By Rick Riordan
Blurb: “Percy Jackson’s seventh-grade year has been surprisingly quiet. Not a single monster has set foot on his New York prep-school campus. But when an innocent game of dodgeball among Percy and his classmates turns into a death match against an ugly gang of cannibal giants, things get . . . well, ugly. And the unexpected arrival of his friend Annabeth brings more bad news: the magical borders that protect Camp Half-Blood have been poisoned by a mysterious enemy, and unless a cure if found, the only safe haven for demigods will be destroyed.”
Characterization: Alright, let’s start with the good stuff. Annabeth fucking rules in this book. I really liked her character in The Lightning Thief, and she’s just infinitely better here. It’s honestly kind of insane how good she is, but wow. I’ll be the first to admit that TLT was fairly simple when it came to character development. Grover became less scared, Annabeth and Percy overcome their differences and become friends, it’s a lovely arc. However, this book just dives deep into who she is as a person, and spends a very large time exploring her psyche, and her flaws, and it’s just amazing. Fuck it, I’ll just come out and say that the scene with the Sirens surpasses every scene in TLT, and is easily better than at least 75% of the Harry Potter series. It’s that fucking good. I also really like the way her distrust of cyclops is explained, because it weaves into the story really well, and it’s also just a fantastically written, emotionally hitting scene. I will say that I’m not the biggest fan of Annabeth and Percy’s little squabble at the beginning of the novel, but I also understand why it happens and what it sets up, so I’m not too upset over it. So yeah, Annabeth’s still my favorite main character, great job Riordan! I also think that Percy’s arc in this book is very good! Not as good as Annabeth’s but him coming to terms with Tyson is a really sweet arc for him to have, and it’s executed rather well. Do I think Tyson also functions within the story? Well….we’ll get to that in a minute. I don’t really have much to say about Percy, because his character is mostly the same here, except that he’s a bit more assertive and just, like, straight up brave in this one. So yeah, I still like him, because he’s basically the same as in the last one. His narration’s still funny, he’s still relatable as fuck, he’s still likable, all that good stuff. Now, a new character in this book is Hermes, and holy fucking hell he’s so good in this fic! Every scene he shows up in manages to balance humour and dramatic tension incredibly well, and it’s just all around a great time. Now…and here’s where we start running into problems…Luke’s a prominent character again, and he’s so fucking bad. I don’t know why the fuck Riordan decided to write him this way, but he’s such a fucking caricature of a mustache-twirling, comic-book villain that it’s not even funny. He fucking stands around monologuing all the time and it’s the most frustrating thing ever. That isn’t to say that this trope can’t be played well, and there are even hints of it in this book when Percy exploits Luke’s pride in order to get upper hand, but I wish there was more self-awareness like that and less of the old, tired comic-book cliches being played straight. Once again, Luke’s character gets a big ole thumbs down from me. Not that his plan isn’t cool, because it is, but we’ll get to that later. Finally, we arrive to Tyson. Motherfucking Tyson. What the fuck was Riordan thinking?! Now, I should mention that I am actually a big fan of his interactions with Polyphemus, which was in it of itself a fantastic reference to The Odyssey, but besides that, I fucking hated him. He had such a topsy-turvy character arc in this fic that went up and down and sideways, and never really came together for me, I really didn’t like the way he was written, and the tone of his character feels like he was pulled straight out of a badly written Illumination Studios film. It’s just so tonally dissonant to the rest of the book that it’s impossible to ever really enjoy his character, and that makes it harder to enjoy the rest of the book when he’s around. If that weren’t enough, he fucking fake dies halfway through, and is then used for a Deus Ex-motherfucking-Machina! I cannot fucking stand this kind of bullshit, and I really thought Riordan was above this kind of thing. Hell, even Harry “has a transphobic jackass of an author who can’t write character arcs for shit” Potter doesn’t ever fake kill a character, except for Pettigrew but that’s completely different because him faking his death is set up from the beginning, and it works there. Anyway, Tyson gets an enormous double thumbs down from me, because if it wasn’t for how he factors into Percy and Annabeth’s respective arcs, I would probably dislike this book because of him. Anyway, Tyson drags the characterization in this book down from a four to something much, much lower, and all I can say is thank Christ for Annabeth, because without her it would be much, much lower. 5/10
Dialogue: Overall, I think the dialogue in this book is quite good. In fact, I’d say it’s generally on the same level as book one. It’s often very funny, all of the characters have very distinct mannerisms that make it easy to keep track of who’s talking, and it just generally functions well. However, I do have a few exceptions this time around. First of all, I don’t like the way Tyson talks. It’s weird, it’s cringe, and it just doesn’t do the job for me. I even understand that there’s a valid plot reason for it, but I just do not enjoy it. However, I fucking adored the scene with Polyphemus. I found that his dialogue was much easier to stomach than Tyson’s, and his back and forth with Annabeth was some of the best writing in this entire book. I do not know how many of you know this, but I have read both The Iliad and The Odyssey, and while I enjoyed them to varying degrees and thought that certain parts were far better than others, it was incredibly gratifying to see The Odyssey referenced in such a direct way. I absolutely adored it, and it was some of this series’ best dialogue yet. So….at the end of the day, the dialogue in this book is about as good as it was in TLT. 9/10
