**spoiler alert** I wanted to like this, and as I was reading I was planning to give this at least three stars, but the more I think about it, the mor...more**spoiler alert** I wanted to like this, and as I was reading I was planning to give this at least three stars, but the more I think about it, the more it falls flat. The basic premise is pretty fun - it's the relatively standard urban fantasy concept of a magic-powered protagonist who fights crime, but with the twist that the world is an Earth where magic creatures have always been around and known of. The resultant world-building is kinda cool, as long as you're willing to suspend your disbelief at the idea that there'd still be a recognizable Georgia in such a radically different universe. The protagonist, Michelle, works as a consultant for various police departments. She has a few minor cases in the story, like dealing with magical artifacts gone awry or helping to save the life of a mermaid, but the main case is tracking down some escaped trolls. This is one of the issues I had with the book. The troll plot is supposed to be the central issue, and it does end up occupying a large chunk of time, but I was never really sold on it being a huge problem that was Michelle's sole, driving focus in these events. It's not like the Dresden Files - she has multiple clients, and her decision by the end to throw herself into terrible danger to fix everything single-handedly just doesn't really work for me.
Michelle's character arc also falls flat when it comes to the revelation of her true father. This occurs about 1/3rd of the way through the book, and really falls flat both because Michelle doesn't react to it enough, and because it's too soon to shake up her life like this and have me actually really care. If it came as a third act reveal relevant to the plot of this novel, or as a major aspect of a sequel, it would work a lot better. Plus, Michelle's willingness to only get some of the truth from her parents really frustrates me.
The way the book is structured is also odd. It's told mostly from Michelle's point of view, which is fine, but from time to time she's interrupted by an elf character named Elron. (No, I am not kidding. That is really his name. To make it worse, his late wife is named Sylvia, which really doesn't fit as an elven name.) The problem is that Elron isn't given equal screen time, so to speak, and he has basically no impact on the plot. He seems to exist solely to be a dick to Michelle for no reason, until it's revealed at the very end that he's developed a crush on her. After Here Be Sexist Vampires, I've had more than enough of male characters who show their affections through being assholes, and so the fact that I get the feeling this romance is eventually going to work out makes me disinclined to pursue this series further.
This book also suffers from some editing issues and rather clunky dialogue that often failed my "would a real person talk like this?" test. Plus, there's one point where Michelle has dinner twice in the same day, each time after hours of research, which suggests some major oversights on the part of the author. I'm not at all saying she's untalented, since I think she does have a fair bit of potential, but this really could have used another pass or two through the editing process.
Over all, this was kinda fun, and it didn't commit any deadly writing sins, but a variety of lesser problems add up to make me fairly disinterested in reading more of this series. I admit I could be convinced to change my mind if the next few books show major improvement, but for now, I didn't find this appealing enough to want to go further.(less)
Du Bois' writing is overall very good. I like how he mixes general overviews of the situation of African Americans at the start of the 20th century wi...moreDu Bois' writing is overall very good. I like how he mixes general overviews of the situation of African Americans at the start of the 20th century with accounts of his personal experiences traveling and teaching in the South. It's hard to say that this was an enjoyable read, however, since a lot of what he talks about is rather depressing, especially since there are a number of situations that really haven't changed much or at all between when he wrote this and the present day. (A mention he makes of a white police officer killing a black man for being loud in the street was especially disturbing in how relevant it still is.) Despite that, it's a well-written and compelling book, and I'm glad I read it.(less)
Like it's predecessor, this is a fun book. Percy continues to be an interesting character. He's generally a pretty average kid, and I appreciate that...moreLike it's predecessor, this is a fun book. Percy continues to be an interesting character. He's generally a pretty average kid, and I appreciate that he doesn't know too much about Greek myths, because otherwise things would get too easy. His voice works quite well, and once again a fair bit of my enjoyment comes from the narration. I also appreciate that he's not willing to just let the gods keep important plot details from him, but instead tries to find out the secrets that are being hidden from him. Annabeth is also a good character, though she reminds me a bit of Hermione. That's not a bad thing, though, and she has some nice emotional stuff to deal with in this book as more of her backstory is revealed. Tyson, the new character, is interesting. As a Cyclops, he's not too bright, but he's strong and a clever with machines. He makes a fun contrast to the satyr companion Grover from the previous book. With the setting established in book one, Sea of Monsters can spend more time on going straight into the action. The quest is an interesting one, as the magic seal around Camp Half-Blood is failing, and Percy and co. must find a way to fix it. Of course, this is still a quest to fetch some magic object, but after all, that's what many Greek heroic quests are. There are some clever twists once again, especially towards the end, and Riordan shows he's willing to shake up the status quo, which is nice to see. However, much of the plot consists of retreading the highlights of the Odyssey, which is somewhat less inventive than the previous novel. On the other hand, the idea that the monster infested sea has moved to the Bermuda Triangle is pretty clever. Over all, this was a fun quick read, and I look forward to seeing where the story goes in the next installment.(less)
This was a pretty great book, as evidenced by the fact that for the first time in quite a while, I stayed up way later than I should have to finish it...moreThis was a pretty great book, as evidenced by the fact that for the first time in quite a while, I stayed up way later than I should have to finish it. The plot is in some ways kinda simple - a young boy is bored of his normal life and leaps at the chance to go to a magical place that seems nice but has creepy undertones to it. Generally though there are twists, none of them were all that surprising to me. Barker does some fun things with it, and I appreciate that he throws in some philosophical musings at various points, even if I feel like they'd often go over the head of the target audience. The characters are quite well done. Harvey is a good protagonist. His boredom with February is totally understandable, and he has a realistic reaction to what happens to him in the house. Furthermore, he's very clever, and it was fun to see how he faced down and tricked the various monsters he fights. Wendell was a bit more generic - he's sort of the male friend, who isn't as strong willed or courageous as the protagonist but is likeable nonetheless. Lulu was pretty cool, and there was a nice mysterious vibe to her that I wish had been expanded on more. The villains were a great lot, from persuasive Rictus to the monstrous Carna. I just wish that some of them had been developed more, since often they appear once or twice and then are destroyed. Hood was quite well done, and is very creepy - especially once his true form is revealed. Overall, this was a fun, quick read. I think it's unfortunately one of those books that I wish I had read as a child, because while it's a nice enough book as an adult, I feel like it could have been a mindblowing favorite as a kid.(less)
I've already read and reviewed this twice before in the past few years, so I'm not sure I have much in the way of new stuff to say. The introduction t...moreI've already read and reviewed this twice before in the past few years, so I'm not sure I have much in the way of new stuff to say. The introduction to this particular edition is pretty cool, and I learned some pretty cool stuff from it. The notes were also useful. It's still fun to see just how much Mina is really the one who actually does useful stuff, while the men are often useless when they're doing intellectual things rather than staking vampires. A fair number of the scary scenes are still surprisingly creepy and disturbing as long as you're in the right frame of mind for them. I was surprised at how long it took me to get through the book, though it makes sense since it spends a while bouncing back and forth between various genres before settling down as horror. Over all, I once again had a good time reading this, and I look forward to delving into the details of particular scenes as part of my thesis project.(less)