This is the sequel to The Lightning Thief, which I raved about last week. I had bemoaned the fact that I, stupidly, didn't pick up The Sea of Monsters for way-cheap at the Scholastic Half-Price Sale recently, so you can probably imagine my joy at finding an ARC of it in a pile of books at home. (Once I found it, I remembered picking it up at PLA -- I just hadn't read it yet due to my must-read-books-in-series-order issue.)
It was great. While Riordan provides the background that makes it possible to pick up the series from here, I'd still suggest beginning at Book One. (Mostly because it's so much fun.)
Percy's school year has gone pretty uneventfully -- oddly enough, no monsters have tried to kill him and he hasn't been expelled from his new, "progressive" school:
The whole middle school had to read this book called Lord of the Flies, where all these kids get marooned on an island and go psycho. So for our final exam, our teachers sent us into the break yard to spend an hour with no adult supervision to see what would happen. What happened was a massive wedgie contest between the seventh and eighth graders, two pebble fights, and a full-on tackle game. The school bully, Matt Sloan, led most of those activities.
Due to the almost disturbing lack of monster attacks, Percy has spent most of his school year defending his new friend Tyson from the aforementioned bully:
Tyson was the only homeless kid at Meriwether College Prep. As near as my mom and I could figure, he'd been abandoned by his parents when he was very young, probably because he was so . . . different. He was six-foot-three and built like the Abominable Snowman, but he cried a lot and was scared of just about everything, including his own reflection. His face was kind of misshapen and brutal-looking. I couldn't tell you what color his eyes were, because I could never make myself look higher than his crooked teeth. His voice was deep, but he talked funny, like a much younger kid--I guess because he'd never gone to school before coming to Meriwether.
Then, the night before his last day of school, he has a nightmare about his friend Grover the satyr. Things start to go downhill from there. When he and Annabeth (and yes, Tyson) arrive at Camp Half-Blood, they find it under attack. Once that threat is dealt with, they are informed of an even greater threat -- Thalia's tree (which usually protects the camp from attack) has been poisoned and Chiron has been blamed, fired and replaced by Tantalus.
So begins the quest for the Golden Fleece.
Everything I said about The Lightning Thief still goes, and then some. Rick Riordan continues to come up with brilliant chapter headings:
2. I Play Dodgeball with Cannibals
6. Demon Pigeons Attack
11. Clarisse Blows Up Everything
14. We Meet the Sheep of Doom
I continue to be reminded of the Harry Potter books, but again, only in basic structure. Percy & Co. meet Chiron's centaur relatives, and they are the complete opposite of the JKR centaur -- frighteningly enough, they reminded me of some guys I hung out with during my college years.
The series continues to be smart, funny, exciting, and sure to please. Book Three is probably (I hope, I hope!) coming out next year.