Rick Riordan strikes again.
The author of hit series’ Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Heroes of Olympus and The Kane Chronicles has started a new series, titled Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard. This time around, Riordan has chosen to focus on Norse mythology and our snarky hero, Magnus Chase.
16 year old Magnus has been living on the streets since his mother’s death two years ago, unbeknownst to his extended family. Until one day, he’s tracked down by an uncle he hasn’t seen in years. His uncle tells him a crazy secret – Magnus is the son of a Norse God, and he has the power to renew a sword from the Charles River.
Unfortunately, that renewal is interrupted by a fire giant, and well, death. So begins the story of Magnus Chase and the Sword of Summer.
Readers who have read Riordan’s other books will feel entirely at home with The Sword of Summer. There are several tie-ins to the Percy Jackson books, starting with the fact that Magnus Chase is Annabeth’s cousin. I’ll let you read the rest of the throwbacks for yourself, because they’re entertaining.
I enjoyed this book to a point. I grew up on mythology stories, and Norse mythology is something I’ve always loved. I actually took a college course that was focused on the Norse religion, so I went into this knowing a lot more than your average middle-grade reader would. Because of that foreknowledge, I found Magnus having to learn everything from the beginning kind of annoying. It led to a lot of info dumps that I felt could have been trimmed down or built into the story. However, it probably would have been great if I had had very little prior knowledge of the mythos.
I have to give Riordan props for the diversity that he brought into this book, despite it being about the Norse gods. Usually being Norse related means that everyone is automatically white and perfect, but that was not the case. Hearthstone, one of Magnus’s only friends, is deaf and communicates through “alf” sign language (ASL). Blitzen is a dwarf, but he presents as a black man who is “a little bit of a clotheshorse,” by his own admission.
Last but not least, we have Samirah, who you might have guessed is Islamic. Samirah reminded me a lot of Annabeth in terms of attitude and smarts, and I loved her. However, I had a problem with the way she was treated in this book. Because of her godly parentage, Samirah was considered untrustworthy and was never really befriended by any of her fellow Valkyrie’s, even though she hadn’t done anything to deserve it. It felt way too close to the Islamophobia that we all see in the US every day. If the godly world is so much better, then Samirah shouldn’t have to prove that she’s dedicated to the cause that she literally already works for.
The art in this was perfect for me, from the cover art to the typography to the doodles inside it. I also really liked the B&N exclusive insert – nicely informative and easy to refer back to.
Being an avid reader and a lover of mythology, I have read all of Riordan’s books. I’ve even enjoyed most of them. But when I noticed so many story parallels to the Percy Jackson series, I was honestly a little disappointed. I noted earlier that Magnus sounds very much like Percy, but there are a lot of parallels between the two stories. Some of them Riordan makes fun of himself for, but it was a little much for me.
Overall, I rated this book 4 stars. If I did half stars, it would be closer to 3.5 than it would be to 4. It isn’t a bad book, but I didn’t fall in love with it the way that I know I can with Riordan’s books.
If you’re looking for similar books, another middle-grade series that I love is The Sea of Trolls series by Nancy Farmer. A YA sci-fi series called Age of X series by Richelle Mead also touches on norse mythology, but it’s definitely for people on the older end of the YA spectrum due to some of the content. If you’re looking for base material, I really enjoyed The Poetic Edda. I’m not linking to this one because there are about a thousand translations of The Poetic Edda, and I’m not knowledgable enough to say which translation is the best one.