In some ways, less compelling than the first of the series. The mythology of the first one, I guess, was more interesting to me. I also liked the side characters from the first better—Iorek Byrnison, John Faa, Farder Coram—and the cultures they represented.
That said, this book was still a good one. The action & pacing were steady, and the suspense perhaps even increased. I'm ready for the next, to finish the series.