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Arcane Ascension #2

On the Shoulders of Titans

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Corin Cadence finally has a firm reason to believe his brother, Tristan, is still alive.

Unfortunately, finding more information isn’t going to be easy. Tristan appears to be entangled with a clandestine organization that calls themselves Whispers. And Corin’s last brush with the Whispers didn’t exactly end well.

As much as he wants to follow that lead, Corin has more pressing problems to deal with.

Sera is still suffering from a mysterious malady that has stolen her voice and her magic. Corin knows that a portion of that is his fault, and he’s determined to fix it.

His mother is still off in another country, and there are growing odds that she’s involved with a conspiracy to overthrow the visages.

Corin has also been branded with a new magical mark on his right hand — one that even veteran climbers don’t seem to recognize. He’s going to need to figure out how it works, otherwise it could be more of a vulnerability than an asset.

Corin still hasn’t finished his first year at Lorian Heights. If he fails his final exams, he’ll be sent off to the military, and lose his chance to investigate his brother’s fate.

And finally, there’s the issue of enemies.

He might have made a few of them.

The biggest problem?

He’s not sure if Jin, once one of his closest companions, is one of them.

742 pages, Kindle Edition

First published May 14, 2018

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Andrew Rowe

23 books3,512 followers

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 552 reviews
Profile Image for Petrik.
675 reviews43k followers
May 17, 2018
ARC provided by the author in exchange for an honest review

If you loved Sufficiently Advanced Magic, I really don’t see why you wouldn’t enjoy this sequel.

On the Shoulders of Titans is the sequel to Sufficiently Advanced Magic (SAM) and it's also the second book in the Arcane Ascension series. For those of you who don’t know, SAM—along with the Grey Bastards by Jonathan French—was the biggest surprise in the SPFBO competition for me, and I still consider these two the best things to ever appear in the competition. I highly think your enjoyment factor regarding this book will be highly affected by how much you enjoyed SAM. If you disliked the first book, I don’t think this book will make you a fan of the series. On the other hand, if you—like me—enjoyed reading the first book, I’m pretty sure you’re going to love this one as well.

The reason why I say this is that On the Shoulders of Titans retained every element from SAM and expands upon them and the storytelling style remains the same. Although a lot of questions were answered, especially regarding Keras and Corin’s brother, in terms of storytelling structure it's still very similar to SAM. Because of this, I have to admit that there were a few instances in the book where I felt the pacing was a bit draggy. This could be just me, but the major revelation at the end of SAM led me to believe that this installment would be more action packed and that the plot would move at a faster pace; unfortunately, I ended up being proven wrong.

The book begins with a recap (seriously, more authors need to do this) and then it picks up immediately after the end of the first book. Just like SAM, this book still focuses mostly on Corin’s life at his magic school, his relationships with his friends, and more details on attunements and world-building. There’s nothing wrong with this storytelling direction and magic school trope aspect; it's just that my expectations played tricks on me and it ended up making me more impatient in reading through a few sections of the book. I do however still stand by my words that this series is like a well-written new adult version of Harry Potter, but filled with LitRPG elements.

Regarding the characters, Corin’s character development was splendid. It may be slow but it was interesting and fun to read. His change from being emotionally detached to someone learning how to care little by little and to trust his friends more was heartwarming. I found his relationships with his friends, and his sister to be something that a lot of readers will love.

However, I stand by my opinion that magic systems are the most crucial aspect in deciding whether you’ll love this series. There is simply no brake on the in-depth magic system train here, and you will read a LOT of explanations on new attunements and their usage. Ever since I reviewed SAM, I’ve heard some complaints from a few readers and reviewers that the intricate magic system bored them; I personally loved it. I prefer an intricate magic system more than magic with no explanation that’s used as a deus ex machina plot device to suddenly win over an unbeatable enemy. One of my favorite things about this sequel is the new magic, Haste. As a gamer and Final Fantasy fan, Haste or auto-haste is one of my favorite magics to use in the game and I adored reading Rowe’s take on it.

Imbued with anime-flavored battle scenes, the action scenes are detailed, immersive, and vivid to read. Sadly, I have to say that the minor issues I had with the first book are still here. Some dialogues are still too cheesy. There’s this trend in JRPG that when the characters are going to use some skill/magic, they’re going to shout out the name of the skills. This works wonderfully well for me, especially in the Tales Of video game franchise, but in novel form I don’t know why but I found them incredibly out of place. Also, even though I love the intricate magic system, I still feel that there were a few moments where some of the magic systems were over-explained and that it ended up dragging the pacing of the book. Luckily, Rowe made up for this with his simplistic prose that never gets in the way of the story. His style is easy to read and I found it to be very engaging.

On the Shoulders of Titans, just like its predecessor, remains fun and enthralling from start to finish. The only sad thing about finishing this book is knowing that the next book in the Arcane Ascension series won’t be coming until at least 2020. However, it’s stated at the end of the book that the next one will instead be a prequel/side story revolving around Keras and the Six Sacred Swords. I do think that Rowe has crafted something really great with the world he created here and I truly believe that, eventually, Arcane Ascension will become one of those few successful self-published fantasy series. I highly recommend this book and series to anyone who loves their fantasy filled with an intricate magic system, great world-building, anime-flavored/JRPG battle scenes, and most of all, magic school tropes.

You can find this and the rest of my Adult Epic/High Fantasy & Sci-Fi reviews at BookNest
461 reviews397 followers
May 12, 2018
HOLY SHIT I GOT AN ARC OF THIS! This is one of those books where I would have stopped everything to read it the day it came out – I love the first book and I was finishing up a re-read of it via audiobook when I was contacted by Andrew Rowe about the ARC and I was so excciitteeedd!

