The Titan’s Curse is better than it predecessors and sets up the next entries nicely.
Where the last book was weighed down by lackluster stakes, this one brings the conflicts to a new level of urgency. The plot grows in every chapter and the power of the main villain is on display. The villain is finally someone to fear, since we see what he does to those that serve him and what he has in store for our heroes. The immediate quest feels more perilous and important. By the end of the book, even if good prevails, so does an uneasiness, since the future is full of implications.
The strength of this plot-driven sequel is the give and take of loss and victory. Sometimes heroes need to fail to grow . The first entries suffered from a safer approach. With this one, all bets are off and a nice tension permeates the pages as safety nets dissolve.
Character-wise it’s more of the same. The differing personalities of the cast result in a well-rounded lineup, rather than a main character stealing the show. Motives and backstory add layers, but some of the touches could be called “paint-by-numbers.” Nobility is sometimes predictable, but you shouldn’t come into this series looking for subtlety.
It would be nice to see more nuanced villainy, to get more motive for their dastardly deeds. There are a few exceptions in some of the newly introduced characters, hinted at with a returning villain, Luke, but overall, it was consistent with the other books.
The writing seems to have improved as well. The narrative relied less on happenstance and the tense ending felt well set-up. It lacked poetic descriptions and memorable lines, but the juxtapositions of myths and our world are always good for a grin. Playful irreverence and pop culture references don’t distract from an engaging quest. I would like to see more world building in the next installment and some new mythological references to texture the reading experience.
Unfortunately, it would be difficult to get into this book without first picking up the previous adventures. At least by this point the training wheels begin to come off.