** spoiler alert **
Rick Riordan continues to deliver with this book, and the Son of Neptune is a great work. If you've read any of his other Percy Jackson books or the Kane Chronicles, it's much of the same here. This is the second book in a series after The Lost Hero, and I have to say that I felt this one was much stronger than The Lost Hero.
For one, the plot seemed a little bit easier to follow. The most difficult concept in this one was understanding how the Greek gods were related to the Roman gods, and who is called what in each camp (for example, he may be known as Ares in Camp Half-Blood, but at Camp Jupiter he's known as Mars). Percy finds himself at Camp Jupiter, the Roman version of Camp Half-Blood, and his memory is completely gone. However, he's still powerful and in one day is able to impress most of the campers there. He befriends the two outcasts in the camp, Frank and Hazel, and before they know it they have to go on a quest. Their mission is to unchain Thanatos, the god of Death, who has been captured by Gaea (an evil Mother Earth). While they're at it, they also have to kill a giant up in Alaska. The quest is pretty straight forward, though they have their usual adventures along the way - Amazons, harpies, blind seers, and giant cannibals. Oh, and let's not forget that because Thanatos is chained up, all of these monsters are basically un-killable. Makes things tough on Percy and friends!
The humor is definitely there, though at times it's bordering on corny (does Percy really think the Feast of Fortuna is a feast of tuna?). However, there's plenty of clever little jokes thrown in, including the visit to the Amazons - who, as it turns out, run the Amazon.com warehouse in Seattle.
The real strength in this novel, though, is in the characters. We have Percy back, of course, but he's actually the least interesting of the three. The two new characters introduced in this book are some of the strongest and most interesting that Riordan has created yet (they definitely beat out Piper and Leo). For one, you've got Frank, who feels like he is weak and useless but actually has a power that no other camper has. And then there's Hazel, who actually died back in the 1940's and has been brought back to life. Her story line is probably the most fascinating here.
As always, Riordan is up to his old tricks when it comes to cliffhangers, something that simultaneously has me reading nonstop but also hating the technique. It does encourage me to keep reading, which I don't mind too much when the whole book is right here. I do hate that the book itself leaves off on a bit of a cliffhanger though - now we have to wait a whole year to find out what happens!