Still very entertaining! The characters start to grow on you a heck of a lot more in this volume and I think Riordan does an even better job with the heroes quest plotline. Synthesizing about a dozen classic quest myths from Jason and the Argonauts to the Odyssey and infusing a modernistic flair that isn't overly rationalized, Riordan creates a brand new adventure for these young heroes while simultaneously advancing a more intricate plot. Once again, hints of prophecy and a broader conspiracy by the Titans to return themselves to power provide enough layers to keep the story interesting and intelligent enough to keep reading.
This time around, Camp Half-Blood is in danger; a curse has been placed on the magical tree that defends the borders of the camp and monsters are assailing the children at will in the only safe place they had left in the world. When the camp's activity director and chief instructor is dismissed and replaced by the vicious Tantalus, Percy and Annabeth suspect foul play and set off to restore the tree and clear their friend's name. Once again, a pretty straight-forward quest tale that's told capably. What makes this series succeed where other magical realism and urban fantasy fails is that Riordan doesn't try too hard to justify things. Yes, there's the occasional attempt to fit the broader history of the world into the world he's created (World War 2 was a battle between the sons of the "Big Three" Olympians, for example), but by and large he doesn't try rationalizing the reality of the world he creates. It just is. It breaks physical laws, it's a bit campy, and a touch absurd, but who cares? We're telling an adventure story here. And it's told with enough heart that you're willing to suspend disbelief and buy into the story. I feel like other people in this field spend the entire story trying way too hard to get you to suspend disbelief and you never invest in the characters or the story.
Kudos to you Mr. Riordan. I was very afraid that this series would falter after the first installment, but I'm happily surprised. Things are much more complicated, and the conclusion really impels you into the next book. I look forward to the rest.