The Sword of Summer: Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard, Book 1

Book review by
Carrie R. Wheadon, Common Sense Media
The Sword of Summer: Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard, Book 1 Book Poster Image
Popular with kidsParents recommend
Exciting Norse mythology adventure with Percy-like hero.

Parents say

age 9+
Based on 6 reviews

Kids say

age 10+
Based on 21 reviews

A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

A fun intro to Norse mythology. Many gods. Monsters and lesser beings make cameos, with some of their backstories revealed. And sometimes they’re given a modern spin (Thor is a TV junkie, for instance). Characters also explore some of the nine worlds said to exist in Norse mythology, as well as parts of the afterlife. In the human world of Midgard, readers explore parts of Boston, with a shout-out to the Make Way for Ducklings book and statue and a quick trip to Bunker Hill.

Positive Messages

Those who make war aren’t the ones who can foster peace. It takes the son of the god of health, growth, and new life to avoid war. Some heartwarming realizations about what brings others together after loss and suffering. Being misunderstood and ostracized can bring strength of character.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Magnus rises from street kid to heroic figure out of necessity. He's always willing to sacrifice himself for others, and he sacrifices his own desires for the higher good. He’s often tempted by the wrong gods to take the easy path but never does. Sam is an American Muslim and a daughter of Loki. She usually wears a hijab and tries hard to balance life with her human family with being a Valkyrie and saving others. She’s selfless like Magnus and, as a daughter of the often-reviled Loki, feels she needs to try extra hard to prove her loyalty to Odin.

Violence

The main character dies at the very beginning, falling off a bridge in a sword fight, but is taken to the warrior afterlife called Valhalla (he sees his old body in a funeral home later). Three sad deaths in a climactic battle with swords, axes, and fire. A magic sword takes out some enemies all on its own, cutting off a nose and going up the noses of three giants to scramble their brains. Valhalla residents have battles to the death daily and reappear in one piece by dinner. More skirmishes against a sea creature and a wolf, with injuries. Talk of losses of the past: Magnus’ mom killed by wolves, Sam’s mother dead. Norse gods tell their violent stories. The worst: When one of Loki’s sons turns into a wolf, disembowels the other, the wolf is disemboweled. The entrails of his sons are used to make the ropes of Loki’s prison, where snake poison drips in his face.

Sex

Mention of kissing and some flirting. Plus a story of the goddess Freya, who loves jewels so much she marries four dwarves for one day each and somehow has four kids with them.

Language

With the underworld named Helheim and a goddess named Hel, it’s almost impossible to resist the jokes. “What the Helheim” is just the start. Plus a few “dammit” and “damnable” and one “jack-hole.”

Consumerism

Lots of quick mentions of cars, products, stores, junk food (Loki eats Pop-Tarts), clothing and shoe brands, and TV shows (Thor is a TV junkie).

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. A few giants are drunk off what’s probably a much stronger mead; one has slurred speech.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Sword of Summer is the first 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 lived half in the world of the Greek gods, Magnus Chase follows Norse mythology. Many readers know Thor but may need the glossary in the back to keep up with the worlds Magnus visits and the creatures and gods he meets. Like Percy in his series, Magnus in this one must stop the end of the world (Ragnarok in Norse myth). There’s a nasty wolf involved (related to the one who killed his mother two years earlier), some drunken giants who die with swords up their noses, and some fighting that ends in a few mourned deaths. Oh, and Magnus dies at the beginning, too, falling off a bridge. Luckily for him, he’s scooped up by the Valkyrie Sam (a hijab-wearing American Muslim) and brought to the warrior paradise, Valhalla, where the adventure continues. Riordan sticks to his signature humor in the face of dire circumstances, so nothing gets too dark. He can't resist riffing on the name for the Norse underworld, Helheim, and the goddess Hel. One chapter is called "What the Hel." An audiobook version is narrated by Christopher Guetig.

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User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byAnnoys January 16, 2019

Book report

Dear Rick Riordan ,

I want you to know that I absolutely loved your book “Magnus Chase and The Sword of Summer”. The part I enjoyed most is when Magnus, S... Continue reading
Adult Written bycostanzo January 4, 2016

Too Scary

My daughter is 10 yrs old and currently studying Norse Mythology in her 4th grade class. I thought this book would be perfect for her but within five chapters s... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byChloe4eves November 21, 2015

#magnuschase

Kids 11 and up should totally read this book its amazing and if u liked the Percy Jackson series you'd totally like this one it's funny when it should... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byReader086 May 7, 2020

I was expecting it to be like Percy Jackson

I get that because it was a different mythology that it would be different but it’s like it tried to be similar to Percy Jackson but just fell flat. I can under... Continue reading

What's the story?

Living on the streets of Boston for two years after his mother died, Magnus has seen some crazy things. But when an estranged uncle comes looking for him, telling him he has to follow him to a bridge and summon a sword from Boston Harbor, that’s a bit weirder. But it gets more bizarre: The father Magnus never met? The Norse god Frey, who used to own the powerful sword? The dapper-looking man wielding fire who shows up to steal the sword? And the god Surt, lord of Muspellheim, a nasty place? In a struggle where the sword does most of the work for him, Magnus tumbles off the bridge with Surt. And he dies, jokingly telling the reader "the end!" But luckily for Magnus, he’s scooped up by one of the Valkyries and taken to Valhalla, a paradise for fallen warriors. Unluckily for Magnus, his arrival is not welcomed by all. The Norns (like the Fates) interrupt the welcome banquet with a prophecy that involves THE SWORD OF SUMMER Magnus has lost, a sinister wolf, and Ragnarok, aka the end of the world.

Is it any good?

Great characters and exciting action mark this series start based on Norse mythology.  As in Rick Riordan’s Egyptology series, The Kane Chronicles, it's a little hard to follow at times (most Americans don’t know Egyptian and Norse gods the way they do the Greek ones), but it looks promising. The setup feels a bit hasty because readers are thrown into Boston, then the afterlife of Valhalla with the world tree and Valkyries and Norns throwing a prophecy about nine days before Ragnarok … It’s a lot.

But great characters emerge in the process. Yay for Sam, a hijab-wearing American Muslim girl! And for a dwarf, Blitzen, with exquisite fashion sense and a deaf elf named Hearthstone who gives up everything to study magic. And then there's Magnus. He's heroic from the get-go, so it’s hard to say what his growth will be during the series, but he’s sardonic and funny and incredibly loyal to his friends like the famous Percy Jackson. Together Magnus, Sam, Hearthstone, and Blitzen are the kinds of heroes readers will follow anywhere -- and with nine Norse worlds, they'll have plenty of intriguing places to visit.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about what they learned about Norse mythology. Which characters are totally new to you? Do you enjoy it as much as Greek mythology?

  • What do Hearthstone, Blitzen, Sam, and Magnus all have in common with the ruin Perthro (the empty cup)? How does it bring them together?

  • Which afterlife would you like to join: Valhalla (hotel for warriors with mock battles daily) or Folkvanger (laid-back realm of Freya)?

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