Title: Magnus Chase and the Sword of Summer
Author: Rick Riordan
My rating: 4/5
There were two things that initially attracted me to this book: Rick Riordan and Norse mythology. I’m a big fan of both, so this was a bit of a no-brainer. I’m afraid it’s been languishing unread on my shelf for a while now, but I recently had a craving for mythology, so the time was right.
I’ve previously really enjoyed Riordan’s Percy Jackson books, not just because they cannibalise the weird and wonderful library of Greek mythology, but also because Percy is not a stereotypical hero. He has some problems in the ‘normal’ world that the author elegantly turns into strengths in his fictitious world, showing both his son and now a multitude of kids and kidults that weakness is a subjective term. I rather like the ambition behind that message.
Magnus Chase is another unlikely hero that bumbles and stumbles his way to success, with, of course, some help from some unlikely friends. Every Rick Riordan book I’ve read so far is first person, and I really like that because it allows the POV character’s voice to really shine through and shape the narrative. And Magnus has a great voice: he’s really quick-witted and sarky, but in a good way. He can fire off amusing observations and understatements from the hip, which keeps you smiling throughout, even in the joke-inappropriate moments of near and actual death. It keeps the mood light and upbeat, which is not an unusual tactic for getting through the struggle, and it keeps the mythology on the silly side, when it could so easily be utterly gruesome and traumatic. It’s akin to what Disney did to traditional fairy tales: made them attractive to kids.
If I have to give one slightly negative point, it would be that the story felt a bit bitty. I recognise a lot of the stories from Norse mythology in this book, but some of them feel slightly shoehorned and just there to fill up some space because they exist. I like the modern interpretations of the stories, don’t get me wrong, but in some places it feels like they’ve been used to the detriment of the plot. It’s a bit myth first and narrative second. This is perhaps why the book is significantly longer than any of the Percy Jacksons.
Having said that, I still really enjoyed reading the first in this series, and I definitely intend to keep going. It’s good fun and has some excellent twists on the old myths. And, of course, at the centre beats the heart of Rick Riordan’s purpose: it doesn’t matter what ‘faults’ you have; as long as you have courage, you can be a hero.