If you haven’t read the first book, I’d go read the review for the first book instead, as this review is going to have major spoilers from the first book. I’ll be keeping the events of the second book pretty vague, however.

There is a glossary and also a nice summary at the beginning of the book, and I always find that to be a better idea as opposed to the characters tell themselves information they already know just to benefit the reader. You can easily skip this beginning summary chapter if you don’t need it – I had JUST finished a re-read so I went ahead and skipped ahead, but I imagine for people who haven’t read the first book in a while it would be a nice help, SAM is fairly long at about 600ish pages. Having the glossary lay out which types of mana do what, and what each of the attunements are and what they do was more helpful to me than the summary, since a glossary either doesn’t exist for the first book, or I missed it entirely.

There were so many unanswered questions at the end of the first book, is it really Tristan who’s the “Voice of the Tower”, where is he and how did he get involved with kidnapping a visage? Who is Keras and what is he, really? Is he a person, a demi god, a visage, someone related to the Tyrant in gold?

This book answers a lot of those questions, we get to know Keras a lot more and where he comes from and how his magic works. He uses a different magic system that’s linked to the magic in the Broken Mirror series – learning about that and finally getting a clearer picture on how these two timelines are related was fascinating. Keras uses “Dominions” and spells out a nice analogy for the reader on how they are related, but different from Attunements.

Keras also hints at more info on the other continents and their societies – there are families on Corin’s continent that have distant relations to families on Keras’s continent. It’s not clear at first how Keras managed to get through the barriers between the realms, but you do get a clearer picture on why he’s so powerful.

For people who were annoyed by the amount of magic explanation and theorizing, this book does not cut back on that. Personally, I really like that kind of thing, I don’t mind going in depth about magic and how it can and can’t work within the world. If anything we get an even bigger picture of how magic works in this world because we’re introduced to new attunements and new ways to use magic throughout the book.

I was wondering in the first book how prevalent LGBTQ themes were in this world’s society, I didn’t know if Jin was unusual in that he prefers men, or if that’s commonplace and not a big deal. As it turns out being asexual, bisexual, gay, or genderless isn’t a controversy in this world, and you’re much more likely to suffer from racism than homophobia. There’s also a genderless character known as Sheridan Theas – sibling to Elora Theas and they’re very mysterious and dangerous person, even Derek is wary of calling for their help. They have a “Necromancy” attunement which Corin thought was just a myth until Derek tells him otherwise. They are a devoted follower of the visage Wydd, who also is a genderless and ageless person who takes on a new persona depending on how they feel that day.

Watching Corin deal with his brother’s desertion of him and his family was interesting, it’s never a good feeling to watch one of your idols fall off their pedestal, and that’s exactly what’s happened. Why did Tristan just abandon him and his family without any word of his surviving the tower? Tristan also says something rather blunt, in that Corin should have “moved on” by now, and shouldn’t have been so preoccupied with finding him. It’s a major shift in tone as far as Corin’s inner thoughts about his brother.

One of the other major problems in the beginning of the book is trying to fix Sera after her mana burn out from the last book. She has deeply scarred her mana channels and traditional means of healing her are out of the question. The healers have all told her that her wounds aren’t treatable. She’s still trying to pass her courses though, so finding a cure is paramount for both Sera and Corin. She’s still unable to speak and she’s gone from a confident and snarky character to someone who’s struggling with anxiety and depression. There are a few options that have cropped up for Sera, but they are far-fetched and they are under a time constraint which makes things more difficult. One of the most promising leads is convincing Sheridan to aid in healing Sera, but their help will come with a cost – and Corin is forced to give up something valuable in exchange for their help.

As far as pacing, there seems to be a trend where some people prefer the tower, or they prefer the schooling and find the opposing plotline to drag. In SAM I switched seamlessly from tower to school and back again since dungeon crawling and magic schools are both tropes I adore. Given how tense things were when the last book left off, I did expect to get much more world scale action than we got in this book. I was half expecting there to be a war, but really this book focused on some problems for Corin and crew, and getting them finished with their first year at school. The last book left off after their second exam and this book picks up right where the last one left off. It takes you through Corin’s final exam where he and a big group of students are sent off into a monster-infested wood with a mission to complete. Bigger pieces are moving in the background, and you’re getting a wider perspective on the world, but things haven’t quite tipped over into an all out war yet. I think because I was expecting something like that the book dragged where it shouldn’t have because I was waiting for something to happen rather than being in the moment. It’s not written any differently than the first book with switches between classes and action scenes.

There’s a lot added to the book as well, there’s possible a sentient dagger that wanders off after being discovered inside the Jaden Box, there are new Attunements like the Arbiter Attunement Corin now has after completing his mission for Tenjin, and the Necromancy Attunement Sheridan has. Everything got expanded, a lot of things were answered, and all in all, it was a very satisfying book. Corin still struggles with all the ticks he had in the first book, and honestly, I like that… if personality traits as strong as OCD tendencies are just washed away by some miraculous thing that ‘cures’ the person of their troubles I find it unsatisfying and unrealistic resolution. Corin’s struggles for me make him easier to relate to – sometimes a little too much. I have a heart rate tracker and I’ve been warned by doctors I shouldn’t let it go over a certain BPM or I could risk cardiac arrest or a heart attack. That’s a scary fucking thing to associate with a number, so I find myself checking my HR tracker far too many times than is reasonable in a day.

