Most of us are familiar with Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson books, but for those of you who are not, here is a brief synopsis.
The gods of ancient Greece are real, and they are not really the gods of ancient Greece at all but the gods of western civilization. These guys still live on Mount Olympus, but now their godly home is suspended out of sight above the Empire State building in New York City. Other than their new address however, not much has changed with the Olympians of old; they still bicker and wage petty wars between themselves, still take mortals as lovers, and still keep having half-mortal half-god offspring who prefer to be called Half-Bloods instead of demigods. Hephaestus, Ares, Apollo, Hermes, Dionysus, Athena, Aphrodite, Hera, Zeus, Hades, and Poseidon each have sired their share; all willing to stirring up the Earthly gene pool with some godly DNA.
Unfortunately, this infusion of godly blood seems more a curse for the mortal world rather than blessing, because the half-bloods have inherited their divine sires bickering temperament. Thus, they stir up never ending troubles and even human conflicts: World War Two being the most recent and horrid example, as the offspring of the Big Three (Zeus, Poseidon, Hades) faced off.
To keep these demigods, or half bloods, from making too much of a mess in the mortal world, the gods have established Camp Half-Blood in New York, where Chiron, the trainer of Hercules, and Dionysus, who has been sentenced to a period of sobriety for chasing after one of Zeus’ sweeties, train the godly children how to behave and protect themselves from monsters: vile creature out of myth which appear in the mortal world bent on the destruction of half-bloods. Even more important, Zeus, Poseidon, and Hades have sworn an oath on the River Styx not to sire anymore children.
Naturally, though, our ancient philanderers do not abide by their oath, resulting in Percy Jackson being born the son of Poseidon and the deceased Thalia having been a daughter of Zeus. A situation which has caused an ominous prophecy to issue from the oracle of the gods; one which foretells the destruction of the gods by the choice of a child of the Big Three. And to complicate matters even more, Kronos, father of Zeus, Poseidon, and Hades, has awoken, striving to escape his imprisonment in Tartarus and avenge himself upon his treacherous children.
This whole situation was introduced in The Lightning Thief and is continued in The Sea of Monsters. The story itself begins not too many months after the end of the last novel and finds Percy coming to terms with being the son of Poseidon, even though his dad’s indifference to him still bothers him immensely. Our sometimes dense but always entertaining hero has returned to live with his mother in New York, and she - being a loving mother - has enrolled her only son in yet another school for troubled kids. Once there, Percy falls back into his old routine: become an outsider, befriend the school's biggest loser (An overgrown teenager named Tyson this time around) and get on the bad side of the school bullies. Bullies who turn out to be (Wait for it) - more than what they appear!
When his new school gets nearly totally destroyed by a battle with cannibalistic monsters, Percy beats a quick retreat to Camp Half-Blood with Annabeth (Who shows up unexpectedly from camp) and his new friend Tyson in tow. But things are not any better at the home for misfit demigods, because Thalia's tree - the one that protects Camp Half-Blood from monsters - has been poisoned and is dying. Even worse, all the clues point to Chiron being the culprit!
From there Mr. Riordan weaves an entertaining tale, not as riveting as The Lightning Thief perhaps but just as fun to read. Where Mr. Riordan does an especially masterful job in The Sea of Monsters is adding depth to the existing characters while also giving the reader several new faces. I and my son really enjoyed Tyson, who added a sensitive and sympathetic character to the mix, but even the good guy gone bad Luke was fun to read about, as he started to become a great arch nemesis for Percy. However, the star of this story was the quest itself, as our incredible clueless but resilient trio of Percy, Annabeth and Tyson head out to rescue Grover and find the Golden Fleece that Jason and the Argonauts made famous centuries ago.
One thing I have to give Mr. Riordan extra credit for in this book and the series as a whole is his ability to not only weave ancient Greek myths into each story but update and change them to fit into the modern world. Single handedly, he - and Percy of course - have made my nine year old an aficionado of ancient Greek mythology, as he longs to read the myths which are so masterfully talked about in these books.
All in all, I thought The Sea of Monsters delivered exactly what it promised: a fun adventurous journey with a normal kid (Percy) who also happens to be a demigod. You won’t have an epiphany about life from reading this novel, but then again were you expecting to when you picked up a Percy Jackson novel? No. So sit back and be entertained - even while you wonder when Percy is going to stop being so clueless.