My rating: 2 of 5 stars
For me, this second instalment of the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series was a disappointing flop.
Perhaps the first book left me with too much expectation but The Sea of Monsters didn’t grip me at all. It left me racing through the pages out of boredom to reach the end and just get it over and done with. I’m trying to read these books while being mindful they’re written for young teenagers and also trying to ignore the gross similarities to the early instalments of the Harry Potter series (though, without their depth and finesse…as a huge Potter fan since childhood I may be biased here!).
Even so, this book was frustrating. It had the potential to be so much more but any interesting storyline or character development was sacrificed for action scene after action scene in which the characters handled every challenge in a similar way each time. The character who was meant to be the main villain was poor and barely seemed worth mentioning, it was the second villain (to avoid spoilers, I’ll just say the creature villain!) that added some interest to the story and that was limited at best. I feel like the book could have been ten times better if only Riordan concentrated on the plot and the characters rather than churning out ridiculous life-death situations all the time. This worked in the first book when we were finding out new things about the characters and the Olympians in the process but in this book, it felt sloppy, pointless and just a way of getting cheap movie-like thrills without having to include anything of substance.
Percy’s cheesy jokes, much in the style of Harry Dresden in the Dresden Files, make the ridiculousness of the action scenes far more bearable and have their occasional moments of brilliance but not to the point where they outweigh how repetitive all that action, action, action is.
A few reviewers have defended the excess of action scenes by saying that they’re true to Greek mythology which is fair enough but they shouldn’t come at the cost of everything else that made the first book so great. Far too many characters in this book were dismissed too quickly and given too little page-time. The ones that we were left with had weak portrayals, cliché predictable reactions/phrases and the ‘show don’t tell’ rule just fell out the window.
I mean, we get it – Annabeth is smart. Percy is brave and loyal. That was all established in the first book, no need to have it featured on almost every page in this book. Barely anything else was added to these characters despite them dominating the plot.
It was interesting how the author’s incorporated the Greek mythology into these books, so far that is definitely their greatest asset and seems to be carrying the weaker parts of the story. The contemporary take on classical stories is both entertaining and for the most part, seamlessly done, but the series just can’t survive on that alone. I’ll read the next book in hope that there’s a bit more substance to the whole thing before I give up on the series completely.