Book Review: The Sword of Summer by Rick Riordan

Posted December 21, 2016 by Kathy Davie in Book Reviews / 0 Comments

Book Review: The Sword of Summer by Rick Riordan

I received this book for free from the library in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

The Sword of Summer by Rick Riordan
Series: Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard #1
Genres: Fantasy, Middle Grade
Published by Disney Hyperion on October 6, 2015
Pages: 491
Format: eBook
Source: the library

Buy on Amazon
Also by this author: The House of Hades, The Hidden Oracle, The Titan's Curse, The Hammer of Thor, The Ship of the Dead, The Battle of the Labyrinth, The Last Olympian, The Dark Prophecy

First in the Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard fantasy series for middle-grade readers set in Boston, Massachusetts, and revolving around Magnus, a just-turned-sixteen-year-old homeless boy.

In 2015, The Sword of Summer won the Goodreads Choice Award for Middle Grade & Children’s.

My Take

Oh, oh, oh…this was simply TOO funny! And it starts so “badly” for poor Magnus. It’s not often your protagonist is killed at the start of the story!

It’s a topsy-turvy twisting tale of fate that could bring Doomsday down any minute, and it’s snarking all the way with me laughing through page after page.

“The medical term for that is ‘dead’.

‘Gee, Magnus, what did it feel like?’

It hurt. A lot. Thanks for asking.”

Ooh, such a wide range of events at the Hotel Valhalla: Single Combat to the Death! at 10 am, followed by Group Combat to the Death! at 11 with Buffet Lunch to the Death! at noon. Ewww, does that say something about the food??? Okay, okay, not fair, as I really did crack up (and lust) at the activities and Magnus’ suite at the hotel. Oh, man. Magnus’ rooms sound so fab, especially the contents of the bookshelves!!

“Turns out Valhalla had been sending its recycling to home plate at Fenway, which could explain any problems the Red Sox were having with their offensive lineup.”

This’ll explain Uncle Randolph’s character: “…I swear this is the truth: your father is a Norse god. Now, hurry. We’re in a twenty-minute parking spot.”

I gotta say…now that I’ve thought about it…Blitzen brandishing the “Make Way for Ducklings” sign as a weapon is so him.

I’m curious to find out how/when Riordan is going to pull in The Heroes of Olympus, since Annabeth is also Magnus’ cousin. So, is it foreshadowing? And I’m curious if the emphasis Riordan is placing on Magnus’ experiences as a homeless boy and the survival skills he learned with all the camping and hiking he did with his mom is more foreshadowing, since there isn’t enough action in this story to explain this emphasis.

Riordan has a fun theory about how important Boston is and why. It certainly does give Leif Ericson a goal and provides the truth behind John Winthrop’s vision and the Salem witch trials, lol. Nice job, Riordan.

“Myths are simply stories about truths we’ve forgotten.”

I’m not keen on Valhalla not being paradise all the time, but I do appreciate Riordan bringing in some reality…seems a bit hard on Hunding, though. The battles are a crack-up. Plans? Why would I have a plan?

“‘Ah, that sucks,’ one guy muttered as he studied the four arrows in his chest.

Another yelled, ‘I’ll get you tomorrow, Trixie!'”

I don’t know why Blitz never thought about working to his strengths before. Seems rather obvious to me. Although, the judges’ bias also seemed obvious to me, but no one else!

Even with the uneven pacing, it’s been a fun ride especially with all the pleasure Riordan takes in tweaking the usual tropes: quests, quests to pay for answers, modern advertising, modern-world paradoxes, narrow escapes, loyalty, silly sidekicks, slick PowerPoint presentations, and pandering to the bullies. I enjoyed the imagery — the giantess’ dress, lol, the metaphors and allegories…oh, yeah…

The Story

It’s been a troubled life for Magnus Chase, especially since his mother’s murder. He’s lived alone on the streets of Boston, surviving by his wits, keeping one step ahead of the police and the truant officers.

Then the posters go up, sending Magnus off to steal into his uncle’s townhouse where he does learn an impossible secret: Magnus is the son of a Norse god, Viking myths are true, and only Magnus can wield the sword that will save our worlds.

A quest that will send him to his death too soon, but save the lives of hundreds of innocents.

The Characters

The asthmatic Magnus Chase, son of Frey, has just turned sixteen, and has been living on the streets since he was fourteen. He learns he can wield alf seidr, an elven energy blast. His mother, Natalie, was murdered. Uncle Randolph, a former history professor at Harvard, is the head of the family, the one his mother warned Magnus against. Uncle Frederick is Annabeth’s father. Annabeth (The Heroes of Olympus) is Magnus’ cousin. Jack is Sumarbrander, the Sword of Summer, not like the “regular piece of non-humming metal with no cruise-control feature”.

“I went out to find breakfast and kill it with my sword.”

Blitz and Hearth are two bums who have been looking out for Magnus.

Samirah al-Abbas, the Valkyrie who saved Magnus, is a sophomore at King Academy and lives with her grandparents, Jid and Bibi. Ayesha had been her mother.

Officer Gómez is a beat cop. Magnus adores Fadlan’s Falafel where Adbel is the manager. Amir is his son. Harald, a frost giant, is a fisherman with a boat at Fish Pier. Fjalar and Gjalar are a couple of dwarves providing cruises out to do wolf-spotting.

Blitzen is a clothes horse of a svartalf while Hearthstone is a mute elf who has dedicated himself to magic. His brother, Andiron, had died. The Capo, Lord Mimir, is their head-only boss with an obsession for casinos and pachinko.

