REVIEW – On the Shoulders of Titans by Andrew Rowe
By: Preston Simmons | Written: 9 May 2021
Andrew Rowe’s Arcane Ascension series is probably one of the slowest progression fantasy series I’ve read in recent memory. It definitely conforms to the progression fantasy genre type, but it does so at a more relaxed pace than other series in the genre. After the conclusion to his first book, Sufficiently Advanced Magic, I had hoped that we would see our main protagonist, Corin Cadence, advance a little more in both his understanding of magic and become a little more proficient with his own powers. He does increase his powers…just to a minimal amount. Unfortunately, just like Corin Cadence, On the Shoulders of Titans only improves its predecessor by the bare minimum. That doesn’t make it a bad book; it just doesn’t make it the book I was hoping for.
After obtaining his new attunement, Corin must finish his first year of school, learn about his new powers, and get stronger to return to the tower and find his brother. At the end of the last book, a lot happened that should have created many conflicts. To an extent, it did, but to a minimal extent. Major plots in the last book were largely forgotten about in this sequel, to my disappointment and surprise.
The story of On the Shoulders of Titans takes place immediately after the ending of Sufficiently Advanced Magic, so events should be fresh in the characters’ minds. Instead, only one reveal from the last book becomes relevant for this book. Corin’s brother, Tristan, is alive and somewhere in the Tower. Corin wants to go back into the Tower to search for him immediately, but he is not strong enough. Those that are powerful enough have been injured. So, Corin is told it would be better for him to go back and finish school.
The majority of the book takes place back at the academy. Corin has to finish his first-year classes by taking multiple final exams. For me, this was the best part of the story. The tests were always unique and interesting to read. Seeing Corin use his mind rather than his powers for most tests showed how Coring grew as a character. If you enjoyed the school sections of the first book, you should enjoy On the Shoulders of Titans even more. Why? Because that’s where more than 60% of the book takes place.
The Three Halves
On the Shoulders of Titans can be separated into three distinct halves; pre-final exam, final exam, then post-final exam. The pre-final exam is the first 60% of the book, or the slow, uneventful, and ultimately forgetful section. Truthfully, it was hard to get through. I often found myself drifting and having to re-read sections because my mind went elsewhere. The first half just wasn’t gripping.
Luckily, the second half more than made up for it. The last 40% of the book, or “final exam and on,” could be called the exciting, fun, or just plain old enjoyable section. Imagine if this book were a meal. The appetizer would have been completely forgetful. Not good, not bad, just forgetful. The main course would be okay. Not good, not bad, just passable. The dessert, though, would be so delicious, so worthwhile that you would immediately want to go back for more.
Overall, that’s how I felt about the story of On the Shoulders of Titans. It had a very forgetful and slow beginning, a decent middle portion, and a stellar last half. The last half of the book is how I wish the rest of the book were. The action sequences were intense with major consequences for failure. The character-building of the main cast was great, where each and everyone was given their fair share of the spotlight. The last half of the book continued plotlines from Sufficiently Advanced Magic, and new ones were started that were clear buildups for the next book. The last half made me excited to continue the story. I even want to check out the other spin-off series Forging Divinity and Six Sacred Swords.
One aspect of the Arcane Ascension series is that it takes place entirely in the first person, from the perspective of Corin Cadence. Built upon from the last novel, Corin Cadence suffers from social anxiety and has anti-social tendencies. Though these traits are great for understanding Corin as a character, they also make it hard to learn more about others in the story. This was one of the problems with the first novel.
We rarely learned about characters and their backstories because Corin never asked about them. It made it hard for the reader to connect with other characters. Corin has this problem, therefore so does the reader. This is true to the character but still frustrating as a reader. Side characters should be just as interesting as the main character. It’s hard to get a characterization of others when the narrator refuses to learn about his friends.
Thankfully, Corin has grown in confidence and from his nature not to ask questions about others. This book teaches us more about all the different side characters and their backgrounds because Corin actually asks. It’s good he does because, as it turns out, many of the side characters are just as interesting as Corin.
The Shining Side Characters
It’s not just through direct conversation that the side characters shine, either. If anything, in On the Shoulders of Titans, Corin takes a back seat to everyone else, almost to a detriment to the book itself. Sera, Mara, Jin, Patrick, Derek, and the newly introduced characters all have moments where they shine through their actions. We learn more about them, their pasts and see them grow in the book. Corin, though, never really gets his moment to shine like the rest. In a series called Arcane Ascension, it really seems like Corin is doing less ascending and more stagnating, at least compared to his counterparts.
I was hoping in this book that Corin would stand on equal footing with everyone else. Instead, it largely feels as if he needs to be protected by his friends constantly. If the rate at which everyone else increases in power continues, and unless Corin undergoes another transformation, he will inevitably be left behind. Though, it is not as if Corin himself does not address this issue. This gives me hope that later on in the series, he will become just as powerful as everyone else, even if it’s in his own way. In this book, though, it simply just didn’t happen.
All that said, Corin gets a lot of character building himself. There are many questions about Corin from the first book that get answered here. Questions like why is Corin socially anxious? Why does he have such an aversion to touch? Why is he so distrustful of people? These are answered and more, which made reading through his point of view much more enjoyable than in the first book, once I could understand him as a person better.
On the Shoulders of Titans is a good book, just not the one I was hoping to get after reading the first one. Not many of the plot points brought up in the first book were concluded or even addressed. In addition, the first half of the book was generally forgettable. However, a very strong second half makes up for the lacking first half.
Corin also doesn’t get the power boost that I thought he received at the end of the last book and ultimately feels like he took a backseat in his own first-person perspective book. He does get a lot of character building that definitely makes him a more enjoyable perspective to read through compared to the last book. Because of his own improvements, he directly influences the character building of the secondary cast. Every side character has a chance to prove themselves and shine in this book, and I can’t wait to see how everyone continues to grow in this series.
REVIEW – ON THE SHOULDERS OF TITANS by Andrew Rowe
7 – Good