A new series from Rick Riordan!
Author: Rick Riordan
Title: Magnus Chase and the Sword of Summer
Release date: 6th of October 2015
Series: Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard #1
Reading level: FICTION – JUVENILE: Fantasy, Adventure, Contemporary
Published by: Puffin
Pages: 505 in Kindle e-book format
Source: Bought from Amazon.com for Kindle
Magnus Chase has always been a troubled kid. Since his mother’s mysterious death, he’s lived alone on the streets of Boston, surviving by his wits, keeping one step ahead of the police and the truant officers.
One day, he’s tracked down by an uncle he barely knows—a man his mother claimed was dangerous. Uncle Randolph tells him an impossible secret: Magnus is the son of a Norse god.
The Viking myths are true. The gods of Asgard are preparing for war. Trolls, giants and worse monsters are stirring for doomsday. To prevent Ragnarok, Magnus must search the Nine Worlds for a weapon that has been lost for thousands of years.
When an attack by fire giants forces him to choose between his own safety and the lives of hundreds of innocents, Magnus makes a fatal decision.
Sometimes, the only way to start a new life is to die ...
The Percy Jackson and the Heroes of Olympus (which I still haven’t managed to finish, shame on me!) series are one of my favourite newer children’s fiction. They’re imaginative, full of magnificent methodology lessons, there’s adventure, peril and action to the extreme, the characters are distinct, likeable, grab your attention and stay with you, and the humour, oh the humour, it’s simply wonderful in the exact right dose for a semi-serious semi-fun series. Extra focus on the fun, though.
When I heard that Rick Riordan was starting a new mega adventure ride with Norse mythology at its centre, I was on board before you can say Yggdrasil (the world tree – how do I pronounce it?). On the successful wave of Marvel’s Thor movies and the ultra popularity of Loki, this seemed to be a gold mine, because while the named characters are known, Norse mythology itself isn’t that widespread in all its glorious details. There’s more to it than Thor, Loki and Asgard. And that is exactly what I was most looking forwards to reading about in the new series.
Having read books from Rick Riordan before, then I knew what to expect and I got precisely that. In that sense, there is nothing really original or slightly fresh within this series – same old, same old. The story in all it’s devices, eg. pace, tone, pattern, character outlines, basic structure, it's distinctly similar to his previous books. Nevertheless, I’m not whining, because this formula works, and it works like a well-oiled machine – I wouldn’t want to have these stories anyway else. Except, when he finds another formula that is as successful, then I’m all open for that.
Basically, Magnus, a homeless kid, is suddenly confronted with his family and their secrets and, well, he dies… And here is where the joyride begins. He is transported to Valhalla, finds out who he really is, makes some friends, makes some enemies, fights, a prophesy turns up about him, he takes his ragtag team of wacky friends to solve the prophesy and, along the way, meets all sorts of weird, creepy and fun mythical beings. There is nothing remotely new in this journey outline, but it’s okay, because there was simply heaps of hilarity, fun and excitingly tense moments throughout the quest to make up for that.
I loved the insight into Norse mythology, all the big and small details, the nine worlds, famous and less known figures, legends, connections, diverse beings, magic, the dividing of the gods to nature and war gods, the two so called “afterlives”, etc, etc, and especially Ragnarok. The latter I’ve always found fascinating, because it’s predetermined and cannot be bypassed, everything from how it beings to who dies and how, is set in stone. Most mayor gods will die, Thor, Odin, Heimdall – all goners. Norse mythology is a lot more grimmer and fatalistic that it’s Greek counterpart, but it’s none the less fascinating and rich with imaginative stories.
From the important mythological characters, Loki was confusing -- is he evil or just misunderstood? Thor was somewhat of a moron, big, loud and all the time ready for some clobbering – I liked his goats. Freya was too much of a typical vain goddess, but Frey was someone I really liked and found intriguing, based on the short amount of time he was in the story. Apparently, he’s the most similar to Chris Hemsworth, so obviously, I was drawn to him… I, overall, found it funny how Magnus compared everyone to the images we are used to from Thor movies. I assume I would do just the same in his shoes.
Rick Riordan is the ultimate master at writing sarcastic, smart mouth, humorous heroes, and dialogue and general text in the same calibre. It’s light, funny and very effortless to read. There were a multitude of hilarious laugh-out-loud moments, where I actually did genuinely laugh out loud – a rarity with me when reading books. Alone Magnus’ inner thoughts were priceless. In addition, the situations the main characters found themselves in and the weird creatures they encountered were, safe to say, quite comical, eg. pigeon giant, going fishing for world-serpent, talking sword, Thor’s goats, the dwarf stuff creating competition (Blitz’s creations were absolutely supreme) and the sabotage going on there, squirrels, etc.
Despite this awesome humor, I have to spoil the fun somewhat. I was more or less bothered by Magnus’ voice being almost identical to Percy. Both were great protagonists and funny heroes, but I would have preferred them to have more distinct voices. At times, I felt as Magnus was actually Percy and I had to check the cover to see if I was mistaken. Also, as a con, I didn’t really feel a connection to Samirah. From the pro side, Magnus’ other sidekicks, the dwarf Blitz and a deaf elf Hearth, were lovely. The latter leading to a lot of comical situations with his sign language (I loved how Thor misinterpreted everything Hearth said).
The connection to the Heroes of Olympus series was also quite intriguing due to Annabeth being the cousin of Magnus. I’m curious to know if there will be some confrontation between the Norse and Greek/Roman mythology worlds. I did, however, notice that compared to the latter books, the new series story had a lot of info-dumping, which I didn't feel to the extent in the previous series. I guess it is due to Norse mythology being less out there, there being more to introduce to the reader and the information coming across brand new, so there is more intensive attention needed to take in everything.
Further recommendations: The anime (based on the manga of the same name) Mythical Detective Loki Ragnarok (2003) was one of my favourites some years back and it focuses on a cursed, but cute as a button and physically little boy, Loki, a quirky wannabe detective girl student and Loki’s children – Fenrir the adorable doggy was soooo squichy (I loved how he said “daddy” to Loki all the time). Nothing really amazingly interesting happens; it’s more a monster of the week or mystery of the week anime, with a cringeworthy magical staff transformation sequence a la Sailor Moon, but it was unexpectedly fun with idiot Frey with his pig, short-tempered Heimdall and other shenanigans.