Sword of Summer is the first book in a new series taking place in Rick Riordan’s universe of gods, demigods and heroes. While it follows the same ideas as Percy Jackson & the Olympians and the Heroes of Olympus, this series is set in the worlds of Norse mythology, featuring the gods of Asgard and the numerous creatures that run through the stories of Northern European myths and folklore.
This series follows the formula of the prior series, but it adds some interesting twists of its own. The main character is a demigod, born of a moral woman and a visiting god, but he ends up being more than that, and his companions on the epic quest (there must always be an epic quest to avoid the end of the world) include adults from various species (human, dwarf, and elf) as well as another teen …. who has a complex life, to say the least. The Norse gods, like their Roman and Greek peers, have strengths, weaknesses, and definite idiosyncrasies. They rely upon their offspring to act in the world on their behalf, in part because past actions and choices have limited their ability to act directly. But in this book, that reliance is also revealed to be a calculated choice.
As much as I enjoyed Riordan’s other series, this one seems to be a bit more mature – and hence more interesting. Norse mythology, with multiple worlds and competing races of gods, is more complex than Greco-Roman myths. The characters can also be drawn from a wider swath of races as well as from adult soldiers from many centuries who died heroically in battles and were taken to Valhalla to prepare for the eventual end of the worlds. But the villain (in this case, Loki) is also a bit scarier with his ability to scheme and manipulate the paths and plans of gods. Like the Harry Potter series, in which the later books were best read by the older end of the age group, the Magnus Chase series might be better suited to older middle grade readers.
Sword of Summer by Rick Riordan (Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard #1)
Published by Disney Hyperion on October 6, 2015
Genres: Fantasy, MG
Page Length: 528 pages
How I got my copy: Purchased
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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 . . .
- Thank you, Rick Riordan, for reclaiming the Norse myths from the Marvel Universe mangling. Riordan even gently pokes fun at the Marvel Thor movies, pointing out how they changed relationships and descriptions from the original tales. It was very refreshing to read about the complexity of the Norse world view and the interplay of the various races of gods …. and of the different races and species that inhabit the nine worlds. There’s more to it than just Valhalla and Asgard?? You bet!! For a middle-grade novel, Sword of Summer did an impressive job of introducing the complexities of the Norse views of heroism, the nature of gods, and afterlife.
- Characters grow and develop in the expected ways (finding the hero within), but they also develop skills and interests that are unexpected. At times comical, but in the vein of “follow your dream, no matter how unique it may be”. Valkyries have to get home to finish homework and see boyfriends. Dwarves have to … no, I won’t spoil it for you …. read it and see what a dwarf dreams of doing when he is done guarding a certain young demigod.
- There is a great and unexpected diversity of characters, although we again have one female secondary character befriending the main, male character. While there are strong female characters and leaders in this book … very similar to the prior series … they lead the loyal opposition and get in the way of the main character until the very end. If you’ve read the other two series, you’ll see a lot of similarities. That is a strength for the intended age group of readers, but I do wish at times that authors could mix this up a bit and have multiple woman/girls in the core group of supporting characters.
- For all that, there are some unexpected twists to the plot that I won’t give away. Suffice it to say that what seem to be weaknesses and disabilities end up being advantages in the right situations.
- The Greco-Roman and Norse series will fit together, but it is not quite clear how. By the end of the book, we have established – via a cameo appearance – that the three series all take place in the same universe. But what role the Greek and Roman gods play in the cosmology of the Nine Worlds of Norse mythology are unclear. Maybe it’s better left unspecified since some explanations just end up sounding silly (we’re looking at you, Star Wars episode 1).
On the whole, I really enjoyed reading this book. I had trouble putting it down and was constantly looking for moments when I could fit in a few more pages. Middle grade readers who like adventure stories should love it. There’s plenty of action and heroics, but with a twist that they (nor the adults who read along with them) will see coming.
As an extra bonus, I think a reader could start with this book and series without having read the Percy Jackson or Heroes of Olympus books, but you’ll probably want to pick those up if you enjoyed this one.
Have you read this one? What did you think? Are you excited for it if you haven’t gotten to it yet?
Sword of Summer by Rick Riordan
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