Rick Riordan, Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard: The Sword of Summer. (Los Angeles / New York: Disney-Hyperion, 2019). ISBN 9781484780626 (Set), ISBN 978142316337. Paperback.
Rick Riordan, Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard: The Hammer of Thor. (Los Angeles / New York: Disney-Hyperion, 2019). ISBN 9781484780626 (Set), ISBN 9781423163381. Paperback.
Rick Riordan, Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard: The Ship of the Dead. (Los Angeles / New York: Disney-Hyperion, 2019). ISBN 9781484780626 (Set), ISBN 9781368024440 . Paperback.
Time for some YA fiction on The Viking Age Archive. Fans of Percy Jackson might already know Rick Riordan has written a trilogy about Norse mythology: Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard.
One quick remark before we start: I did not read any existing reviews as I read the books and wrote this review. Oh yeah, I have tried to limit the amount of spoilers…
The first book, The Sword of Summer sets a strong pace from the very first page. Within several chapters, present-day Boston and the Norse mythological world are neatly woven together. Magnus Chase is the hero full of wit and action. Throughout the trilogy, he gets help from an unusual band of friends who all turn out to be heroes in their own right. The characters are well-rounded and reveal themselves slowly enough to make you want to know more about them.
The pitfall of writing a trilogy is a slow start, a leisurely pace in the middle and a burst of energy at the end. The glaring exception to this is, of course, Lord of the Rings. As a second volume, The Two Towers is a masterpiece that takes on the setting of the first volume into a fully fledged story of its own, whilst preparing the overall plot for the final volume. The Hammer of Thor does the same and whilst Magnus Chase may not be the same literary calibre as LoT, it also avidly avoids this pitfall. This is even more evident when analysing the volumes with Campbell’s Hero’s Journey. It shows how Magnus’ three main quests all blend seamlessly into the overall plot, with a strong and satisfying ending in The Ship of the Dead.
Is there any critique? Well, yes. The pace really is relentless. Just a few scenes give the reader a moment to breathe. Yet, these should not be skipped as they, too, contain essential information about the plot. Loose ends really are almost non-existent in these books.
Perhaps Magnus’ one-liners get a little tedious after a while. To adults that is. It may be different for young adults. Also, this predictability has a clear function in the story. Riordan deftly uses the lightheartedness to lend perspective in tough or difficult situations. Or, as a tool to tackle big issues such as disability, race, religion and gender.
Another possible criticism is that the formidable antagonist and villains mostly operate in the background. The spotlight is fully on Magnus and his friends, all the time. Again, this is a choice by the author to create a positive atmosphere despite all that is happening. Riordan chooses to highlight positivity, friendship and family themes. And fair enough, these are good themes to hold on to in present times!
Overall, the trilogy just gets better with each volume. On the first read the books can seem very enjoyable, but after multiple reads and a story analysis one realises how well-crafted these books are. Big and sensitive issues are engaged with in a respectful way. And as a master storyteller, Riordan uses all the tricks in his book, and teaches you about Norse mythology in the process.
Rick Riordan on YouTube.
Verdict: very impressive.