Book Critique: The Sword of Summer (Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard #1)

For review of all books in this series: Go here

Stars: 3.5 / 5

Recommendation: A young adult fantasy novel involving Gods, Demi-Gods, Prophecies, Quests and Ragnarok - thoroughly entertaining and very enchanting.

The Sword of Summer is the first book in the Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard series by Rick Riordan based on Norse Mythology, published in October of 2016. The series revolves around a 16-year old demi-god, Magnus Chase, and written in first-person narration form. In the first book, Magnus Chase finds out that he is son of Norse deity, Frey and  that he must stop Fenris Wolf from escaping his prison and end the world.

After reading Rick Riordan's take on the Greek, Roman and Egyptian gods, I had expected a similar plot-line in this series on Norse gods - a 16 year old demi-god who is put in a path of prophecy fighting evil for the betterment of the world or worlds. And he hadn't disappointed me, except that this time around the demi-god lives in two worlds, a small twist in the grand schema. The book won the 2015 Goodreads Choice Award for Middle Grade and Children's Fiction.

On his sixteenth birthday, homeless Magnus Chase, he learns that he is the son of a Norse God and that he need to retrieve a magical sword, Sumarbrander, or the "Sword of Summer", hidden in Boston Harbor to protect himself. However a fire giant known as Surt arrives at the moment Magnus Chase pulls the sword from the water and fatally wounds him. Soon Magnus finds that it the only way he could start fresh was to die. And thus follows the journey of Magnus Chase from this world to the other worlds in search of the Sword of Summer.

The primary reason why I picked up another of Rick Riordan's book even though the theme would be the same across his plots, is because the protagonist's first name is Magnus. Every time travel towards New York City from my town, on this particular route I come across an exit for "Albertus Magnus College". The name Magnus always intrigued me. And the first time I came across the name Magnus in a novel was in the 2014 historical fiction, The Three Emperors by William Dietrich as part of his Ethan Gage series.

The second time I came across it, was in the 2007 urban fantasy novel, City of Bones, by Cassandra Clare in her The Mortal Instruments Series. The character was named Magnus Bane and he ends up being recurring character in the series. Incidentally Rick Riordan dedicates the book to Cassandra Clare for letting him share the name Magnus.

So when Rick Riordan has Magnus in his protagonist's name, I had to pick it up.

The plot is fast-paced although very lengthy with the usual fact of having many many characters. However I got to learn that Thor, Loki, Odin, etc that we see in Marvel Comics are actually Gods of Asgard from Norse mythology. I bet the Marvel Comics were based on these Norse Gods.

It is refreshing to see that the protagonist is a nerd primarily before being a hero, but expected that he is impulsive given his age. Magnus talks about Daleks from Doctor Who, how he doesn’t like Call of Duty (a surprise for me since he is a teenager), talks about League of Assassins. He comes with his share of teenage sarcasm that is not lost on the readers.

Rick introduces quite a few comic reliefs in the war that Magnus and his friends are facing - like Thor having a "Find my hammer" app. Surprisingly all the Gods described by Rick Riordan, if not most, aren't as handsome as we see them in the Hollywood and British movies. They sound more real in the book than movie, but the movie version really appease one's eyes too. 

Like many of his previous books, Riordan takes the readers through a tour of Boston and its suburbs, albeit in a breezy way. One gets to see - Leif Erikson statue, Longfellow Bridge, Copley Square, Make Way for Ducklings Statue in Boston Public Gardens.

As always his book ends with a lot of segues into the next book and a brief idea on what that would be based on. The journey of Magnus through the plot with Norse Gods is as entertaining as it was with Percy Jackson and the Greek Gods. Although the plot-lines are very similar, I am still interested in reading what happens next with Magnus.

So, stay tuned for the review of the next book in the series.

Spoiler Alerts:

1. Plot Reveals:

a. Magnus Chase's family includes - his mom Natalie Chase, Uncle Fredrick and his daughter Annabeth, Uncle Randolph.

b. During his journey between multiple worlds, he has a set of trustworthy aides by his side - Blitz (a dwarf), Hearthstone (an elf), Samirah (a Valkyrie)Thomas Jefferson, Jr. "T.J.", X (a half troll), Mallory Keen

c. Magnus Chase becomes an einherjar once he dies at the Longfellow Bridge in the fight against Surt - he doesn’t go to hell or heaven but to a place called Hotel Valhalla where all the hosts of Odin are joined with the brave souls from various worlds.

2. Rick Riordan mentions a statue of Leif Erikson in Boston. I assumed it to be a made up one until I came across this article.

3. We get to meet Davy Crockett in Hotel Valhalla who is seating with the thanes - lords of Valhalla. More about this American folk hero and frontiersman here.

4. Uncle Randolph's face reminded Magnus Chase of Man in the Moon from old black & white cartoons. I tried to remember if I ever saw any of these cartoons as a kid, but I have never seen such cartoons.

5. Rick Riordan brings into attention of the readers about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. It is indeed very very sad that we as humans are contributing to the cause of this and destroying the environment and in the end the planet. More about that garbage patch here.

6. We learn that Wednesday was called as Woden's Day in old English.

7. The Dwarfs in Rick Riordan's book seemed to like human music, in particular Taylor Swift's. One of her song "Blank Space" was blasting in their region.

8. Grammatical / Geographical / Location / Character / Historical Errors:

a. On Pg. 30, line 5 it should be "…most of the morning…."

b. On Pg. 351, line 9 it should be "…supposed to be…"


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