Rated: 3.5 solid stars
Finished: 18th January 2018.
Spoiler content: Slight, nothing major.
I got to say I am pleasantly surprised I enjoyed this as much as I have. Norse mythology is not in my comfort zone but I’m excited! Events unfolded off at a snail’s pace but eventually picked up speed, the kind of speed that required an all-nighter. Magnus and his friends are racing to find the Sword of Summer before the Giants do and to delay Ragnarok, the last war and fated death of the world. Later on, I’ll be doing some comparisons with Percy Jackson from Riordan’s Greek series, just a heads up.
The characters are deliciously diverse, for instance, Malory Keen is Celtic, Thomas Jefferson is an African-American soldier who fought in the Civil War, X is a troll and Halfborn Gunderson is an honest to goodness Viking berserker. Then we have Blitzen, a dwarf with impeccable fashion sense, and the adorable but tormented Hearthstone, a deaf elf who taught Magnus ASL.
And the fantastic Samira al-Abbas, a Muslim-American Valkyrie. There’s the issue of her hijab being a shape-shifting multi-purpose fabric, some would call it a faux pas but I I beg to differ. Look I’m Hindu and I’m aware I may be lacking on some level of cultural awareness but I think it’s pretty neat. I’m curious as to what opinions Muslims have on this. And begs the question of what interesting features could a sari have?
Plot-wise, I mentioned pacing earlier. There was a remark from a reviewer where she’s noticed Riordan reapplying a similar plot formula to the Norse series from the Greeks, that it was predictable. I understand some of this but I can disagree as well.
It’s the hero-goes-on-a-quest-to-save-the-world and both Percy and Magnus had strong bonds with their mothers who were at some point threatened. It didn’t bother me because what else is supposed to happen? Their moms were crucial to their upbringing and evil people being evil used that to their advantage. They went on quest after quest but they were totally different from the other series because the Norse are another ballgame and as I’d soon learned Magnus is no Percy.
The Villains/Gods/Giants. Generally speaking, they’re an improvement from the Greek/Roman series. Loki is one slippery fecker (surprise surprise) even I was tempted to trust him. However, he did have some valid points. Which brings me to one of the primary themes, that being the fate vs. choice dilemma. Ragnarok will happen because such is the prophecy of the Norns ages ago. Two sons of Thor are fated to survive it. Fenris Wolf is fated to be released to begin the downward spiral of events, the Sword of Summer is fated to free him. It was Loki who imparted some wisdom to Magnus, one of my favourite lines:
“The thing about fate, Magnus: even if we can’t change the big picture, our choices can alter the details. That’s how we rebel against destiny, how we make our mark. What will you choose to do?”
Loki is arrogant, charming and conniving, sure. He was punished severely for the murder of Oden and Frigg’s son however one can argue that his torture was way out of proportion given that the said son is an honored guest of Loki’s daughter Hel in her realm of Helheim. I for one wholeheartedly agree.
The gods are all capable of cruelty and often act on it, whichever pantheon, but I’m beginning to expect an overall darker vein in the Norse series as portrayed by Riordan and is in a way more realistic. Loki is basically emphasizing the fact that it’s only a matter of choosing a lesser evil of the two, of course portraying himself being the more sympathetic.
Rick Riordan has me whipped. The only series I’ve yet to dip into is the Kane Chronicles. That said, initially, I wasn’t sold on Magnus Chase due to some research at safe distance, avoiding spoilers and all that. I’ve read there were more similarities between Magnus and Percy especially with regards to humor. Honestly? I felt let down when I saw some of this for myself.
I was concerned but anyone who’s noticed my notes saw some drastic change of opinion after the halfway mark. Actually, let me paste my status notes:
* December 26, 2017 – page 121 24.25%
“I hope I don’t regret this … and buying the last [two as well]. Let alone being similar to Percy’s internal monologue (snark and the such) it’s getting to a point Magnus’ sense of humour feels forced.
I do appreciate so far is the quasi-intro to Norse mythology of which I know next to nothing about but am stoked to research.”
* January 13, 2018 – page 215 43.09%
“It’s actually not bad. It occurred to me that I’m 23 & the general demographic for these books are what, 13-year-olds & I might be judging them a little too harshly? If Magnus was a Percy shaped template, my point would’ve been valid, I don’t believe this now.
The guy is facing traumatic experience one after the next & if he chooses humour to deal that’s fine. Percy was similar in this but Magnus is a bit darker.
* January 17, 2018 – page 409 81.96%
“Once you pass the halfway mark, things finally pick up steam. Last night I had a binge session, a little over 100 pages at 3 AM”
Now, I’m beginning to realize the reason why I made the first remark was that I went in with preconceived expectations. Dammit, I’ve been doing this reading thing for years but I sometimes forget and let the opinions of others colour my perception when I should’ve used that as an objective lens.
I actually like Magnus. He tries to be tough and he is, but he also knows he’s scared of living on the streets for the two years since his mother’s murder. He has a warrior’s spirit but isn’t exactly a fighter. I wouldn’t say he is leadership material either. Magnus is a healer, loves nature and leans towards the peaceful side.
Percy, his moods are somewhat more volatile. He’s a natural in battle and it’s my opinion that he’s grown to thrive in command but that’s not to say he’s not chill most of the other times.
Towards the end, there was a scene with Magnus and his father that highlighted his and Percy’s polarity. Magnus had a choice to turn away from or embrace the parent who kept away from him for sixteen years. He chose the latter, forgiveness, quite easily. Even in the earlier chapters, he couldn’t bother to have any hard feelings, any sense of abandonment as he was perfectly content with having his mother for as long as he did.
Now Percy had bitched some about Poseidon before coming to terms with how Greek Gods, as a rule, don’t often fraternize with their offspring for a reason I forgot … I’m not invalidating Percy’s response at all, this is just for contrasting purposes. Percy’s more likely to hold on to a grudge than Magnus is.
Returning to the shared sass, I mentioned Magnus’ brand of humour tends to be more dry and dark while Percy’s is lighter with more snark. Conclusion? They are individual characters with distinguishing features despite apparent similarities.
This story has a cold feel to it while the Greek/Roman ones are more temperate. I don’t know if that was intentional or simply because I’ve associated each culture’s mythos with their respective clime.
So yes, I liked The Sword of Summer and I didn’t regret getting the last two after all. It has a little philosophy in it, adventure in spades and it’s obvious by now that it’s funny and also can be somber. For those folks on the fence? Give it a try, I almost passed.