Patrick finally gets his magic sword! Which makes me really happy. I love Patrick, he’s an underrated side character. He reminds me a bit of Samwise Gamgee, super loyal to his friend and all around easy to like sidekick. The way he got his sword also added to the world building showing a new kind of magic that works with forging/crafting things, so it was exciting for Patrick and me 🙂

Jin makes a reappearance, so you find out what happened to him in the tower, and also what his attunement is and what level he’s at. You also get some more backstory on him and why he’s visiting a foreign school. Things between him and Corin are extremely tense, Corin doesn’t feel like he can trust Jin anymore, and it’s clear Jin is more interested than Corin in initiating a new beginning for their friendship.

Final Score: 88/100

If you loved the first book I can’t imagine you being disappointed with the second, I devoured this one and had a ton of fun. I can’t wait for the audio to come out. If you had hesitations about the first book, your mileage may vary depending on why you didn’t like it.

Did you not enjoy it because of the in-depth analysis of magic and how it can and can’t be used? That does not ‘get better’, there’s just as much of it in the second. It also has about the same amount of ‘video game’ feel to it.

Did you not enjoy it because of Corin’s personality? Eh, maybe you’d like this one more, he matures a bit and grows as a person. He still has his ticks, but he’s working through it and becoming a little less naive and impulsive. There’s also a little less snark and banter since Sera is silent and depressed over the fact she has a ton of mana scarring – and Corin’s snark is toned down because he’s suffering from stress over Sera and everything else going on and he’s also dealing with losing some respect and reverence for his brother.

Did you not enjoy it because of the inclusion of LGBTQ themes? Hold onto your pants, because this one has a genderless character using the pronoun they, gay characters, and asexual characters – and it’s not a big deal in their society!
Profile Image for Bradley.
Author 6 books3,978 followers
February 1, 2019
OMG I just want to keep raving about this. Nothing else. Just rave. And go OMG.

Why? Because this was made for me. Never mind that it's YA. I just have SO MUCH FUN with it. :) Why? Because it is one of the very best LitRPGs out there.

Let me explain. LitRPG is taking the very best gaming elements of both pencil-and-paper RPG min-maxing and loophole hunting and also RPG video games and throws it on the page surrounded by a great story, great characters, and it unabashedly makes it reminiscent of the great RPGs of yore.

Oh, and it also GETS me. I LOVE enchanting items and leveling up and discovering the deepest properties of the fantasy world and finding ways to CLEVER yourself out of situations you're NEVER supposed to get out of. :) This particular duo of novels revels in it.


It's also fantastic for action, battles, trials, quests, traps, traps, and more traps. Either by the school where he's learning his skills or by the magical towers with seemingly endless floors of deadly ... whatever. :) Of course, none of this would be half so good if we didn't have the best characters and the best reasons to do them. Fortunately, I feel his need to get MORE POWERFUL at all costs. :)

Nom nom nom nom. LEVEL UP TIME! :)

My only complaint? ... WHY DO I HAVE TO WAIT SO LONG FOR THE NEXT???
Profile Image for Kitty G Books.
1,551 reviews2,937 followers
June 15, 2018
This is a book I was highly anticipating as the first book in the series instantly became a firm favourite for me, and I really enjoyed getting to experience a new style of writing I'd not encountered before. I also think that this series has a lot of great sexuality and mental health awareness and I believe this only serves to enhance the magic, action and thrill of the story, and make it all seem more genuine and immersive.

In this book we follow on from the events of book #1. If you've read the first book then you no doubt know that the ending is pretty dramatic and there is a lot of mystery for Corin, Sera, Marissa and Patrick to work through in this book. We know from the first that someone long thought dead may in fact be working on secrets, and we know that there's a lot of people who will be affected by whatever this person and their colleagues are up to.

Alongside the bigger mystery of just what is going on inside the Spires, with magical beasts, and secrets galore, we have Corin and his friends trying to survive their first year of school and graduate. It reminded me a bit of the Hogwarts tests and adventures from Harry Potter, and honestly that's not a bad thing as I love both. Seeing the tests and adventures that the school puts its pupils through shows just how harsh the real world towers are and the various things they have to learn and know just to survive, let alone thrive, in a Spire.

Corin's development in this book felt like it was by far the strongest. Although we do see Sera and Marissa and Patrick all grow their skill sets and also form an even tighter bond, I think that becuase it's told from Corin's POV we can't help but to like and enjoy him the most. I think he really grows a lot in this book compared to the first, becuase some of the things he has had to face already have forced him to revaluate the world and understand that there's a lot more to be worried about than just good grades. Corin really learns a lot about how he can fight, what worth he brings to the team, what he doesn't want in a relationship, and more. He's certainly the one I felt we saw the most progress on to this point.

Sera is probably my favourite side character, although I admit I like Keras and also Researcher. I think there's a lot more to come from all three, but for now I am most interested in learning more about Sera as she's got some badass powers and I really think she could be queen of the team for the things she can pull off.

Marissa and Patrick are also great fun, they have a warm and open presence that I think welcomes the reader in and makes you just enjoy seeing how they defend their friends and the things that are right. They both grew in this story, but mostly in terms of physical ability as they were both pretty great beforehand to be honest!

The magic of this world is crazy, it's literally the focus of everything and I think that means that there is a lot to constantly learn and understand. Attunements can change, and grow and develop as the user gets stronger and earns more mana. Personally, I love complex magic, and this is certain;y that. I find it really fun to learn about how everything works, and I think this book does a good job of entertaining with action but also informing with discoveries and creativity.

The pacing of this book felt a little slower than I had hoped. As the first book was a fairly slow start I expected this one to be too, but as the ending of book #1 was so dramatic I did wonder if we may pick u the pace a little. We didn't really get a speed increase until the second half (where things got pretty cool again) but I still found it not too slow, just a bit slower than I hoped.

