Mythological Mayhem: A review of Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard: The Sword of Summer by Rick Riordan

What a long title for a book.  That might be my only complaint.

First things first:  if you like young adult fiction, snarky narrators, and Norse mythology, you will love this book.  If you haven’t read it yet, read it now.  Not because this review has spoilers (it doesn’t), but because the book is simply a pleasure to read.  Come back and finish this article later.  I promise I won’t delete it.

Read it?  Well if not, I can’t stop you from finishing the article anyways.  Onward!

In many ways, The Sword of Summer is reminiscent of Rick Riordan’s very first Percy Jackson novel.  Sarcastic young protagonist who life has beat up a bit gets into magical trouble relating to the mysterious father he’s never met, goes to a place where heroes train, and breaks all the rules to go on a quest to stop the world from burning.  They even both feature the magnificent Annabeth Chase.

That said, they are not the same book.  At all.  It’s been years since Riordan introduced the world to Percy Jackson, and his writing style has evolved accordingly.  There’s a more diverse range of characters, including a deaf elf (who uses ASL!) and a Muslim Valkyrie, among others, all of whom make the story delightful, and a set of myths that are not quite as deeply embedded in the public consciousness–despite Marvel putting the Norse gods back into popular culture–as the ones we read about in the Percy Jackson books.  More than that, Magnus is not some knockoff of Percy, and his world is far different from the world of Greek mythology.  Also, he dies.

(That bit isn’t a spoiler.  He talks about it in the first paragraph.)

If you’re familiar with Percy Jackson at all, you’ll know that Percy’s fatal flaw is loyalty.  He will go through literally anything for the people he loves, and is at his most dangerous when one of those people has been hurt.

Magnus is not like that.

Oh, he’s loyal to the handful of people he cares about, yes, and a bit self-sacrificing, but he’s far more likely to let his friends get into dangerous situations and rescue them later than to fall into Tartaurus with them.  He’s far more analytical than Percy ever was, and only willingly goes into a situation if he thinks he knows what’s going on in it.

I’m not saying Magnus is better or Percy is better.  I love them both.  They’re just different.

Rather than being motivated by someone he cares about being in trouble like Percy would be, Magnus goes on the quest of this book because he doesn’t want the Nine Realms to burn, seeing as he lives there (undeads there? Something).  There’s likely also a hint of a need to prove himself in his going off and breaking the rules.  He’s been rejected a few times too many, and every modern hero needs a bit of insecurity.

The book is perfect for a mythology nut and sarcasm lover like myself.  The ludicrous situations Magnus gets himself into helped too–they were hilarious.  It isn’t like high-end literary fiction that leaves you thinking loads of deep thoughts about the nature of the universe, but that isn’t always what I need as a reader.  I prefer books that make me laugh.  I have enough deep thoughts of my own.  If you’re like me, you’ll love it.  If you’re not like me, give it a shot anyway.

So, yeah.  Read it.  Make your little cousin who hates English classes read it.  You’ll be encouraging literacy and spreading awesomeness at the same time.

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