Series: Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard #1
Published by Disney Hyperion
Published on October 6th 2015
Genres: Action & Adventure, Death, Friendship, Mythology, Young Adult
Magnus Chase has always been a troubled kid. Since his mother’s mysterious death, he’s lived alone on the streets of Boston, surviving by his wits, keeping one step ahead of the police and the truant officers.
One day, he’s tracked down by a man he’s never met—a man his mother claimed was dangerous. The man 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 . . .
To say that The Sword of Summer is a bad book would be a lie. But that doesn’t mean that I’m not severely disappointed by it. Out of all the three star ratings I’ve given out in my life, I’m probably the most salty about this one. I had such high hopes, such high expectations for this series, and as much as I tried to quell my enthusiasm so as to not overhype it for myself beforehand, I couldn’t hide my excitement when I cracked open the first page.
Almost immediately I had an uneasy feeling about the book. The story is told in first person POV, and it’s really easy to detect the tone of voice that Magnus is going to use throughout the book. It’s light, snarky, and full of juvenile humor. Hmm? What’s that? You’ve seen something like this before? Preposterous. Magnus’ sassy, bubbly tone is something I’ve never ever experienced in young adult fiction. What?! You have?! Whose voice was it? Percy Jackson, you say? Oh.
All right, so I was super pumped for The Sword of Summer, but one concern kept nagging at me every time I thought about it. I was worried that this book would be a recreation of the Percy Jackson series, just set in a different world. I knew that any attempt to recreate the Percy Jackson series would be a total disaster, because no matter how hard you try, you simply cannot recreate the magic that was the PJO series. I wanted something new from Riordan that would blow my socks off. To my dismay, I couldn’t go two chapters without murmuring to myself, “where have I seen this before?” or “that reminds me of…” or “didn’t he do the same thing in Percy Jackson?” There were way too many similarities between the Magnus Chase series and the Percy Jackson series for my liking.
So how do I compare thee? Let me count the ways…
Comparison 1: Magnus vs Percy. This is the most obvious, and perhaps, the most important comparison I’m going to make. If you know me well, you know that Percy Jackson is my favourite character in young adult fiction. Period. I was praying that Magnus would be a totally different guy, so that I wouldn’t be reminded of Percy when I was reading from his perspective. Unfortunately, Magnus is essentially the same guy in a different body.
The humor is exactly the same- snarky and juvenile. But while Percy’s goofiness was one of his best traits in the PJO series, Magnus’ humor actually detracted from my enjoyment of the book. For one, Percy was 12 when we first met him. His humor was juvenile, sure, and it made sense, because it was coming from the mouth of a 12 year old boy. But he grew up, and we grew up with him. As he matured into a young man, some of the juvenile humor stayed with him, and was a reminder to readers that he was the same person at heart that he was when we first met him.
Because we first meet Magnus at an older age (16), the humor doesn’t quite have the same effect. We didn’t get to watch him grow up and develop into the young man he is in the book, so his humor doesn’t really have the same impact on readers as Percy’s did. Adding to the awkwardness of the humor is the sheer volume of it that Magnus uses in the book- it’s almost overwhelming how many playful jabs he gets in. The frequent childish humor actually made Magnus seem a lot younger- and dare I say it, more immature- than he actually was.
And there’s so many other similarities between the two that I won’t bother explaining for word count’s sake: the fatal flaw of loyalty, selflessness, and the cherishing of family are all characteristics that Magnus and Percy both have. In many more ways than one, Magnus just felt like a complete rip-off of one of my favourite characters ever.
Comparison 2: Samirah vs Annabeth. Samirah is the designated kick-ass heroine/sidekick in this book, and essentially the only thing that separates her from Annabeth is that she wears a hijab. In all honesty, they’re the same person. Annabeth was smart, quick on her feet, and genuinely caring under all the tough love. Sam was the same, and nothing really set her apart from Annabeth. She’s likable enough, but incredibly forgettable,especially because I’ve already fallen in love with THE EXACT SAME CHARACTER in another series.
Comparison 2B: Percabeth vs Magnirah(?).DISCLAIMER: there is essentially no romance in this book. BUT the relationship between Magnus and Sam is nearly identical to the relationship between Percy and Annabeth. If you remember, Percy was the rash, crazy, fast-acting side of the partnership, and Annabeth was the calculating, logical, level-headed side. Percy made some impulsive decisions, and Annabeth playfully chided him for them. Percy was goofy, and Annabeth pretended not to be charmed by his personality (she eventually failed). Magnus and Sam work exactly the same way, but without the romance. Well, Percy and Annabeth didn’t have romance at first either. I can almost see where this is going already. And all I can think is, “you’ll never be as awesome as they were. Never.” Is that mean and unfair? Yeah. But hey, I can’t control my emotions.
Side note: Annabeth had some cameos in this book and I kind of forget most of what she said cause I was bouncing around in my chair too much with excitement… So yeah, might have to read those scenes again.
Comparison 3: Blitzen vs Grover. I don’t have much to say about this one, other than the fact that Grover was the clumsy but strong-hearted sidekick that provided additional comic relief, and that Blitzen played the same role. Grover wasn’t my favourite character in the original PJO series anyway, though, so I’m not that peeved about this one.
Side note: There were two trusty sidekicks in The Sword of Summer: Blitzen and Hearthstone. I found Hearthstone much more interesting than Blitzen; he wasn’t a direct copy off of anyone in the PJO series, which was refreshing. A deaf elf capable of jawdropping magic, Hearth was sensitive, sweet, and his touching backstory made him very easy to root for. He was my favourite character by far.
Comparison 4: the parallel storylines. Halfway through the book, I realized how similar the storylines of The Sword of Summer and The Lightning Thief were. Here’s how the Lightning Thief goes: a boy finds out he’s the son of a Greek God and is told that he needs to go on a quest to retrieve the stolen lightning bolt of Zeus to keep the Gods from fighting each other and wreaking havoc on the world. And the story of The Sword of Summer: a boy finds out he’s the son of a Norse God and is told that he needs to go on a quest to retrieve the lost Sword of Summer and the magical rope of Andskoti, in order to delay the apocalypse and prevent the Gods from destroying one another. Been there, done that.
All right, so here’s one more thing that bothered me. Is the book suggesting that, while the Titans were trying to destroy the world a few years back, and Gaia was trying to murder everybody in her path not too long ago in Greek God land, the Norse Gods just stood there in their own nine worlds and said or did nothing? The problem with bringing Annabeth into this book is that as an author, you’re basically saying that these two types of Gods and worlds exist at the same time in the same place, and you can’t expect to pass this off without explanation. Riordan chose to forgo any explanation of their co-existence, which was a bit of a head-scratcher.
This review has been almost entirely negative, but that’s because I’ve been comparing it to one of my favourite series of all time. When I first picked up this book, this was exactly the kind of review I hoped to NOT be writing in the future. I didn’t want to be drawing comparisons and parallels to the Percy Jackson series. But I am. I have to– because the author gave me no choice. The Sword of Summer really isn’t a bad read- it’s quick, fun, and relatively engaging. First-time Riordan readers will really enjoy it. As an experienced Riordan reader, I wanted something more: more original, more inventive, more different. But that’s not what I got. As I said before, any author that tries too hard to replicate a previous series’ magic is inevitably going to fall flat on his face. Despite the relatively generous rating, The Sword of Summer was a bitterly disappointing swing and a miss for me.
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