Overall, this series is quality and I really enjoy reading it and finding out what's going to happen next. I am definitely excited by the idea of a new series following Keras (a prequel one that ties in with the author's previous series), and yet I really want to know what will happen next with these characters too. Lots more to come it seems, and I am excited for it all :D - 4*s from me

Note: On the kindle version there are a few typos and grammatical errors which probably still need ironing out (however the story is still completely readable and fun), but I don't know if these occur in the physical edition too as I only bought it on kindle for the moment - I will buy the physical soon for my shelf too though!
Profile Image for Rob Gardner.
22 reviews1 follower
November 15, 2018
The plot of the book starts 66% of the way in, so you can skip ahead if you really want to read this.

Flat plot, flat characters, flat dialogue. Reads like an early draft that needs a bunch of polish. Author is absolutely obsessed with the words 'interesting', 'irritating' and applying ellipsis liberally throughout the text for no reason. LGBTQ+ themes are handled with all the subtlety and deftness of a brick to the face. Characters exist to be stunned by MC's brilliance as he loopholes his way through every single problem that arises. Enough Chekhov's guns are left lying around the book to start an army surplus but none of them ever go off.
Profile Image for Atlas.
687 reviews27 followers
December 19, 2019
"Is there someone just giving out legendary magical swords to children?"

* * * * *
5 / 5

Sufficiently Advanced Magic is one of the best self-published novels and the most amazing example of LitRPG that I have ever had the pleasure to read. Andrew Rowe knows what his readers want: that nostalgic sense of playing an RPG video game - levelling up, discovering new characters, clearing dungeons and developing your party - combined with some fascinating and original world building, and lots of cool fights.

"I haven't had a decent scrap in a while. Let me get my trouble coat."

On the Shoulders of Titans is pretty similar to Sufficiently Advanced Magic in terms of writing, plot structure, magic, and general style. The actual plot is, of course, different; we open with Corin Cadence having received a mysterious message, his sister Sera completely burnt out by magic overuse, betrayed by his sort-of-romantic-interest, and with a sparkling new attunement on his hand. Helpfully, the book begins with a recap of the last weighty tome in case you'd forgotten all of this.

Exhausted and battle-weary, Corin and his school buddies settle down with Derek Hartigan and Keras Selyrian to recover and learn some flashy new combat tricks. The core cast of the last book remains similar (and Marissa is still my favourite!) with the exception of Jin and the introduction of a host of new characters including notable standout Sheridan Theas. There's more school, more gods monsters, more magic, more epic fights, and more of the Spire (though not enough!).

"My, my. When someone banters about trading with a visage, I generally presume it to be all sand and no salt"

Titans is a natural extension of the first book - maybe it loses a bit of the wow factor that the first book had, maybe it's a touch too long and drags a little in place, maybe it's a bit too cheesy when the characters shout out the names of their moves in the middle of a fight and the banter is ridiculous. There's also a couple of weird plot points where something is mentioned a couple of times and then just gets forgotten about. But I loved it. I tore through this 750 page door stopper in five days (I was going to get the audiobook because I loved the narration of the first book, but I was just too eager to get my hands on the sequel to wait) and was entertained for every minute of it.

I have now listened to the audio book version and it is excellent - Nick does another fantastic job bringing this book to life.

The intrigue, the drama, the school "missions", the fights that are won and lost, the totally overpowered nature of everyone - Arcane Ascension is a series with a clear vision and it is executed really, really well. I can't wait for the next one!

Read this review and more on my blog: https://atlasrisingbooks.wordpress.co...
Profile Image for Fares.
246 reviews315 followers
August 31, 2019
Am I gonna rate every book 3 stars for the rest of my life?!!!
Honestly, why do I seem to enjoy them but not love them? IS SOMETHING WRONG WITH ME?!!!
*Sigh* I guess it could be worse.

Look at me being true to myself and reading book 2 a year after I read the first one 🙂🙂
But check out this cool cover!
Profile Image for kartik narayanan.
735 reviews205 followers
July 30, 2018
On the Shoulders of Titans is a good book for the most part.
The magic system is the best thing about this series. It is complex, logical and internally consistent. But this book errs in making the Young Adult part more prominent than in the first and that fucking sucks.
Profile Image for Rachel (TheShadesofOrange).
2,093 reviews2,958 followers
December 1, 2020
4.0 Stars
This series has so many of the elements that I love in read in fantasy. I am a sucker for stories involving hard magic systems and magical school setting and this series has both. 

I loved learning more about the magic system and world building in this second book. Like the first book, this one was filled with class lectures, research, exams, puzzles, and other creative uses of the magical attunement. 

I often struggle with sequels, but I ended up loving this one just as much as the first. In some ways, I thought this second installment was even stronger. 

There was some fantastic character development in this one. The main character, Corin, was just such a likeable and relatable young man. I liked that he often solved his problems by thinking outside the box or exploiting loopholes. At the same time, he is not a Mary Sue character, but rather a fully fleshed out, flawed individual. The dynamics within his group of friends also felt realistic. I really enjoyed the inclusion of some romance, which is not something that I normally enjoy in books.  
Along those lines, there was also some fantastic diverse representation in this book with representation of characters with who are social anxious, gay, gender fluid, and/or asexual.

