Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard: The Sword of Summer
© 2015 Rick Riordan
Magnus Chase is the Boy Who Lived. As a youngster he witnessed his mother sacrifice herself for him, dying at the hands of some evil creature that he remembers as a wolf. Having been homeless ever since, Magnus is confronted on his 16th birthday by a lost relative who duly informs him: Magnus, yer a Norse god!
..okay, the son of a Norse god. Not Odin, of course, just Freya — the fellow we named Fridays after. God of summer and the growing season, apparently. (Demeter with a beard?) Long ago, Freya gave up his sword for love, which is unfortunate because he needed it to fight in Ragnarök, the battle at the end of the world. The only one who can retrieve it from its watery grave is his only living son…Magnus. You know how these things go if you’ve read any Riordan at all. The plot for all the series so far: “Hey, kid, you’re a demigod. The world is ending in a week (by the solstice/equinox/new moon) unless you and your plucky sidekicks (one girl who can fight, one boy who can’t but is a magic native providing exposition) can find, rescue, and transport the Magic MacGuffin across the continent and frustrate or kill the minions, mini-bosses, or Monster of Chaos itself. (It’s hard to take Ragnarok seriously when the world is on the precipice of doom every single novel.) This happens in nearly every book of all the series, which is why I haven’t bothered reading him in a while.
I found Sword of Summer mildly enjoyable in a cartoonish sense. Very little of Norse mythology’s dreadful awe is here, though it’s impossible to make light of Loki being chained with his slain son’s entrails. Aside from that Riordan’s world — full of Elvish TV addicts, Dwarfen Taylor Swift fans, and entirely too many characters who introduce themselves with an interesting monicker, then add, ‘Call me Jack//Otis/Bob’ — is definitely juvenile. Magnus, introduced as homeless for several years, doesn’t bear any sign of that beyond leaf debris in his hair. There are interesting moments, though; Magnus’ Valkyrie, Samirah, is a hijab-wearing Arab woman who sees no conflict between working for Norse gods and worshipping Allah. According to her, her family has a history of involvement with the Norse. There are more subtle jokes, too; one set of characters consistently refers to their boss as the Capo. They’re not Sicilian mobsters, though, they’re using the word in its Latin sense: their boss is a head, carried around in a bag.
As glad as I am to see fiction about northern mythology, the Norse stories mentioned as background to Magnus’ quests, combined with the mostly-funny chapter titles, are the chief entertainment, aided slightly by more unexpected characters like a deaf-mute Elf and and Samirah. I might read the second book, but only when in need of a little light diversion, as I was this past weekend.