Cheating on Book Club: Monsters by the Sea

I say without any intended irony that I think the Percy Jackson books are a thoroughly American series. Despite their emphasis on the Greek myths, the characters have a focus on American food and soda brands, but Percy also has a directness and mindset that impresses me more than a certain British boy wizard.

At a wedding in Mexico, with some time to lounge, I picked up book two in the series: the Sea of Monsters, and we got along quite well; so well that I wouldn’t have minded having the third book available while digging my toes into the sand and watching the sea roil.

While reading Atonement and other literary fiction works mental muscles that need developing, reading a good fantasy or two, even those for a younger audience, reminds me why I love my genre.

The second volume picks up the pace and pulls in the slack. It’s slimmer than the Lightning Thief and a better read. Rick Riordan draws on the Odyssey in funny ways, with a witty jab at Penelope’s adventures in weaving and an update to certain other bits that I won’t spoil. I appreciated a toning down of the sillier mythic reinventions, something that cluttered up the first book for me, though if you know the tales, you’ll quickly spot where chapters are going.

The main character, Percy, grows a bit. He’s not perfect, and his flaws are human and relatable. They fit a boy moving towards adulthood. His demi-god powers take a major leap forward, but Percy gets some setbacks too, which was a nice touch.
The Sea of Monsters is a breezy read. There’s not a lot else to say. I liked it, and it ended on a great twist which makes me anxious to see where things go. If I’ve a critique of the book it’s that the chapter headings often act as spoilers. Major developments are given away there. For the younger reader, to whom the book is written, this might not be the case; but I wouldn’t have minded if Riordan had stretched out the surprises. My other critique is copy editing. This book is slight, and I spotted two copy problems. The first was early, on page eight. It’s an area I’m working hard on in my own work so it really jumps out at me when such a best-selling book makes errors.

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