Nov 20, 20203 min
Updated: Nov 27, 2020
Happy Freya's Day, book lovers! I have really been enjoying the #Norsevember reading challenge this month. This week I finished up book one of Rick Riordan's Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard series, and I'm dying to talk about it! The Sword of Summer is an excellent read whether you're already familiar with the Riordanverse or this is your first exposure to it. There will be a few spoilers, so consider yourself warned!
Genre: Children's/YA Fantasy
Category: Cozy Read
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Rating: 4.5/5 Stars
Pairing: Falafel + mead (non-alcoholic)
Magnus Chase is a teenaged orphan fending for himself on the streets of Boston, until an encounter with a creature from Nordic lore brings an end to his life—figuratively and literally. After being chosen for Valhalla by Sam, a young Valkyrie and fellow Bostonian, Magnus finds out the father he never knew is in fact Frey, the Vanir god of peace and prosperity, vitality and abundance. He also discovers that his best friends are in fact an elf and a dwarf, or svartalf. Together they go on a mission to prevent the coming of Ragnarok, Doomsday. No pressure, right?
Going in, I was a little worried how this series might compare to Riordan's Percy Jackson series. Yet Riordan did not disappoint; Magnus's first story shows promise to be everything Percy's was. In some ways, it goes beyond its predecessor.
The story itself has all the classic Riordan elements: favorite gods reimagined, mythology stories given connection to our world (particularly modern-day U.S.), hilariously titled chapters, a sarcastic and somewhat clumsy hero, and a badass fem leading a misfit crew on a quest to save the world. It was a fun and exciting journey that tugged at the heartstrings and made me laugh. But from what I've seen so far, the characters in this series are more diverse, and Riordan avoids a couple of tropes that have become cliché in popular literature.
Magnus and his friends are a colorful bunch. They come from different backgrounds and have their own strengths and weaknesses that make them impossible to not love. This also ensures everyone reading has a character to relate to, which I think is so important for kids especially.
Magnus is an unlikely hero. He is not particularly strong, smart, or gifted, is oblivious to his heritage and birthright, and is a vegetarian—a trait we don't often see in characters that sets him apart and makes room for conversations around diet, beliefs, etc. His ragtag crew includes a brown-skinned, hijab-wearing badass who juggles Valkyrie duties with geometry homework; a dark-skinned dwarf who happens to be a fashion genius; a deaf and mute elven mage with one of the biggest hearts; a deceased Civil War soldier; a Gaelic firecracker whose bite is as bad as her bark; and a Viking berserker who earns a myriad of degrees and does crafts in his spare time.
While I am a HUGE fan of Percabeth, it was refreshing to see no romantic interest between Magnus and Sam. So often, we see the hero falling for the best friend of the opposite sex. Their relationship instead reminded me of Harry and Hermione, purely platonic, a sibling love.
I think it's important for kids to see examples of healthy opposite-sex friendships. It's also important for them to see good examples of how to handle people who are different from us in so many ways; that there's room at the table for everyone and we can learn so much from them.
Riordan also illustrates for readers that it's okay to be weird and that family is who stands by you. That letting go is sometimes best, that all life forms are valuable and worthy of respect. To care for your possessions, to put your all into the things you create, and so much more. This book is truly a treasure trove of wisdom for readers of all ages, and it's only the first in a series!
The Sword of Summer is a fun adventure for readers of any age, with any level of knowledge on Nordic lore. As with everything Riordan writes, it is fantastic. I cannot sing its praises enough and would highly recommend it to/for young readers.
Like this review? Share it around! Read this book already? Let us know what you thought in the comments! Haven't gotten to it yet? No problem; grab a copy here, or from a local bookstore or library and then let us know what you think!