This series is well on it’s way to becoming a favourite of mine. I am dying for the next installment to be published so I can continue reading. I would recommend the Arcane Ascension books to fantasy fans looking for a creative, fun series to read.
Profile Image for James Tivendale.
311 reviews1,330 followers
Want to read
January 17, 2019
I received an advanced review copy of On the Shoulders of Titans directly from the author. I'll hopefully finish this in the next week.
Profile Image for Scott  Hitchcock.
779 reviews223 followers
September 29, 2018
Book 1: 3.5*
Book 2: 3.5*

If you liked book one you'll like this one. If you didn't you'll be bored and probably drop the series. If you love magic systems and deductive reasoning this is a great series. If you don't it's not the series for you. The magic system focus is like Sanderson on steroids. The deductive reasoning the same analogy for mystery books.

It's really that simply. The main character thinks like I do over analyzing everything and breaking it apart logically. So I get him and thus I like the series and will continue it.
Profile Image for Sarah.
8 reviews
August 14, 2018
On the Shoulders of Titans left me torn. I very much enjoyed SAM, as it was a totally unique concept and had a lot of potential to become a fantastic series. I had been excited for the release of the second installment for months.

This excitement carried over for the first ten percent of the book before it began to wane, and then I was left to actually evaluate why.

The pacing was terrible. The first 50% of the book could have been erased and nothing would have changed. It was almost entirely Corin continuously monologuing about his crafting equipment and tools. I didn’t mind this too much at first because I think it’s fun learning how the magic system works, but it was over the top. A better way to show Corin demonstrating a deeper understanding of enchanting (and therefore educating the audience), would’ve been to do so while moving the plot along as well.

Speaking of the plot, it doesn’t start really until the second half, and even then it’s slow.

It would’ve been nice to have greater character development and interaction, but this was pushed aside for more monologuing and battle sequences.
Now I’m not one to mind great battle sequences, but a lot of them were superfluous to the plot in the beginning, and then became a problem towards the end— there’s only so many times our heroes can face god-like foes and come away unscathed before it starts to feel like no battle is actually dangerous. They’re always somehow going to survive with minimal damage, which cheapens the tension.

I love Corin and I think he’s fascinating, but there were points in the story where I wondered if Mara or Sera would’ve made a more compelling protagonist. He’s a unique point of view compared to the usual lead, but the technicality he operates by bogs down the story, and his inability to understand personal connection sometimes makes it hard to show relationship development between characters. This is a personal thing though, and doesn’t contribute to my rating of three stars.

Hopefully moving to a different location with new characters and new spires will help spruce up the next main installment.
Profile Image for seak.
429 reviews473 followers
May 14, 2021
I give 5 stars for a number of different reasons, books that change my thinking, books with great prose, great stories, life-changing books, brilliant books for whatever reason, and books that are simply pure fun.

The Arcane Ascension series is pure fun. So much fun.

I can't get enough of this series and almost have to hold myself off for fear of burning myself out. I enjoy the characters, the magic is awesome, and the narration by Nick Podehl is spot-on.

It really does feel like a video game in written form and has all the action and page-turning you would expect.

Is it going to change my life or blow my mind with prose? No, but that's not it's intent by any means. It's just pure fun. Did I say that already?

5 out of 5 Stars (fun)
Profile Image for Lindsay.
1,264 reviews222 followers
March 3, 2019
If you liked the first one in this series, you'll very probably like this one. It's basically a writer deciding that he'd like to come up with an incredibly detailed, complex and self-consistent magic system, along with a character that's obsessive enough to explore it in excruciating detail and a magic school with teachers and exams to help out that process.

But Corin is also caught in a geopolitical conflict with both internal and external factors as well as at least one serious conspiracy going on that Corin's own family is up to their necks in, all of which acts to keep him mostly away from his research list and give him solid goals.

Which is probably a good thing, because Corin, his friends, his family, and apparently his whole country, have some incredibly powerful enemies.
Profile Image for Gavin.
863 reviews393 followers
August 1, 2019
This was a strange mix between a regular YA coming of age fantasy story set in a magic school and a litRPG fantasy. I think Rowe blended both aspects well and made the story work. The magic system was a little weird and overly complex as all the levels and types of magic were a nightmare to keep track of in audio but I think it just about worked as the story was still engaging enough.

This book picked up from the events at the end of first book and mostly just followed Corin and his friends as they continued to study in their classes and gain more power. There was the added intrigue surrounding Corin's mysterious brother as well as some larger intrigue involving politics and the divine that added the extra kick to the plot. There was also another Tower climb to be had!

I enjoyed the story and did feel like things got more interesting as the story progressed. The slight flaw was that the cast is big enough and the magic system so convoluted and complicated that, even with the catch up intro at the start of the book to help, I still needed a solid 25% of the story to get back up to speed with the magic, world, and characters in this story. That made the early stages a little hard to get into but that is probably my fault for not rereading the first book before I started this one. When I did get up to speed with things I was again sucked into the story and ended up quite enjoying this book. It kept a decent pace for a book that topped over 24 hour in audio.

I like the characters in this series. I'm definitely a fan of Corin. He might be a little weird but he is still super easy to like and root for and it is good to get a lead that is so different from the typical fantasy lead mould. The support cast are also an interesting bunch. Corin's school friends Sera, Mara, Patrick, and Jin all have their own strengths and personalities and are likeable enough. I especially liked how we saw Corin develop his relationship with each of them in this instalment. The older characters are pretty fun as well. Keras and Derek are the stand outs but a lot of the professors and even the likes of Elora and Sheridan were interesting characters. Even the magical being are fun. I really enjoyed both Vanniv and Researcher and would be happy to see more of both in future instalments!

Rowe's fantasy world is a fun one. It is pure fantasy but feels exactly like a LitRPG with its mana and attunement based magic system as well as is conjured monsters and magic towers and Gods! It is a lot of fun. If I have a slight criticism about the world building it is that the magic system is just a bit overly convoluted and gets just a tiny bit too much of the focus.

