The Ship of the Dead: Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard, Book 3

Book review by
Carrie R. Wheadon, Common Sense Media
The Ship of the Dead: Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard, Book 3 Book Poster Image
Doomsday-thwarting excitement in a banana-yellow ship.

Parents say

age 8+
Based on 4 reviews

Kids say

age 10+
Based on 5 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 Niflheim, the world of ice; Alfheim, home of the light elves; and Midgard, home of humans (specifically Norway and York, England). Much detail about the Muslim holy month of Ramadan and Eid al-Fitr as the devout character Sam observes it. Some detail about what it was like as a black soldier during the U.S. Civil War and about Bloody Friday in Ireland. We meet otherworldly characters including Skadi, an ice giantess; Njord, Vanir god of the sea; and Frigg, the goddess of marriage and motherhood. We get an up-close look at Naglfar, the Ship of Nails. The back of the book includes a glossary, pronunciation guide (with terms like "Eldhusfifl," which means "village idiot"), a list of the nine worlds, and pictures and descriptions of runes used.

Positive Messages

The power of teamwork, and believing in and trusting others is strong enough to defeat evil here. Words hold more power than weapons. Holding onto hate only poisons you. The character Sam says, "I think the hardest thing we can ever do is see someone for who they really are. Our parents. Our friends. Ourselves."

Positive Role Models & Representations

Magnus continues to be a brave character who feels much empathy for others, especially the homeless. In the midst of fighting he finds a way toward peace. Instead of cutting someone down, he raises up his friends as a better example to follow. As in the other two books, the cast is diverse: Muslim, African-American, LGBTQ, deaf. Sam fasts during Ramadan all while fighting sea monsters and the undead. Diversity is seen as one of this team's biggest strengths.

Violence

Everyone residing in Valhalla has died once, and they often talk about how. Some gore described, including a dragon spewing poisonous blood and its heart almost eaten; a giant's tendons and sinews cut and his heart exploding; and beheadings of giants, a wolf, and undead warriors. Skirmishes with swords, bayonets, a garrote, a chainsaw, scythes, knives, and axes that kill giants and the undead warriors -- sometimes they reform immediately to fight again. Main characters suffer injuries and are healed, except one character keeps a piece of flint shrapnel lodged above his eye. Mention of a raging, alcoholic parent; family dying in a storm; and the god Loki tied up by the entrails of his murdered children.

Sex

Kissing, straight and LGBTQ. A giantess explains how she got her revenge after Loki insinuated they had shared a bed.

Language

The "N" word spelled like that, one "damn." "Helheim" said instead of "hell."

Consumerism

Pottery Barn gets many mentions when Alex names her clay creation after the store. You'll find an entrance to Valhalla in a Forever 21 clothes rack. There's an IKEA onsite in Valhalla. Percy Jackson drives a Prius in his cameo appearance.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Mead is consumed at dinner in Valhalla by all ages (Magnus describes it as more like espresso than alcohol). A giant brews mead, and a special mead figures prominently in the story. A mention of an alcoholic father.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Ship of the Dead is the third book in the Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard series from Rick Riordan, 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 described, including a dragon spewing poisonous blood and its heart almost eaten; a giant's tendons and sinews cut and his heart exploding; and beheadings of giants, a wolf, and undead warriors. Skirmishes with swords, bayonets, a garrote, a chain saw, scythes, knives, and axes kill giants and the undead warriors -- sometimes they reform immediately to fight again. Magnus continues to be a brave character who feels much empathy for others, especially the homeless. Instead of cutting someone down, he raises up his friends as a better example to follow. Like the other two books, the cast is diverse: Muslim, African-American, LGBTQ, deaf. Hijab-wearing Sam fasts during Ramadan while fighting sea monsters and the undead. Expect a little mead drinking among all ages in Valhalla. Magnus describes the drink as more like espresso than alcohol. There's also some kissing, straight and LGBTQ. 

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written bydetroitd December 12, 2017

Good

It was good but it was kind of the same as book 2 and 1 as far as humor and stuff
Adult Written byAl J December 17, 2017
Teen, 16 years old Written byNatalie K October 29, 2017

Excellent characters, amazing representation, and a worthy finale

This last book in the Magnus Chase series really hits it out of the park, both with its thrilling plot conclusion and its stellar representation. It would be qu... Continue reading
Kid, 12 years old October 23, 2017
It is an awesome book, a great sequel to the first and second books& full of jokes and action

What's the story?

In THE SHIP OF THE DEAD, Ragnarak is coming and Loki is nearly ready with his doomsday ship. He's just waiting for all the giants and undead warriors to board and the ice to melt a path to Midgard, our world. Magnus and friends aren't so ready to face him. The ship that the god Frey gave Magnus is still in his pocket in the form of a handkerchief when he breaks into his deceased uncle's townhouse. His uncle may have left a clue behind about how to defeat Loki, and when Magnus spots a wolf clamoring to get in, he knows he's right. Magnus follows the wolf to a drinking horn before his friend Alex kills it. Inside the horn: a journal and a note about a whetstone that may stop guards -- but what guards? And how? There's little time to fathom its meaning before Magnus has to unfold the ship and board with his friends Halfborn Gunderson, a Norwegian berserker; Mallory, a fierce Irish warrior; Sam, a hijab-wearing Valkyrie; Thomas Jefferson Jr., a black Union soldier; and Alex, a shape-shifting, green-haired, gender-fluid fighter. On the first leg of their adventure, they find their other two friends and allies -- the dwarf Blitzen and elf Hearthstone -- but not where they expect them. Aegir, the giant lord of the waves, catches Magnus' ship in his cauldron and has them to dinner. Guess who's on the menu.

Is it any good?

This exciting doomsday-thwarting adventure is just as much about defeating evil as it is about affirming that diversity is a strength to be celebrated. Readers who've gotten to know and love these very diverse characters in The Sword of Summer and The Hammer of Thor will relish how they come together in The Ship of the Dead and how Magnus shows off their combined powers in front of the gods. Besides Magnus, two characters stand out the most: Sam, who's observing Ramadan while fighting sea monsters, giants, and the undead; and Alex, who turns out to be a genius at the pottery wheel. Alex is appreciated for skills and friendship without the author screaming every second that this is a gender-fluid character. A romantic interest is also handled with sweetness and without fuss.

Even though this is doomsday, don't expect the beating of war drums every second. That ship on the cover is the titular Ship of the Dead, not the ride Magnus' dad Frey gave him. When Magnus unfolds his ship from handkerchief form it's an embarrassing bright yellow. What better way to battle the disgusting idea of a ship made all of human nail clippings than with a banana-colored boat? Frey, a peaceful god, definitely knows the power of humor.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about what they learned in The Ship of the Dead about Norse mythology, black soldiers in the Union Army, Bloody Friday in Ireland, and even the holy month of Ramadan.

  • How is the diversity of Magnus' allies an asset to them on their journey?

  • For those who have read many of Rick Riordan's books, featuring Egyptology, Norse Mythology, and the Greek and Roman gods, which mythology have you enjoyed the most? Why?

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