Friday, October 16, 2015

Book Review: Magnus Chase and the Sword of Summer

I love Rick Riordan. He's my favorite YA author, with Rowling coming in a close second (don't kill me for that, please).

When my brother and I were kids and got sick, Dad would read us The Lightning Thief, because it always made us laugh. He stopped doing that as we got older and Liam and I reached the parents-aren't-cool stage. But we still read the books.

What was fun with Percy Jackson was that I knew the Greek gods forwards, backwards, and inside out. I love Greek mythology.

I know nothing about the Norse gods, but this was still an amazing book. And, in my case, educational. At least now I can name more of the Asgardians besides Loki, Thor, and Odin.

(You can get this for dirt cheap on Amazon. Click here for details.)

Quick note: if you haven't already, you should read all the Percy Jackson books first, as in the five books in the original series and the five books in the Heroes of Olympus series, because:

A) Per usual, Riordan leaves The Sword of Summer on a cliff hanger, so by the time you read all ten Percy Jackson books you won't have to wait long for the Magnus Chase sequel.

B) There's a lot of inside jokes that only Percy Jackson fans will get (chapter titles, character names, etc.) You'll miss out on a lot of the fun if you don't get a proper Percy education.

I only had one problem with this book...well, two actually. One and a half.

I like wolves. Scratch that, I love wolves. I have a dozen wolf t-shirts. My favorite sweater has a wolf design. I have a whole bookshelf dedicated to books on wolf behavior, biology, culture, etc. When I went to the International Wolf Center in Ely, MN, that was the greatest weekend of my life (and not just because I learned how to play D&D at the time).

And Rick Riordan decided the bad guy had to be a wolf.

Boo! Boo, I say!

"But Christina, that's not Rick. That's Norse mythology. You can't blame him for that."

Yes, I can, and I do. Because he could've had a cool wolf be a good guy. He didn't have to make Magnus Chase wolf-phobic. What did wolves ever do to Magnus to deserve that?

"Um...they killed his mom?"

Shut up.

And speaking of Magnus, problem 1.5 was the conventionality of the hero. He's basically a homeless, nature-based, Norse version of Percy Jackson. Selfless, sarcastic, noble, only steals from or hurts bad guys, yadda yadda yadda.

Yes, it's a YA novel and yes, we're supposed to root for the main character because otherwise we're rooting for Doomsday...but it's kind of vanilla. Riordan's Apollo was much more interesting.

Give me an anti-hero, a gray character.
Someone who rips off perfectly innocent, non-douchebag people for their own sake.
Someone who lies and cheats.
Someone who runs away from danger rather than valiently running towards it.
Someone who doesn't feel guilty when their friends die; they're just relieved they didn't die.
Someone who wants to save their own skin.

For me, Magnus's only redeeming features in terms of interesting character traits is his humor and powers of non-violence (because I'm a pacifist and I love it when that kind of message is sent out).

...except Magnus isn't entirely nonviolent because he kills a bunch of giants. But not for interesting, controversial reasons. It was self-defense.

"Really, Christina? It's Rick Riordan, not Game of Thrones."

I don't see why it can't be both.

"Oh, for the love of...Is it a good book or not? Just tell me so I know whether or not to get it on Amazon for my nephew for Christmas."

Fine. Yes, it's a good book. It's a great book, actually. Classic Rick Riordan with new(ish) characters and Norse gods.

Also, one of the major characters, a Valkyrie named Sam, is a calculus-teaching, axe-wielding Muslim, which you just don't see in YA novels. Or anywhere, really. So I love that.

Wait, can you be Muslim while working with and serving Norse gods? I feel like that's a fundamental contradiction. Like being a naiad in the Greek god universe and then going to a Christian church on Sunday.

Whatever. There's also a deaf elf who practices magic and a dwarf fashionista, who are both ridiculous and captivating.

Highly recommended.

A Minor Spoiler

So, you know how I said you should read the Percy Jackson series before Magnus Chase because of the inside jokes? I lied.

Magnus Chase has a cousin, who is Annabeth Chase.

As in, Percy's girlfriend and daughter of Athena. That Annabeth Chase.

And yeah, I thought that Riordan was just playing with names, or just really really likes the name Annabeth. But then she talks to Magnus and mentions gods and a place you can go to be safe. But of course, because of the time crunch and dramatic irony, neither of them has time to mention measely details like Norse or Greek.

So it looks like Rick's going to try meshing the Greek/Roman and Norse gods together. What's next, Egyptian?

...wait a minute...   O_O


You can get Magnus Chase here!

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