I received this book for free from American Book Center in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!! This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.The Sword of Summer by Rick Riordan
Series: Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard #1
Published by Disney-Hyperion on October 6th, 2015
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, Urban Fantasy, Mythology
Source: American Book Center
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 a man he’s never met—a man his mother claimed was dangerous. The man 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 . . .
Oh man. First of all, I just want to say ten thousand thank yous to Tiemen and the American Book Center for making it possible for me to read this early. It might very well be the most exciting review copy I’ve ever had the honor of receiving. Those who know me will probably know that Uncle Rick is one of my absolute favorite authors. His mix of fantasy, adventure, mythology, and humor just steals my heart every single time. And The Sword of Summer is no different.
The Sword of Summer is the start of a new series based around Norse mythology. Now, while I know quite a bit about Greek mythology, I would not say the same about the Norse myths – at least, definitely not before reading this book. But readers who are similarly unaware as I was will quickly discover just how much traditional fantasy stories rely on Norse mythology. The races of elves and dwarves (à la The Lord of the Rings), the concept of a “world tree” connecting different dimensions (à la Tales of Symphonia – for me. Tales fans represent!), and certain names found in fantasy RPGs – like Ragnarok, Midgard, Asgard, Yggdrasil… these all stem from Norse mythology. And as is Riordan’s forte, he helps to fill in the blanks and teach you about so many other aspects whilst simultaneously building an awesome adventure.
Now, one of my absolute favorite things about Riordan’s storytelling has always been his sense of humor. The Percy Jackson books will forever remain near and dear to my heart just because of how much laughter and joy they brought to me. In the case of The Heroes of Olympus, that was a bit less. There was more distance, less humor, and less voice. But The Sword of Summer brings back two things that instantly got me pumped to read this book: a first person point-of-view (with more voice and humor), and hilarious chapter titles. Some of my favorites include: “Good Morning! You’re Going to Die,” “Pleased to Meet You. I Will Now Crush Your Windpipe,” “Phil the Potato Meets His Doom,” “I Psychoanalyze a Goat,” “Hearthstone Passes Out Even More Than Jason Grace (Though I Have No Idea Who That Is)” and, “Well, There’s Your Problem. You’ve Got a Sword Up Your Nose.” All of the lols. There are also lots of Easter eggs for readers of Riordan’s previous books and pop culture references (i.e. Marvel got it wrong; Taylor Swift‘s music is actually dwarven music, Thor watches TV shows on his hammer, etc.).
Our main character for this new series of adventures is Magnus Chase. Riordan fans might notice the name is familiar – he is in fact Annabeth Chase’s cousin (and yes, she does appear in this book and will likely appear more often before the series is done, which also opens the door to more awesome cameo appearances). Magnus is a 16-year-old homeless kid, living on the streets of Boston. He’s been on the run and in hiding since wolves with glowing eyes killed his mother two years ago. But suddenly, he is targeted by fearsome foes and he… dies. Not a spoiler. He wakes up in (Hotel) Valhalla, where he discovers he is now an einherji – for his bravery, dying in combat, he has been chosen to be a part of Odin’s army in the afterlife, training until doomsday (Ragnarok) where the final battle between the gods (led by Odin) and the giants (led by Loki) will take place.
However, this einherji status is not Magnus’s only link to the Norse gods. He is in fact a descendant of one of them. And he has been prophesied to either hasten the coming of Ragnarok or to prevent it. I know. A prophecy is pretty much a stock standard of any fantasy story, but it’s all about the execution and the adventure. Magnus’s prophecy takes him through a couple of the nine worlds, where he meets gods (Odin, Thor, Loki, Frey, Freya), befriends a sword, battles with giants, runs from Valkyries, and fights to make sure Fenris, the wolf harbinger of Ragnarok, is not freed. It’s really a classic adventure fantasy kind of story – an exciting, fun ride.
Along the way, Magnus forms an excellent, diverse team of heroes. His Valkyrie, Samirah al-Abbas, is a teenage, hijab-wearing muslim girl, who dreams of flying as a Valkyrie and as an airline pilot. She’s also already set up in an arranged marriage, but one that she actually wants, because she loves the guy, and arranged marriages really aren’t as unfeeling and calculated as we might think. Obviously there’s more than a little bit of prejudice she faces. Their two other primary teammates are Blitzen, a dwarf (or dark elf) with dreams of becoming a fashion designer, and Hearthstone, a deaf elf who is one of the only practitioners of rune magic in the nine worlds. These characters are absolutely unique and open the doors to talk about racial prejudices (within humans and among the mortal races) and disabilities. Whereas The Heroes of Olympus was very diverse but hardly had the time or space to put down anything other than an (arguably) stereotypical image, The Sword of Summer definitely put down a foundation for well-crafted, complex characters.
There is some room for improvement or growth, still. The characters could be a bit more developed. Though I liked the touches of humor in Magnus’s voice, I’ve yet to gain a really strong sense of his personality. I’d like some romance or possibility of shipping – though I also feel like it’s nice that that’s not forced from the outset (and that it definitely doesn’t seem like something will be happening between the hero and his main female sidekick). But overall, I absolutely enjoyed this first installment in a new series that I will definitely be following. There’s fun, humor, magic, mythology (which was new for me), and action-packed battles. And just like Percy Jackson, I have a strong feeling it’s going to get even better as it goes on.