Ever since I finished the Percy Jackson series, I felt more inspired to continue my own writing. The infusion of Greek mythology and modern day life (modern for the time I suppose) was a fun twist. When I picked up Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard box set, I imagined that it would be more of the same fun and knowledgeable references to mythology. I was pleasantly surprised how wrong I was.
The difference between Magnus and Percy is staggering. Whereas Percy was perceived as a troubled child, Magnus was more a young man that the world really didn’t ease up on. Living on the streets, we get a look at a homeless protagonist that has nothing going on with his life. It became easy to sympathize and root for Magnus as he comes off as a surprisingly humble and noble young man despite how understandable it would be for a more hardened mentality. But he never becomes this overly good character that can be rather tiring. He’s still got a cheeky attitude that makes him a fun protagonist to follow. He isn’t the most friendly to everyone, but they give him reason for this. His choices are natural and never feel as though they serve plot progression as opposed to his own decision.
The cast of side characters also feel diverse and interesting. It’s hard not to compare to the cast of Percy Jackson as the differences are quite clear. The supporting cast for Magnus Chase are, for the most part, quite different from an Middle-Eastern Valkyrie to a fashion conscious dwarf. It could have been a difficult task to combine various cultures and ideas to twist the already established Norse mythology, but Riordan’s characters feel lively and real. It becomes easier to sympathize with each character, hearing about their struggles and hoping they succeed.
I can’t lie, I loved them.
While the story borrows some similarities to Percy Jackson’s plot progression, it comes off as a more mature version of a hero’s journey. As a whole Magnus Chase is surprisingly grim and dark for an author like Riordan. While it is true that Percy Jackson had some dark overtones and foreboding story elements, Magnus Chase felt like it dialed it up past eleven and then some. I never expected the deep and difficult twists and turns Magnus and his friends would have to overcome on their quest. What surprised me most was how much care and detail Riordan took when addressing these sensitive issues. At no point does anything ever feel as though it’s added in for shock value or thrown in for excitement. Everything is slowly hinted at beforehand and makes for an exciting and often times shocking adventure.
Where Riordan played it safe with his supporting cast and the depiction of the Greek gods, he takes a pretty different route with the Norse gods. I was pleasantly surprised in his depictions of the various gods and how they were close to their mythological identities while still being modernized for a 21st century audience. Admittedly my knowledge of the Norse pantheon is not as in-depth as it is with the Greek pantheon, but of what I did know I was happy with how Riordan incorporated them into his story. I don’t want to spoil anything, but Riordan has definitely stepped up his game when it comes to making interesting villains based on myths. The depiction of the nine worlds is a bit light for my liking, but I think it best serves the world building to not overburden the reader with too much knowledge. Save some of that for the next books I suppose.
The only criticism I could make would be for not this era, but future generations. There are a few pop culture references that make sense in a first world modern context, but anyone in a different nation or farther in the future may read these references and be utterly confused by them. It’s always a problem to include modern references as there’s a chance that they don’t quite age very well. Luckily Riordan uses them sparingly. It’s not a major issue but I hope it doesn’t detract from anyone’s enjoyment of the story.
I didn’t think Riordan could improve on his writing quality, but I was, once again, pleasantly surprised. Despite the rather large size of the book (almost 500 pages!) it was very easy to keep reading. Each chapter is short and not padded with any boring filler. Riordan uses every sentence to further the character development and plot without wasting the reader’s time. My favorite improvement is definitely the chapter titles. Riordan kept to his standard fun and goofy titles like in Percy Jackson, in Magnus Chase they are actually quite funny and don’t spoil anything in the coming chapter. There were definitely moments where the chapter title made me genuinely laugh.
What Writers Can Learn from this Book
Holy moly is Magnus Chase a loveable character. While in Percy Jackson I found myself getting annoyed with Percy and some of his friends, Magnus and his friends are all wonderful. Magnus is a funny and engaging protagonist that keeps the reader invested because of how well written he is. His reactions, sarcastic lines, and general skepticism of Norse mythology is fun. Each of his friends are quite fleshed out and have their own issues they struggle with. Hearthstone was an especially sympathetic character that I couldn’t help but love and root for. Any author who wants to incorporate diverse and sympathetic characters into their own story can learn a lot from The Sword of Summer.
P.S: Sorry if the review came off a bit rushed, I’m a bit under the weather at the moment. It’s only a sore throat but I am following procedure and isolating myself.
I hope you’re all safe, healthy and happy! Stay safe and indoors my friends. 🙂