When I first read the *Percy Jackson* series, I was a bit underwhelmed. I mean, I had heard so much about how awesome it was, and it seemed just such a let-down. It appeared to me to be, quite frankly put, a weaker version of *Harry Potter*. Now, I know that isn't fair or accurate, but that was my first impression. While the second book in the series, *The Sea of Monsters*, helped to change my mind on this, it was still a bit underwhelming. Yes, this is not just a takeoff of *HP*, it is it's own unique series. Not only are there many differences beyond the surface-only similarities, but I learned recently (as of the writing of this review) that Riordan started writing this series before *HP* was published, so, yah, not based on *HP*. So critics who use this argument, including *myself* at first, are just silly. I'm admitting I was an idiot, yes.
As I said, though, the second book still didn't quite wow me. The whole narrative felt like basically an endless series of cliff-hangers with little to no character development and not enough plot. The cliff-hangers seemed to be far more numerous than most quest books in fantasy settings. Now, this isn't to say that I didn't enjoy the first two volumes, but just that they didn't quite (other than some interesting stuff such as likable characters and references to myths) *do* it for me, so to speak. This third book, however, really did make me a major *Percy Jackson* fan, and was absolutely a great read. The rest of the review will show why.
The plot is simple. In a rescue mission to save two fellow demi-gods, Percy, Annabeth, Grover, and their new friend Thalia, encounter trouble. Though they save the twin half-bloods, Annabeth goes missing, and to make matters worse, so does a powerful goddess ally, Artemis.
Of course, a quest is in order. But the questions are rather more complicated than one might think in this case. Normally, these quests are, of course, quite dangerous. But in this case, the sense of danger, really the *fact* of danger, is more persistent. Because a prophecy from the Oracle is that at least two of the members of the quest will not make it back alive...
While the plot is relatively straight-forward at first, the narrative and plot developments this time were quite a bit more complicated. Not only did Riordan expand on the mythology of the series, and the connections to Classical Greek myths, but the structure was different. Gone was the nearly every chapter cliff-hanger, with the accompanying desperate rushes from one danger to the next, one clue to the next. In it's place was a slower and more long-term story progression.
Don't get me wrong. The sense of excitement and adventure was just as strong, but the story was a better one in this way. This is because there was more time taken to spend more time exploring the characters and their thoughts and the world-building, as well as both delving into the past of this world and laying down groundwork for future plots. This all was a net plus for the book and made it far, *far* better than the predecessors.
Included in this are tidbits that answer the big questions that some might have, including, why, oh why, do the Olympians not *do* anything to remedy these problems themselves. Well, the answer is that they are a) kinda personality-driven, and this interferes with some proactiveness, as they have their own stuff to attend to and their personalities dictate this, and b) related, they are *busy*. Not only do they have the duties they have always had, but they are also dealing with the fact that the coming hostilities with the forces of Kronos are causing other supernatural gods and god-like beings to cause problems that make their jobs harder. For that matter, there is a delicate power balance that too much action on the part of *anyone* will upset.
The reason I liked this one as well is that the characters are kinda coming into their own and beginning to grow up. Annabeth is becoming more mature and able to forgive and see others' points of view more. Meanwhile, Percy is faster on his feet where he can handle things without constant directions. Though he still isn't the strategist that Annabeth is, and thus doesn't do as well as when he's teamed up with her, he still acquits himself admirably.
Grover, though, is a disappointment here. He's reduced to little more than comic relief. That annoys me in that while he was the weakest member of the quest, he's still a knowledgeable and capable guy. Or should be. I hope that he gets more impressive again in coming books.
I can't say much about other characters so as to not give away their roles, but just to say that Riordan does a good job with fleshing out their characters and arcs in a way that really makes them vivid to the reader and gets you to care about them.
I can honestly say now that I really enjoy this series and that it has become one of my favorites.
Rating: 5/5 Stars.