All in all I felt like this was a decent sequel to Sufficiently Advanced Magic and I look forward to reading both the Keras spin-off prequel (Six Sacred Swords) and the upcoming third book in the series. Next up I'm actually going to read Rowe's The War of Broken Mirrors series as I've heard that is also set in this same fantasy world albeit in a different location.

Rating: 3.5 stars. It recovered from a slow start to have a solid middle and end phases so just about earned a 4 star rating so I'll be rounding up for sure:)

Audio Note: Nick Podehl is one of the very best narrators. He was great again and really managed to breathe some life into this story!

Profile Image for Calvin Park.
183 reviews43 followers
October 15, 2018
On the Shoulders of Titans is a worthy successor to Sufficiently Advanced Magic. The latter has been one of my favorite reads of the year, so I was nervous that the sequel wouldn’t live up to it. I needn’t have worried. Andrew Rowe has given us a sequel that doesn’t fail to keep the winning formula of the original. It does this in a way, however, that keeps things fresh and doesn’t feel like a rehash of the previous novel.

While the setting continues to offer impressive depth and the plot keeps one guessing at the loyalties of various parties, what really stood out to me in On the Shoulders of Titans were the characters. From our viewpoint character Corin Cadence to his band of friends to various individuals they encounter I felt like each character was unique, well-fleshed out, and had their own voice. I also thoroughly enjoyed seeing the growth of various characters. I’m referring here not merely to their growth in raw power but to their growth as individuals. Corin obviously receives the lions share of character development, but the other characters grow, learn from their mistakes, and don’t feel the same by the end of the novel. In a novel with so much impressive world building and a very intricate plot it would be easy to sort of coast when it came to character development and Rowe has refused to do this. As a result, this novel truly shines.

I criticized Sufficiently Advanced Magic for its info dumps. While there is still a lot of detail in this sequel, I personally found the times when information was needed to feel smoother, less drawn out, and just generally better integrated into the novel. Fair warning: I do enjoy intricate magic systems, so I don’t mind some explanation with them. I think On the Shoulders of Titans strikes a good balance. One of my very few complaints with this novel is that at times the plot seemed to slow down a bit. Sometimes I lost track of exactly how what the protagonists were doing contributed to the overarching plot. In fairness, this is partly because they’re students and—surprise, surprise!—they don’t always have control over how they spend their time. Even so, I felt like things could have perhaps been more tightly plotted. In the end though, this did not significantly impact my enjoyment.

Rowe has given us another wonderful novel in On the Shoulders of Titans. While it certainly feels like a middle book at times, it still does an excellent job of pulling you in and keeping the pages turning. I eagerly await the next book in the series. 4.5/5 stars.

5 – I loved this, couldn’t put it down, move it to the top of your TBR pile
4 – I really enjoyed this, add it to the TBR pile
3 – I liked it, depending on your preferences it may be worth your time
2 – I didn’t like this book, it has significant flaws and I can’t recommend it
1 – I loathe this book with a most loathsome loathing
Profile Image for ReadBecca.
825 reviews86 followers
June 5, 2018
Much like Sufficiently Advanced Magic for me this hit just about all the right notes, though I think it definitely has a very defined audience, this one splendidly catered to it's niche audience instead of trying to be more generic. People that didn't like the first probably really won't like this one, meanwhile for people who did enjoy the first this really digs in a lot deeper into the main narrative points of the previous. I also had enjoyed the characters in Sufficiently Advanced Magic, but the characters here were even better fleshed out and felt like they had depth.

The pace early on was quite slow, as usually can happen with a 2nd in series since it's got an established readership, but this book really made it work by jumping satisfyingly right in on the heart of the epilogue cliffhanger from the previous book and keeping that at the forefront while also taking it's time (a lot of time) doing a deep dive in magic theory.

Farther along the way we also get back into dungeons and spires, magic classes and tests as the class year is winding down, along with lighter topics of Corin's socialization, and heftier topics of politics. However, I loved that we spent the bulk of the time focused on Corin theorizing and testing ideas, being inside his head, that's really what makes this series a true gem.
Profile Image for Jack.
285 reviews21 followers
October 19, 2018
A rather fun read. Back into the world of Corin and co., we're learning more of how the world really works, and who holds the power. It's not Corin, but he'll be damned if that's going to stop him. I'm a tad conflicted about this book. On one hand, I quite liked learning everything that Corin does. On the other...My god, but the boy just never stops. I'll learn this, I'll learn that. It can be a bit repetative at times, and there were some sections that I thought could have been cut and we'd be none the worse.
By and large I enjoyed it a lot more than I didn't, and when I didn't it was more frustration than anything else. It may be two years till the next book, but I'm looking forward to it quite a bit.
Profile Image for Jon Adams.
294 reviews57 followers
May 21, 2018
This just started too slow for me to give it 5 stars. I appreciate the amount of work the author has put into his magic system, but I found myself glazing over sections of explanation.
Profile Image for Natalie .
2,435 reviews32 followers
December 7, 2020
December 2020

Re-read to recap for the next one. The father really disgusts me. I think I hate him worse than before and Tristan...I think Sera is right and he’s not to be trusted. I’m hoping there isn’t more betrayal in store for Corin. Roland seems to be up to something and by the end Jin had pretty much been replaced with Cecily.

I like how the group of friends are staying together and their teamwork better. As much as I like Keras and Sheridan, it’s hard not to find Vanniv and Researcher adorable. I hope there’s more of them.

