The Hammer of Thor: Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard, Book 2

Book review by
Carrie R. Wheadon, Common Sense Media
The Hammer of Thor: Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard, Book 2 Book Poster Image
Loads of excitement plus intro of gender-fluid character.

Parents say

age 13+
Based on 4 reviews

Kids say

age 11+
Based on 8 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Characters explore some of the nine worlds said to exist in Norse mythology, especially Asgard, home of the gods; Alfheim, home of the light elves; and Jotunheim, home of the giants. We meet a few gods for the first time, including Heimdall, god of vigilance; Vidar, the god of vengeance; and Sif, goddess of the earth. We also meet other otherworldly creatures including giants, draugr (Norse zombies), and lindworms (Norse dragons). The back of the book includes a glossary, pronunciation guide (with terms like "Mjolnir," which means "thank goodness!"), a list of the nine worlds, and pictures and descriptions of runes used.

Positive Messages

As in Book 1, The Hammer of Thor shows how being misunderstood and ostracized can bring strength of character. Magnus even says, "Loners have the best stories." Friendship, bravery, trust, using brain over brawn, and flexible thinking are all important here. The selfie-obsessed god Heimdall gets a reminder that the world is seen more clearly out from behind your phone.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Magnus continues to be a brave character who feels much empathy for others, especially the loners and the homeless he used to live among. He tries hard both to understand his friends -- including a new gender-fluid friend named Alex -- and to help his friends dealing with difficult problems -- such as his hijab-wearing friend Sam, who struggles to find a way to tell her betrothed about her second life as a Valkyrie, and his deaf elf friend Hearthstone, who must face a cruel father who blames him unfairly for a family member's death.

Violence

Everyone residing in Valhalla has died once, and they often talk about how. A new person arrives after fighting wolves. Some gore described, including a weapon that burns away a zombie's head, an arm stuck in a zombie's abs, and a sword that comes out of a gut with "a couple of pink things that looked like fingers." Plenty of weapons in play here that often kill opponents: axes, swords, a garrote, spears, guns. Loki's imprisonment described in detail -- a snake shoots venom at his face, and he's chained to boulders with ropes made from his dead sons. Some characters have lost family through violent means -- killed by animals, run over by a truck, lost in a shipwreck.   

Sex

Talk of a gift given the morning after a wedding with some innuendo about why.

Language

"Helheim" said instead of "hell," and plenty of mentions that swearing is going on in sign language, in brogue, and so on without any of the words used.

Consumerism

Mostly quick mentions of products, apps, and celebrities. Taco Bell and a duplicate of the Cheers set figure into the story.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Mead is consumed by most of Valhalla at dinner (Magnus describes it as more like espresso than alcohol), and the god Aegir brews it. Giants drink stronger stuff.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Hammer of Thor is the second book in the Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard series from Rick Riordan, the author of the ultra-popular Percy Jackson series. While Percy Jackson lives half in the world of the Greek gods, Magnus Chase follows Norse mythology. As in all his series, Riordan sticks to his signature humor in the face of dire circumstances, so nothing gets too dark -- not even the idea that Magnus is already dead and living in Valhalla. Some gore is described, including a sword that comes out of a gut with "a couple of pink things that looked like fingers." Plus the god Loki's imprisonment is described in detail: A snake shoots venom at his face, and he's chained to boulders with ropes made from his dead sons. Magnus continues to be a brave character who feels much empathy for others -- especially the loners and the homeless he used to live among. He tries hard both to understand his friends -- including a new gender-fluid friend named Alex -- and to help his friends face difficult problems -- such as his hijab-wearing friend Sam, who struggles to find a way to tell her betrothed about her second life as a Valkyrie. Expect a little mead drinking among all ages in Valhalla. Magnus describes the drink as more like espresso than alcohol.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written bykblank321 April 26, 2017

Parents "Need to Know More" than this CSM review tells

Why does a "gender-fluid" character not merit mention in the "Sex" section of the review? That is something that "Parents Need to Know... Continue reading
Adult Written byMarian S. November 28, 2016

One of Rick's best yet!

I'm a longtime fan of Rick's books, and this latest one is one of his best yet! I was on the edge of my seat the entire time, getting surprised by eve... Continue reading
Teen, 16 years old Written bySlendyDaMan October 11, 2016

Pretty good, but not nearly as good as the last one

The first Magnus Chase book was amazing. This one is...not really as entertaining and loses me sometimes. Still a pretty good book overall. Magnus Chase cuts o... Continue reading
Written byAnonymous December 16, 2016

awesome book

It is really good , it has nothing to do with drugs.

What's the story?

In THE HAMMER OF THOR, when Magnus leaves Valhalla to meet his Valkyrie friend Sam at a coffee shop in Boston, things go wrong quickly. Sam has to run off for an emergency soul-reaping, and one of Thor's goats shows up in a bad "trench coat and sunglasses" disguise. He's there to beg Magnus to retrieve Thor's hammer before it's too late. Once the giants get wind that the best weapon against them is gone, they'll invade Midgard (Earth). He tells Magnus the hammer is in a wight's barrow (the lair of a powerful undead creature) just before an ax flies into the goat's chest. The masked ax-wielder has a warning for Magnus: The barrow is a trap. But what's Magnus to do? A goat has given him the only lead he has, and if he doesn't follow it he has to go with a pretty terrible Plan B: actually show up to the wedding Loki planned for his daughter, Sam, in five days. He's promised Sam to the giant who stole the hammer and will be given the hammer as a brideprice. With Loki the trickster god involved, giants invading Midgard and Sam marrying a gross giant could be the least of their worries. Time to find that hammer.

Is it any good?

With Book 1 and all the complexities of explaining nine worlds and new Norse gods out of the way, this sequel hits its stride with an exciting storyline carried out by diverse characters. Readers get to jump right into meeting one of Thor's goats at a coffee shop, Sam the Valkyrie running off to reap a soul, and Magnus heading home to attend a banquet in Valhalla. After The Sword of Summer -- and maybe a trip back in the glossary to check on some names -- it all makes perfect sense.

And for an author like Rick Riordan who strives for diverse characters, it makes sense for him to include the gender-fluid character of Alex as well. Both Alex's struggles and the struggles of the deaf elf Heartstone to face his disapproving and selfish father add depth in between nine-world hopping and giant killing. The only problem with these great characters is that Magnus' character growth seems to be taking a backseat to it all. He's always the understanding friend with few problems of his own. With The Hammer of Thor's great cliffhanger, Book 3 promises to be exciting. Hopefully it's also a chance for Magnus to work on his heroic qualities.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the character Alex in The Hammer of Thor. Is Alex the first gender-fluid person you've read about in fantasy books? If so, why do you think that is? Did you have as many questions about Alex as Magnus did?

  • Magnus says "the loners have better stories." Do you think he's right?

  • The end of The Hammer of Thor already shows the hardship in store for Magnus, Sam, and friends. Will you keep reading?

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