Following the successes of the original five-part Percy Jackson series, the spin-off Heroes of Olympus, and The Kane Chronicles, it appeared that Riordan had no stopper to the sheer amount of popularity that each of his releases attained, even rivaling that of Stephen King or J.K. Rowling. Readers would flock to the nearest bookstore on release date to pick up the latest entry in a series they beloved. Magnus Chase, Riordan’s first dip into Norse Mythology, faced this same kind of treatment, opening to a roaring debut on the New York Times bestseller’s list and remaining there for weeks to come. However, while the book may have faced both critical and financial success from avid readers and fans, Riordan’s 2015 novel, supposed to transform and reinvigorate interest in Norse Mythology through a unique tale, ultimately comes off as a straight clone of previous Riordan works. Outside of the demystified setting that the book is set in, there is nothing innovative about The Sword of Summer. But that doesn’t stop the book from being a fast-paced, loosely told, and enjoyable experience that may lack any innovation or pure inspiration but still remains mostly enjoyable from the first page to the very last.
As discoverable in his previous works, Riordan’s abilities to dole out impressive opening sequences cannot be understated. Within the first fifty pages of The Sword of Summer, I found myself practically etched into the book and unable to claw my way out due to the plot’s excitement. In fact, the opening is the strongest aspect of this 512-page novel. It weaves action sequences with a fascinating mythology and a plot twist that repolarized the novel. However, following that stellar action sequence, the plot then slows down but still continues at a snappy pace. The plot can’t be considered slow or dull by any stretch of the imagination, but it feels inconsistent within itself. Never before in a Riordan novel had I experienced such a feeling of dislodging. This is partly due to the ridiculous and sheer amount of dry humor that Riordan attempts to incorporate within the story. While his most early books like The Titan’s Curse and The Lightning Thief had outstanding humor that relied primarily on situational humor, The Sword of Summer feels wonky in its execution, leaving the reader with a bucketful of jokes that usually never land. It mars the pacing significantly and was the partial reason why I found myself somewhat disinterested at the midway point of the story. In addition, another notable issue with the story would be its portrayal of Norse mythology. While the original Percy Jackson series was able to make readers view Greek mythology as a fascinating topic, in this first entry of the Magnus Chase franchise, he portrays Norse mythology as a rather dull and uninteresting topic. Most of this book’s audience will be Riordan readers who have experienced and most likely enjoyed previous series. However, like the rest of the plot, Riordan refuses to take bold directions and instead opts for a more simplistic and watered-down approach. Instead of developing a character in this large mythology as a force to be reckoned with, Riordan chooses to place a meaningless joke which disrupts the flow of both the story and my enjoyment. As an author, Riordan has seemingly become complacent with just placing in another grand set piece and joke rather than actually developing a proper and original story.
While the actual plot of the book may leave much for hardcore Riordan readers to be desired, the characters, when they aren’t subject to Riordan’s ridiculous abundance of jokes, are what propel the story and make it a moderately enjoyable read. While he may never feature clear and emotional characterization, the lead protagonist, Magnus Chase, serves as an excellent character for introducing the mythology to the reader. By exploring the story in his narrow first person angle, it seems that Riordan intended for him to be the audience character, the character who is supposed to serve as a window between the reader and the book’s central concepts. In that respect, he does a serviceable job even if there isn’t any real characterization or motivations explored. As for his entourage, they are on a similar quality as well. Riordan has crafted a similar yet different character in Sam, relishing the nostalgia of the past and the inventiveness of the future in one single character. Her dialogue is easily the best out of any of the characters, as it is often snappy and crisp to a fault. In addition, two dwarves, Blitzen and Hearthstone, are introduced throughout the story and while I wish Riordan had taken more time to set up the sheer inventiveness of the mythology, they still serve as enjoyable characters even if their reason for existence is never quite justified.
Overall, Magnus Chase and the Sword of Summer may not be the best or most original Riordan novel to date, but it’s still an enjoyable one. While it may never fully explore the fascinating concepts of the mythology, The Sword of Summer is still able to make the reader find enjoyment in this formula for writing that Riordan has been mastering over the years. I hope future installments are able to properly portray the Norse mythology and relieve itself of the ridiculous abundance of humor, but The Sword of Summer is a recommendable read for any of Riordan’s avid readers. It may not create a series that rivals that of the original Percy Jackson and the Olympians, but it is a worthy start to an enjoyable franchise of books.
Score: 6.2 out of 10
Magnus Chase has seen his share of trouble. Ever since that terrible night two years ago when his mother told him to run, he has lived alone on the streets of Boston, surviving by his wits, staying one step ahead of the police and truant officers.
One day, he's tracked down by an uncle he barely knows-a man his mother claimed was dangerous. Uncle Randolph tells him an impossible secret: Magnus is the son of a Norse god. The Viking myths are true. The gods of Asgard are preparing for war. Trolls, giants, and worse monsters are stirring for doomsday. To prevent Ragnarok, Magnus must search the Nine Worlds for a weapon that has been lost for thousands of years.
When an attack by fire giants forces him to choose between his own safety and the lives of hundreds of innocents, Magnus makes a fatal decision.
Sometimes, the only way to start a new life is to die . . .