May 2018

After the dramatic ending from the first book, I was waiting impatiently for this one and probably should’ve been doing work instead of reading... I regret nothing. Corin’s story continues and so does his habit of getting into trouble. Taking a moment to appreciate the cover artwork. The follow on is superb. More magic, more monsters, more allies, enemies and more mystery. I like how Corin is growing but please can someone- preferably Jin- assassinate Magnus. Poor Corin is getting stronger but doesn’t know who to trust, but at the same time he’s being reigned in and supported by his growing family. Sera, Patrick, Mara and Keras. Although I really like Corin, gotta say my favourite character is Keras and I am so psyched he gets his own story. There’s three moments that really stood out for me. The first between Mara and Corin, the second between Patrick and Vanniv and the last between Sera and Corin. This series is one of my favourites.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Artrain.
131 reviews4 followers
July 3, 2019
My god it is hard to read this book.

How can I be expected to read a book of which 80% is just the protagonist's thoughts? And half of those are utterly pointless and foolish musings. Its not helped by the fact that the author tries to project the protagonist as someone smart, when he's really just so-so.

Also going against the series is how inconsistent his personality is. At the start of the series, during book 1 he's driven by a feeling of re-uniting his family. This despite him being the textbook definition of an introvert, and someone who doesn't really connect with people easily. I can't see a person, who so objectively looks at his family, to also hold a deep desire to see them happy and together.
On the same lines are portions where he's absolutely incensed by the thought of something happening to his sister, to then be the least bothered about it when something does happen.

The only way I see people liking this book is if they like the main character, cause as I said, 80% of the content is just his thoughts. Even then the size of this book will test the patience of most readers for something noteworthy to happen.

Overall I'm baffled this series has received so many 5 star ratings. It has potential, and is one of the better LitRPG, but it is in need of heavy editing and consistent character portrayal.
Profile Image for Nancy Foster.
Author 10 books72 followers
June 19, 2018
I sort of struggled with this book. I was vastly excited when the author posted the eye watering cover for the long awaited sequel and didn't wait a week after its release to snag a copy.

Now, if you haven't read Sufficiently Advanced Magic, you should brush that up before reading this one or else, you will feel really lost. That said, most of this book focuses on the aftermath of Corin's second visit to the spire with several new challenges he has to face, primarily, to find a way to heal his sister that ended up with severe injuries that inhibit her magic (she can no longer speak which adds more tension to the story), and the mysteries behind the new magic on Corin's arm that nobody seems to know what it does.

After realizing he's started to pack up a long list of enemies, Corin and Sera have moved into the house of their new ally Derek and have formed an alliance with the enigmatic but friendly foreign swordsmater Keras. Marissa and Patrick continue to play a consistent role as supporting characters during the story as the small group of magic apprentices have to finish their first year at Lorian Heights Academy.

There's a lot of good subplots in the novel, primarily Sera's ordeal and the tiny tidbits the story hints about Keras and his unique magic that can make even a visage tremble in fear. We also get to enjoy learning more about the different attunements of this little world.

The bad thing is that... the sequel repeats one of the main pitfalls of the first book which is that it not only has an insufferably slow middle, it enhances the slow part of the story on steroids and the book doesn't really begin until the 60% point. Yes, there's some good chapters with character backgrounds and world building, but 70% of the first half of the novel is Corin taking time off in his bedroom, reading an interesting ability in a book such as jumping real high or blasting mana from his hand without the need of a dueling cane that explodes in contact with many types of augmenting mana. Learning a new side ability which proves to the reader that even a supportive role in duels as an Enchanter is more flexible and thus, interesting as the first book implies; but when your book spends around 30% of the book with just slight variants of the exact same thing without really advancing the plot, then you have trouble.

Corin also has a rather uhh.. flat personality. One scene he's studious, another he shruggs his shoulders that he is going to get an average grade in a course, he feels really uncomfortable when people touch him, but he opens up to Cecily who is a person he's had a troubled past where it seems like their long awaited reencounter is all stars & butterflies. Very inconsistent. And no, his character doesn't develop much at all during the book. I personally didn't mind the parts of the story that hint he's sort of bi curious.

What I did find to be annoying is Corin's utterly condescending tone when he almost mocks Keras regarding Sheridan's self-professed asexuality. Apparently, people that worship the Wydd visage are sort of quirky and either think they are both young & old or both male & female but not physically like Wydd is, just in their minds. I found that chapter to be both too preachy for my taste and sort of out of touch with the rest of the society of the book where trains are still a novelty and it's socially okay for parents to beat the crap out of their children even in other people's homes if they have enough political power.

Worse, if you plan on choosing to add a self professed asexual character, maybe using a plural pronoun would confuse a lot of readers. They/them might be grammatically correct, but it still confuses you. I think the writer could have been better off inventing a gender neutral pronoun given the book already has other unique words such as resh. I tried to settle my mind into a train of thought that Sheridan had dual personalities to make reading the plural pronoun easier. If having an asexual character was supposed to be a super groundbreaking plot ploy, it isn't that novel to me. CLAMP's famous manga that was written in the early 1990's "X" features a villain named Naraku that was a bioengineered angel of death that was created in a secret lab. Oddly enough, I actually liked Sheridan's character a lot.

The world has a lot of promise, and while this is Corin's story, I would have enjoyed the book more if it had been told through Sera's POV. Andrew seems to write far more interesting and complete female characters and Sera not only kicks butt, she shows her moments of doubt during the book when she realizes she might have been left with permanent injuries for the rest of her life. Patrick is just... sort of there and while he seems like a nice person and his sorcery is starting to show promise, he doesn't seem to work as a particularly good retainer. Corin seems to save him everytime.

