A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
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.
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
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 & Scariness
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.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
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.
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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.”
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Products & Purchases
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.
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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.
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.
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