The Sea of Monsters by Rick Riordan

13506054I recently reviewed The Lightning Thief and alluded to the fact that I wasn’t extremely impressed with its follow-up, The Sea of Monsters. Having now finished the second book’s audio, I can’t say that my impressions have changed much. Percy Jackson’s sophomore adventures were a much weaker story than The Lightning Thief! Feel free to disagree and I’d love to hear your thoughts, but I’m not sure I’m going to be falling in love with Percy and his friends any time soon.

So what happened in the sequel that was so offensive? Honestly, I’m not sure. I thought the Harry Potter similarities were a bit distracting what with Kronos mirroring Voldemort far too obviously. The introduction of Tyson was also less than appealing. I wanted to like him – I know we were supposed to like him – but his characterization felt cumbersome and Jesse Bernstein’s voice acting for Tyson was grating. I suppose middle grade readers would probably enjoy the audio version much more than I did. Just a bit too over the top. The plot was also less than stellar. Grover being in trouble and needing Percy’s help was fine, but having the Cyclopes giant believe Grover was his bride-to-be just lost me entirely. Too silly.

I think what Riordan’s series lacks for me is the very intricately detailed and plotted moral struggles and internal conflict that Rowling was able to capture and write so well. And while it’s not necessarily fair to compare Percy to Harry, I’m not sure how you can avoid the comparison either. Percy’s story does move much more quickly, but that swift pace also demands far less development and layered characterization. I just don’t feel attached to Percy or anyone else in the novel. I don’t care about them because I still don’t feel like I know them.

I’m going to give the third book a go in written format and skip the audio. Hopefully, this change will help grow my enjoyment of the novel. A shame really, I had such high hopes.

In other news, congrats to Nora-Adrienne for winning a copy of The Expats! Check your email and please respond within 48 hours.

The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan

13500737I’ve wanted to read the Percy Jackson books for as long as I’ve known about them, but have never made the time. This fact is quite shocking knowing how many readers compare the novels to the Harry Potter series and how ridiculously in love with HP I am. Even my sister, a fairly lazy reader, has gotten around to this series! When I got this new job, I immediately needed some audiobooks to fill my long commute and thought Percy Jackson would be the perfect fit.

I know y’all know what this series is about. Percy, a middle-schooler, discovers he’s a demi-god and that all the Greek mythology is actually real life. In The Lightning Thief, Percy uncovers the truth about himself and fulfills his first hero quest – recovering Zeus’s lost lightening bolt power thingy. Along the way he becomes besties with Annabeth and Grover, demi-god and satyr, respectively. If you haven’t read the book, you’ve most likely seen the movie starring Logan Lerman.

I hadn’t listened to an audiobook since the beginning of 2012 when I gave up on the third book in Stieg Larsson’s Millennium trilogy. After getting re-accustomed to the format, I fell in sync with Percy and Jesse Bernstein’s reading of Percy fairly quickly. The story is a fast-paced romp – a road trip tale with action, adventure, and mythology in spades. Obviously, the book’s target audience is middle-grade readers, but adults can find something enjoyable in Percy’s quest as well. The writing wasn’t particularly stunning, but then I wouldn’t have expected it to be. Bernstein’s narration might grate on the nerves of some adults as his characterizations are decidedly teenage-esque, but I’m sure kids eat it up.

As far as the Harry Potter comparisons are concerned, they aren’t too off the mark. Riordan appears to have drawn great influence from the structure of the HP story. Three friends, hero man-child, great obstacles to overcome, and an evil trying to come back from some kind of dead place. But nothing about these similarities distracted me in this first book (the second is another story). I was able to overlook them with relative ease, perhaps because I’m currently a bit removed from the HP mythology and hype.

I’d recommend this book to those readers who are specifically interested in this particular middle grade story. I’m not sure it will win over any mythological naysayers, scholars, or those looking for the next Harry Potter. I know Percy gets lots of praise, and while I understand why, I’m not so sure I can jump on the bandwagon as quickly as everyone else. An enjoyable story, yes, but nothing special. An great audio to listen to while commuting through terrible Atlanta traffic. If I miss a line here or there, no need to rewind as everything is fairly easy to figure out on my own.

If you loved the Percy Jackson series, let me know why in the comments! Should I continue one with the third book because the second book is going rather slowly for me?

As a side note, the film drastically changes many of the book’s plot points. Be prepared for a very liberal interpretation and not a particularly well-done one. I did enjoy the actors who played Annabeth and Grover, however. One of my biggest complaints with the book was how underdeveloped Grover was. He had so much my potential and was my favorite character, but he wasn’t written thoroughly enough. I enjoyed him so much more in the movie!