I'm not sure if I'll read the third novel whenever it comes out. I might give it a chance if the reviews state the sequels don't have endless slow chapters or perhaps focus a bit more on other characters. Still, I can see why a lot of people oggle over this series and if you don't mind novels that take seemingly forever to start off and characters that somehow beat overpowered enemies without having any deaths, you'll probably be hungry for the third book.
Profile Image for Meekachii.
198 reviews259 followers
February 24, 2019
I really enjoy this series so far. The author has created an interesting world with interesting characters. In this book in particular however, I felt some of the character development was unnatural feeling. It also sometimes felt like I was reading a textbook about the magic system and world. I felt like some of the information could be introduced in a more natural way. However, I still enjoy this series and plan on continuing. I can’t wait to read the keras spinoff book
Profile Image for Steve Naylor.
1,687 reviews101 followers
October 6, 2018
Rating 4.75 stars

This book was awesome, not quite as good as the first book, hence the slightly lower score (I can't bring myself to say one book is better than another and yet give it the same score). This book is a cross between an epic fantasy and a LitRPG. It has the components of LitRPG such as mana manipulation and trying to build strength, however, in this book the people get stronger by doing work and practicing and not going on any quests. There is also a Dungeon Dive feel (though instead of going into a dungeon, they are actually going into a spire that goes up, but the mechanics are very similar). While the story was interesting, just like the first book the biggest reason I loved this book was because of how the world and magic system were explained in such great detail. The majority of the story is our main character trying to figure out how magic works and what to do to beat challenges. For the most part, if you liked the first book, you will like this book. Just a bit of a warning though - I felt this book started off a little slow and it wasn't until about 1/5 of the way through the book that I thought things started to pick up and get really good.

There were a few things that I think are interesting enough to note (not bad or good, just things that I noted)
1 review
May 16, 2018
I’m so excited this came out, and I honestly can’t believe it’s self published.
On the Shoulders of Titans retains the same wry charm as the first, and maintains most of its strengths.
The book begins with a recap of the last, which is handy.
The well explained magic system continues, although sometimes broaches overexplained. However, the logical and well thought out systems are one of the book’s greatest strengths in my opinion, because I’ve always been a fan of explanations and logic.
The protagonist, Corin, is funny, clever, and just a really good viewpoint to read from. Unlike most protagonists, he’s smart and figures stuff out. One gripe is that some of his conclusions lean to the illogical, but it’s refreshing to see a protagonist like Corin. It’s also cool that he’s probably asexual, because that’s a minority that doesn’t see a lot of representation.
On the note of minority representation, SAM was good at that. This book was better. I was impressed at how casually Rowe drops in a genderfluid character. Again, a rarity, and an appreciated one.
The plot is as riveting as the first, and full of twists, memorable characters, magic school, and dungeon crawling. It’s a bit slow moving at times, but not to the point of being unbearable.
Overall, this was a riveting, exciting read. If you like fantasy that borders a bit on sci-fi, read this. You won’t regret it.
I can’t wait until 2020 for the third book!
Profile Image for Soo.
2,598 reviews257 followers
July 23, 2021

4 Stars for Narration by Nick Podehl
I listened to him narrate two different series back to back and it's very cool how different they are from one another. That's pretty great! Good job, NP!

I enjoyed the aspects of the story that were like games during some of the class trials and climbing the tower. The side characters were a stellar crew and great in how they were developed. They're not particularly deep or mysterious but it's nice to know who they are and how they will interact within the story.

I found Corin to the weakest link and did not care for the topsy turvy story progress in the book. I felt like I read two and a half books instead of one. Two distinctive endings and the actual ending felt like a soft to be continue.

Corin's characterization, thoughts and behavior c0me across as two different people. Except he's one person. While I enjoy the way Corin throws himself into learning and trying his best, it makes no sense how he gets away with the majority of his choices in the book.

I'm sorry that I didn't enjoy the story more than I did.

This is one of the books where I would totally recommend a reader to listen to the audio and avoid the print. I tried reading the book when it came out and it was an uncomfortable experience. I felt like I was reading someone's rough draft and that took away from the experience.
Profile Image for Romaric.
99 reviews4 followers
May 1, 2023
This was a 3.5/5 book for me , the series is still enjoyable and engaging most of the time , and now I find myself loving Sera and Mara even more (if that is even possible) plus Vaniv is still AWESOME . Nevertheless I find myself liking this book less than the first one, I don't know what happened but in the middle the book just lost some of its magic, maybe it was trying way to hard to recapture the first ones appeal or maybe it was not as good, I cannot really my finger on it, I just know that it did not have the previous' one impact . What is more I don't think I really understound the motives behind the different factions that wrought havoc to our protagonists life, it was not very well explained and it sometimes just did not make sense. Maybe a re-read can fix that.

Overall this was a satisfying reading experience and I will continue with the series.
Profile Image for Johnny.
1,627 reviews44 followers
May 24, 2018
Book 2

I'm confused about the MC, is he gay, straight, or bi? The MC is also kinda dry personality wise.
I was thinking that there would be real character growth in this book. So far there is nothing and I'm having a hard time slogging through this book. Nothing really holds my interest and am feeling confusion over the MC.
Profile Image for Aaron .
117 reviews120 followers
July 22, 2022
a great followup to one of my new favorite fantasy series. only 4 stars because It drags a bit, but I cant wait for book 3! I love the squad vibes in this.
Profile Image for Sharkie.
453 reviews
June 1, 2018
Reshing amazing. I love this book so damn much, it's just so great.

I feel like Corin is my spirit Character. Which may say something about me.... ah well.

The plot is fast and fun, there's serious bits, there's other just learning bits I bloody love... I'm trying to think of bad things, but I'm just gushing. I like gushing about good books.

Looks like it's about time to read the Broken Mirrors novels!
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