“Magnus Chase and the Sword of Summer” by Rick Riordan

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I’m going to be completely honest. If I hadn’t won this book at a Penguin YA event that I attended at the Brisbane City Library late last year, I would never have picked it up. I don’t know why. For some reason, I always brushed Rick Riordan off.

I shouldn’t have done that.

Rick Riordan is one of the funniest authors that I have ever had the pleasure of reading. I don’t read a lot of funny books, but this one had me laughing out loud. Not something that happens very often. There are a lot of quotes that I could choose in order to demonstrate the hilarity of this book, but instead, I think I’ll just give you some of the chapter titles:

  • Come to the Dark Side. We Have Pop-Tarts
  • We Are Falafel-Jacked by an Eagle
  • How to Kill Giants Politely
  • I Am Trash-Talked by a Squirrel
  • We Burn a Swan Boat, Which I’m Pretty Sure Is Illegal
  • I Did Not Ask for Biceps

I love these chapter titles so much.

Magnus Chase and the Sword of Summer may also be the most diverse book that I’ve ever read. We have:

  1. a homeless protagonist
  2. a Muslim leading lady
  3. a deaf best friend/guardian.

It could be because of my anglophilia, but a lot of the books I read are set in Europe. Reading a book that was not only set in Boston (wait, an American series NOT set in New York? Oh my God!), but also had a cast that all had fundamentally different backgrounds? I was hooked by the first sentence.

Plus, let’s not forget that the basis of this story is Norse mythology. And not just Thor, Loki, and Odin either. But Frey and Freya, Valhalla, Jotunheim, and a bunch of other parts of Norse mythology that we don’t really hear about that often.
I am a big fan of mythology (which makes it super weird that I’ve never read Rick Riordan before) and find the beliefs of different ethnic groups from way back when profoundly fascinating. I was obsessed with the gods of Mt Olympus when I was younger (again, weird I’ve never read Riordan before), and love to correct people when they call Heracles Hercules (unless they actually DO mean the Roman demigod). I adored Riordan’s interpretations of the Norse gods. I mean, Odin as a motivational speaker? Yes please!

I’m also going to spoil something here. It’s not a big thing, so I don’t feel too bad about it, but feel free to skip this paragraph if you want absolutely no spoilers for Sword of Summer:
Magnus and Sam, our two main characters, do NOT kiss at the end. This is a boy/girl main character duo that stay friends. Sam has a crush on someone else for Frigg’s (you’ll get this one later) sake! Men and women can be just friends and it was refreshing to have a YA book where the main characters didn’t hook up. That they never even considered hooking up. I know this is just the first book in the series and this could change, but still. Loved it.

Oh, and for diehard Riordan fans, you may recognise Magnus Chase’s last name from a certain other character, from a certain other series. Namely, Miss Annabeth Chase. Yes, she does make an appearance. But only at the beginning and end of this book. Riordan doesn’t do that thing where he drops names from Percy Jackson for the sake of it. Magnus explains his family history with Annabeth, she appears, he tells her to go, and at the end of the story he realises that he needs some family support and looks her up. Annabeth doesn’t talk about her adventures. The scenes between the Chase cousins are still all about Magnus and HIS story. Riordan never loses focus of his story for the sake of fan service. He serves his fans by delivering an amazing story. I mean, I’m of course going to look up Percy Jackson now, but this isn’t to understand any in-jokes between Annabeth and Magnus. This is only because I find Riordan to be a YA genius. And that’s how it is supposed to be.

There’s nothing I can really fault with this book. It was hilarious, charming, informative (did YOU know that Valhalla wasn’t the only Nordic heaven? Nope, neither did I), and beautifully structured. I feel like books that are funny are often looked down upon for not being “high brow” enough. But do you know how hard it is to be funny on paper? With nothing but words to get your jokes across? Riordan is a comedic genius and I cannot wait until October to read Magnus Chase and the Hammer of Thor.

★★★★★

 

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About Bec Graham

Bec Graham, 24, was born on the wrong continent. Everything from her burns-like-paper skin tone to her inability to cope with the slightest hint of a hot day suggests she should have been born under the gloomy skies and mild sun of the UK. She hopes writing will get her to her rightful home one day. Failing that, she scans the skies for a spinning blue police box, hoping to catch a lift back to the motherland.
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