The Sea of Monsters
A book review for parents
This fantasy adventure is the second book in "Percy Jackson and the Olympians" by Rick Riordan and is published by Miramax Books, a division of Hyperion Books for Children.
The Sea of Monsters is written for kids ages 12 to 18. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.
Thirteen-year-old Percy Jackson’s strange dreams tell him something’s wrong at Half-Blood Hill, a summer camp for demigods. He also receives desperate midnight messages from his satyr friend, Grover. Annabeth, a half-human, half-god camper, similar to Percy and Grover, appears at Percy’s school and confirms his fears. She saves him from a gang of monsters trying to slaughter him on the dodgeball court. Then she delivers him and his hulking new friend, Tyson, to Half-Blood Hill.
Percy, Tyson and Annabeth find the camp in chaos. Monsters are attacking, and campers desperately try to defend themselves. When Zeus’ daughter Thalia turned into a tree six years earlier, her spirit protected the camp from monsters. Now, someone has poisoned Thalia’s tree. Percy’s mentor, a centaur named Chiron, has been blamed and fired from Half-Blood Hill. A spirit from the fields of punishment named Tantalus has assumed Chiron’s position as assistant camp director.
Annabeth reveals that Tyson is a Cyclops, and Poseidon himself claims Tyson as his son (and Percy’s half-brother). Percy and Annabeth ask the camp leaders for permission to seek the Golden Fleece, which they believe will heal Thalia’s tree. The leaders give the quest to another camper, a belligerent daughter of Ares named Clarisse. Urged on by Hermes, the messenger god, Percy, decides to find the Fleece himself. Annabeth and Tyson join him on this unauthorized journey.
The trio lands on a cruise ship, only to find Luke, a former camper and Percy’s nemesis from the first book in this series, The Lightning Thief, is its captain. He is recruiting half-bloods to help him start a new civilization with Kronos at the helm. Kronos, the Titan king and enemy to the gods, was previously cut into pieces but re-forms a little each time a half-blood joins Luke’s army.
After escaping from Luke and subsequently battling a multi-headed monster, Percy, Annabeth and Tyson are saved by Clarisse. They all sail on her ghost ship full of dead Confederate soldiers toward the Sea of Monsters (i.e., the Bermuda Triangle) in search of Grover and the Fleece. As they enter the Sea, monsters attack the ship. Percy and Annabeth, thinking they’re the sole survivors, sail into the lair of Circe, where Percy is temporarily transformed into a rodent by the man-hating sorceress. They escape once more and sail toward the island of the Sirens. Annabeth desperately wants to hear them. She asks Percy to tie her to something so she can listen but not be lured by their songs. Percy plugs his own ears with wax. Annabeth is so mesmerized that she cuts her way out of her ropes and swims to the island. Percy narrowly saves her.
Percy and Annabeth reach the island of the Cyclops Polyphemus, where they find both Grover and the Fleece. They also discover that Clarisse and Tyson are alive. The heroes battle and trick the Cyclops, escaping with the Fleece. In keeping with the prophesy Clarisse received from the Oracle, the group sends her back to camp via airplane with the Fleece. Luke recaptures Percy, Annabeth, Grover and Tyson. Then Percy sends a message telling the Half-Blood campers that Luke poisoned Thalia’s tree. Chiron and his relatives save Percy and friends, returning them to camp where Chiron’s name is cleared and he is reinstated. The Fleece heals Thalia’s tree, and Thalia herself emerges from the tree as the half-blood she once was.
Poseidon acknowledges his sons as his own and brings the two together to help each other. He aids Percy in his quest by providing transportation and allowing him to command the sea, and he gives Tyson an internship. He rarely communicates directly with his children. Chiron cares about the campers, especially Percy. He keeps tabs on the camp even after he’s fired so he can help Percy accomplish his mission. Hermes, Luke’s dad, cares about family and hopes Percy can help his son make better choices. He tells Percy that sometimes gods have to act indirectly, even with their own kids, or more problems are created. Urging Percy to look for the Fleece, he suggests that sometimes even if young people disobey, they can escape punishment if they are able to accomplish something extraordinary. Percy’s mother, barely seen in this book, loves her son. She’s concerned for his safety from monsters and tries to help him live a normal life as much as possible.