The Hotel Valhalla is where…
…Magnus’ shield brothers and sister live, including Halfborn Gunderson, a berserker, who has been there for 1,200 years; Mallory Keen; Thomas Jefferson, Jr., had been a private in the Civil War; and, X (who loves his severed pig’s heads) is a sensitive half-troll.

Hunding is the doorman. Helgi is the hotel’s manager. Heidrun is a goat whose milk is brewed to make the mead. Eikthrymir “Ike”, a stag, is but one of the animals who live in the Tree of Laeradr that grows in the feasting hall. Saehrimnir is the magical beast who comes back to life each morning. The mean Gunilla is the captain of the Valkyries and isn’t above “editing” Valkyrie Vision. Margaret and Irene were lieutenants. Thanes are the lords of Valhalla — Eric Bloodax, Erik the Red, Snorri, Lord Nelson, Davy Crockett, Lord Ottar, etc., — and you must be personally invited by Odin to sit at his table. The vala is a seer. John Red Hand is einherjar while Lars Alhstrom (Thor’s son) with his fire extinguisher and the seductive Dede are new ones. Hyrokkin is a 15-foot tall giantess friend.

Folkvanger translates as…
…the Field of the Army, Freya’s hall of the slain, and is a subsection of Vanaheim. Think of it as a hippie-ish Valhalla. Freya is Blitz’s mom, which makes Blitz Magnus’ cousin; Bilí is Blitz’s father, a jewelry-crafting dwarf. Sessrumnir, the Hall of Many Seats, is Freya’s home. Odur “Od” was an Æsir god and Freya’s lost husband. Dmitri leads the Do-Runs, a band who died in 1963. Miles is one of the many honorable dead.

Eitri Junior hates Blitz with a passion. His father, Eitri Senior, had fashioned Gleipnir, the Fenrir Wolf’s chain. Nabbi’s Tavern is owned by Nabbi, son of Loretta. Gotta be careful where ya sit…and wait for those introductions!

“His furniture was spare but stylish: an L-shaped sofa and two space-age armchairs. They probably had names and were famous among living-room furniture, but Blitzen didn’t introduce them.”

Muspellheim is where…
…Surt, a fire giant, “The Black One”, is its lord.

Jotunheim is…
…home to the giants. Big Boy, a.k.a., Utgard-Loki, Loki of the Outlands, the most powerful sorcerer of Jotunheim, and king of the mountain giants, has a unique perspective. No, no, actually it’s not unique. A number of these gods seem to enjoy friendly exchanges of words, battles…with their frenemies

Thor is the thunder god with Mjolnir, the hammer he keeps losing. Tanngnjóstr, a.k.a., Teeth Grinder or Otis, (his obsession with his mental health therapist is another crack-up) and his brother, Marvin, are Thor’s goats. Magni and Modi are Thor’s favorite sons…or they will be.

He has tried the Find My Hammer app…!

Stanley is one of Sleipnir‘s offspring, which would make Loki his grandmother or something. Trust me. In this case, Loki was the mother, ahem. Geirrod is a giant who wants to take down Thor. Gjalp and Griep are two of his daughters.

The Æsir were gods of war with Asgard as their seat while the Vanir were gods of nature with Vanaheim as their world. Odin and Frigg are the head god and goddess.

Frey is the Vanir god of spring and summer and wealth, abundance, and fertility, the god of health, new life, and balance, keeping the extremes in check. Gerd was the frost giantess he loved. Skirnir had been Frey’s best friend. Freya is Frey’s twin sister and the goddess of cats. Their father was Njord, the god of ships, sailors, and fishermen.

Ratatosk is the Squirrel, the bane of the World Tree; he carries messages from the top of the tree to the eagle to Nidhoff, the dragon who lives at the bottom. The captain of the lost ship was a son of Skirnir. Ran is a sea goddess; Aegir is a storm god and Ran’s husband. And Ran is so ticked off at his obsession with microbrews, lol.

Loki is the imprisoned trickster god with all the kids. Those with the giantess include Fenrir, the chained-up wolf son; Jormungand, the World Serpent son; and, Hel, the daughter goddess of the dishonorable dead. Vali and Narvi were his favorite sons.

Einherjar means lone warriors, men who fought and died bravely who live and battle in Valhalla while they await Ragnarök; some are demigods, some are regular mortals. Valkyries choose those who will be einherjar. The Norns control mortal destinies. There are Nine Worlds including Helheim (Hel’s world for the dishonorable dead), Ginnungagap (the primordial void), Alfheim (elf world where Frey is their lord), Nidavellir, Nilfheim (ice), Jotunheim (giants), Muspellheim (fire), Vanaheim (Vanir world), and Midgard (Earth with Boston at its center). Skraelings were American Indians. Bifrost is the rainbow bridge that connects Asgard and Midgard.

The Cover and Title

The cover is colorful! The base is a range of brightish blues of Fenrir snarling out at us with Magnus and Jack prepared to smite whoever is coming down from above. Behind them is the huge world tree, Yggdrasil, deep, deep pink in its twisting bark against a tattoo-looking yellow to pink gradated sky. By the time we get to the first limbs, the tree has turned purple against a lighter purple sky, and the further up we go, the darker the tree limbs become against a deep blue, star-studded sky. The author’s name is in a pale orange at the top, the series information is in a metallic grey…with the title very tiny at the bottom in the same silver. I don’t know what Riordan’s issue is with requiring that the series info be so much larger than the book title; it’s so misleading.

The title is Magnus’ focus in The Sword of Summer, a sword that belongs in Magnus’ family line.

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