“I don’t know why I have a pattern of running into hand-destroying situations, but that seems to be my lot in life.”
On the Shoulders of Titans is the sequel to Sufficiently Advanced Magic, the first book in the Arcane Ascension series. It picks up almost directly after the events of the first book and continues the story of Corin Cadence and friends with exactly the same style and quality as the first book.
First, this book gets mad kudos for one thing: it has a recap chapter at the beginning of the book.
I love when authors do this because when I start a sequel a few months after finishing the first book in a series, I am always afraid that I will have forgotten too many details. I greatly appreciate this small thing and will shout it from the rooftops.
As for the continuation of Corin’s adventures, this second installment has the same strengths and weaknesses that the first book had. The characters are wonderful and easy to engage with, but the book is bloated by an over-use of exposition that ultimately does not add much to the story.
The book opens with Corin dealing with the aftermath of the events at the end of Sufficiently Advanced Magic. Between betrayals and injuries sustained by his friends and finals coming up on top of all that, Corin has more than enough to deal with. In trying to unearth more information on his brother’s whereabouts, Corin also has to begin making decisions about who to trust; should he play everything close to the chest or would it be better to open up more to those around him and accept their support, even with the risks that that comes with?
The character development that Corin’s character experienced in this book was subtle and very well done. You would expect after the betrayal that he experienced at the end of SAM that he would clam up even more. While he starts out that way, he eventually realizes that it is emotionally exhausting to maintain so much secrecy. With the revelations on some of Corin’s recent past, there was also some exploration of dealing with trauma from abuse.
As mentioned, this book also has many sections of exposition related to the magic system.
The magic system in this world is very intricate and detailed which is generally something that I like. Whether it is the sheer volume of that detail that is involved or the perhaps it is the delivery, which frequently is kind of dry with Corin asking several questions and getting scholarly-sounding answers, I found it easy to skim over these sections and did not feel like I was missing anything.
That said though, that was something that was frequently mentioned in reviews for the first book. So if you read the first book and found that you enjoyed, or at least didn’t mind, the exposition, there is no more or less in this book. It is consistent with the amount that was found in SAM so if you were good with it there, you’ll likely be good with it here as well.