Other Belief Systems
The premise of the "Percy Jackson and the Olympians" series is that the gods of mythology exist today and control world events with their magical powers. As in the ancient myths, the gods and goddesses still have affairs with humans. Their children, such as Percy, are powerful demi-gods. Though some appear fully human, others are hybrids of humans and animals. Luke’s assistants, for example, are children of a woman who fell in love with a bear and produced twin sons. Percy and other half-bloods frequently pray to the gods for help or direction. As the centers of power have moved throughout history, so have the gods, who now live in, above and below America. The monsters that pursue them are primal forces without souls so they cannot die, only re-form themselves. The Oracle of Delphi (a spirit who lives in the attic at Half-Blood Hill) provides prophesies concerning what the demi-gods will or must do. The oracle has given Chiron prophesies about Percy, indicating that he may not live to see his 16th birthday. Evenings at Half-Blood Hill include camper rituals such as giving the best part of dinner as an offering to the gods and singing songs about the gods around an enchanted campfire. Different items and creatures (such as the Fleece) radiate "nature magic."
Percy is able to sense the presence of evil in people and places. He can also control the water and ships sailing on it. He sometimes makes ancient gestures to ward off evil, and he hopes he will inherit the luck of Perseus, the Greek hero after whom he was named. Percy’s headmaster won’t allow him to return to school because he had an "un-groovy karma" that disrupted the school’s "educational aura."
Circe, daughter to the goddess of magic, invites Annabeth to become a sorceress like her. She is angry that men get all the glory and says the only way women can achieve power is through sorcery. The Fleece’s magic rids Thalia’s tree of the poison and fills it with new power. Percy tells Polyphemus that the Fleece should be used to heal and that it belongs to the children of the gods.
Percy and his friends use phrases like Oh my gods, Thank the gods and Go to Tartarus (rather than go to h---). D--n and darn each appear a time or two. A few characters curse in ancient Greek, or curse each other, without profanity appearing in the text. Annabeth swears by the River Styx that she will try to keep Percy safe. Percy mentions enemies getting their booties whooped. Though many battles rage, particularly between Percy and various monsters, the scenes are rarely graphic. Monsters can’t die, so they vanish rather than leaving bloody, broken bodies. Some scary or disturbing images appear, including dead, skeletal Confederate soldiers on Clarisse’s ship. Annabeth threatens to stab Polyphemus’ eye, and Percy later lands with both feet on the already-damaged eye. Tantalus tells a story about a mortal king with ungrateful, rebellious children. The king made the kids into a stew and served it to the gods.
None, other than a brief explanation that gods and humans have had relationships resulting in children.
Mark Twain Reader’s Award, 2009; BookSense Top 10 Summer Pick, 2006; VOYA Top of the Top Shelf Fiction for Middle School, 2006; and others
If your children have read this book or someone has read it to them, consider these discussion topics:
- What makes Percy wonder if his father cares for him or Tyson?
Which of Poseidon’s actions and behaviors make him appear unconcerned about his sons?
Which make Percy believe he does care about them?
How is Percy’s relationship with his unseen father like and/or unlike your relationship with God?
- What other father-child relationships are explored in this book?
How do half-bloods like Annabeth and Luke feel about their fathers?
Why is the father-child relationship so important?
What are some aspects of your relationship with your father that you appreciate?
What are some ways you would like to see your relationship with your father improve?
- What is a fatal flaw?
What does Annabeth say her fatal flaw is?
What does hubris mean?
What are some temptations she faces in this book that test her?
What is your fatal flaw (or flaws)?
Why is it important to know your own weaknesses?
What can you do to keep your flaws from destroying you?
- Why does Annabeth call kids like Tyson "mistakes"?
Do kids like those she describes, ones that "don’t come out right" and get "tossed aside," exist in our world?
Who are they?
What kind of people are "mistakes" in the eyes of God?
- What are Percy’s initial feelings when he learns Tyson is his brother?
What makes him begin to care for Tyson?
Have you ever initially misjudged someone who turned out to be a good friend?
- What kind of person is Clarisse?
Why does Percy let her take credit for bringing back the Fleece?
What does this tell you about Percy’s character and priorities?
Alcohol: The camp director is Dionysus, the god of wine. His father, Zeus, has punished him by forbidding him to have alcohol and making him work at Half-Blood Hill.
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