under the present day Los Angeles. Poseidon still rules the sea. And like in the hey days of Greek civilization, the Olympian gods continue to sire offspring who roam the earth as demi-gods often stirring trouble when they clash with each other (The second world war was a result of the offspring of two gods coming to blows). Because of their divine DNA, these kids are dyslexic, have ADHD (Attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder), but speak and understand Latin fluently and naturally have some sort of divine powers, the nature of which is determined by the god who sired them. These half-bloods assemble (usually during school vacations) in a camp in New York called Half-Blood Hill. The Centaur Chiron (those who are familiar with the Greek myths will remember he trained the mighty Hercules), is the activities director of the camp.
Dionysus, the god of wine, is the camp director, banished to this “punishment posting” for showing undue interest in a wood nymph. The camp is sort of a “safe-place” for these demi-gods. Within the magical boundaries of the camp they are protected from mythical monsters (Minotaurs, etc) and learn and train as demi-gods should be. (Think of it as this series’ equivalent of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry in the Harry Potter series.)
After the destruction wrought by the Second World War, the big three of the Olympian pantheon — Zeus, Poseidon, and Hades — swear an oath on the river Styx that they would not beget any more children. Only Hades has kept his promise. Percy (Perseus) Jackson is Poseidon’s son.
Back to the book.
The book starts of with Percy Jackson’s last day in a new progressive school, Meriweather College Prep. But for the bullies, the school has not been too bad. At least no monsters have attempted to kill him. Percy hopes that the last day goes without an incident and he can make his way safely back to Half-Blood Hill without being expelled (as he was from all his earlier schools) from this school. But of course something has to go wrong.
The night before, Percy has had a very disturbing dream about his friend, Grover the satyr. Grover, who is on a quest to find the god Pan, seems to be in danger. And Percy finds himself in the thick of trouble when strange things start happening on the last day at the school. A dodge ball game turns into a battle when a group of giant cannibals called Laistrygonians infiltrate the opposite team and attack Percy and his new friend Tyson. Tyson is a huge brute of a teenager who happens to be homeless and on a charity scholarship at Meriweather College Prep. Despite his size, Tyson is very sensitive and breaks down into convulsive sobbing when teased and bullied. However in the fight with the Laistrygonians, Tyson displays some unusual abilities. Despite Tyson’s heroics, he and Percy seem destined to be eaten by the cannibals when they are rescued by Annabeth who is the daughter of Athena and a friend of Percy’s from Half-Blood Hill.
Percy and Tyson accompany Annabeth to Camp Half-Blood only to find that it too is under attack. The protective barrier around the camp has weakened considerably because of the poisoning of the pine tree of Thalia. Thalia, the daughter of Zeus, who like Percy was a half blood, had been changed into a tree some years ago to protect the other inmates of the camp from danger. Thalia, all through these years, has been a magical guardian of the Camp Half-Blood. But an unknown poison is now eating into her and killing her. Chiron is made the scapegoat and fired. Tantalus (who in Greek mythology steals Ambrosia and is hence punished the gods to be tempted with food and water but never be satisfied) takes over as Camp Half-Blood’s activities director. Tantalus takes an immediate dislike to Percy (and his friends Annabeth and Tyson) and does his best to torment him. He pays no heed to Percy’s increasingly nightmarish dreams about his satyr friend Grover. Percy’s nightmares show Grover to be imprisoned by the cyclops Polyphemus on an island in the Sea of Monsters (familiarly known as the Bermuda Triangle). It is also revealed that the legendary Golden Fleece is on the same island and only the magical healing properties of the Golden Fleece can save Thalia and in turn Camp Half-Blood.
Tantalus however gleefully assigns the quest for finding and bringing the Golden Fleece to Clarisse, daughter of the war god Ares. But with the help of the god Hermes (who has his own ulterior motives) Percy along with Annabeth and Tyson also sets off on a quest to rescue Grover and find the Golden Fleece. Along the way Percy and his friends (like on any quest of the old) contend not only with Clarisse, but also with an assortment of monsters, run into the sorceress Circe, encounter the Sirens, and fight with Luke (another half-blood, a traitor, and Percy’s sworn enemy). They also have to deal with the machinations of the gods. And along the way Percy learns quite a few secrets, especially a prophecy about himself which threatens the very existence of the Olympian gods and their creations. The prophecy along with the reappearance of a pivotal, powerful character (that overturns all the calculations of the gods about the prophecy) make a great finish for the book and set the platform for a tantalizing third book.
Like The Lightning Thief, Sea of Monsters is packed with compelling drama and hilarious adventures. And if you are even slightly familiar with Greek mythology you’ll have a blast reading Rick Riordan’s re-imagining of the Greek myths and the way he has updated the gods and their stories to fit them into the modern world and the world of Percy Jackson.
Sample this description of Aphrodite (goddess of love and beauty) given in the “Chiron’s Guide to the Who’s Who in Greek Mythology” appended at the end of the book:
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Kindle Edition: amazon.co.uk