Plot: Yeah….unfortunately, I wasn’t all that into the plot of this book. I mean don’t get me wrong, there were parts that I liked. The sirens were great, the showdown with Polyphemus was very well handled, and I think Thalia’s resurrection was handled better than a lot of books would handle such a thing, but….this book dragged a lot in the middle, and it had a lot of what I would call filler. For example, Circe’s spa had a lot of brilliant ideas. Turning men into guinea pigs and sending them to grade school classrooms was legitimately hilarious, and was the exact kind of dark comedy that I adore, and I also really liked the moment when Annabeth and Percy hug after she saves him from Circe. It was very sweet, and I enjoyed it quite a bit. However, narratively it felt very out of place and as though it only existed to pad the book’s length, and considering that this is the longest book in the original PJO series, that’s kind of a problem. Not to mention that I’m just not very entertained by the whole rescuing Grover story, and it almost felt like Luke was almost shoehorned into the plot at the last minute just to remind everyone that he’s around still doing Kronos things. I also felt like the subplot with Clarisse was just kinda forgettable, and her whole rivalry with Percy was just generally more interesting to read about in book one than it was here. Finally, I have to bring up the way Tyson was used, because he’s the victim of both a fake character death, and a Deus Ex-Machina in the third act, and those are two of my biggest pet peeves in action/adventure writing. However, I cannot emphasize how much I enjoy the ending. The final confrontation with Luke is actually quite interesting, the stuff with Polyphemus is fun, and I really liked Percy passing the torch onto Clarisse. However, I also need to mention that her prophecy is stupid as fuck and is nowhere near as interesting as the prophecies in TLT. What is interesting, however, is Percy’s little talk with Chiron near the ending. Anyway, look. I could go on rambling forever, but you kind of get the idea at this point. This plot had a lot of potential, but I think a lot of it falls flat, and overall, Ima have to give it a 5/10.
Action: The action’s still great. The sequence with Polyphemus is both inventive and exciting, the duel with Luke at the end is tons of fun, and all the ocean action in this one makes for a very interesting read. However, the crown jewel of the action in this book is the scene with Annabeth, Percy, and the Sirens, because holy shit it’s good! One of the best scenes I’ve read in a long time, and a brilliant example of what these books can be when they’re at their best. Overall, the action’s great, and I don’t really have too many complaints about it. 10/10
Tone: I’ve already gone into this a lot in other sections, but yeah the tone in this book is super inconsistent. Tyson basically kills the tone of any scene he’s in, if I’m being honest. It tries to be this strange blend of funny and serious, and it’s just all over the place, and it never really works for me. The one exception for me is the scene with the Sirens, which is very consistently dramatic throughout, and the final battle with Polyphemus, which is the one time when Tyson’s a fun character to read about. God, a baby cyclops who’s related to Percy should have been such a fucking interesting idea, and it sucks how badly Riordan butchers him in this book. Tis a shame. Anyway, yeah the tone is mostly not great in this book, so…4/10.
Pacing: You know, when all is said and done, Sea of Monsters is honeslty paced fairly well. I mean, it’s not perfect or anything, but this book was fairly readable, and I think a lot of that was because it never lingers on anything for too long, so after every chapter I thought to myself “maybe I’ll like this next thing more” and then my disappointment would morph into curiosity, and this definitely made my experience more enjoyable. However, there are a few parts that definitely drag, so…let’s go with an 8.5/10.
Comedy: This books’ comedy is at it’s best when Percy’s just observing things, because he has a pretty incredible talent for describing things in a way that’s entertaining to read about. He also still plays off Annabeth really well, and the chapter titles are, one again, phenomenal. I also have to mention Hermes’ line about how families all just have to try their best to keep the murdering each other part to a minimum, because that absolutely ruled. However, once again, Tyson drags this section down, because his character is definitely played for comedy every now and then, and it all falls flat. Luckily, there aren’t too many attempted jokes, but the fact is that this book is decidedly less funny than TLT, so….let’s go with a 7.5/10
Overall: Despite all of my criticisms, this book is still fairly readable, but oh boy is it sloppy. At the end of the day, here’s my overall take. This book’s highs eclipse even the strongest parts of The Lightning Thief. The scene with the Sirens, the fight against Polyphemus, and the ending are all fucking top notch stuff. But the lows in this fic are absolutely insufferable, and they happen quite a lot. So….yeah this book is worse than The Lightning Thief, it just is. It’s a shame, but….it is what it is. It’s a hot mess of a book that has some fantastic shit sprinkled throughout.
Final Thoughts: Honestly, I’d still recommend giving this book a read, especially if you liked the first one. However, go in with tempered expectations, and…yeah if you didn’t like The Lightning Thief, this book won’t change your mind. I’m giving The Sea of Monsters a 6.5/10.
Written on 04/20/2021