A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
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."
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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)?
- Author: Rick Riordan
- Genre: Fantasy
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Superheroes, Adventures, Monsters, Ghosts, and Vampires, Ocean Creatures
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
- Publication date: October 6, 2015
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 10 - 14
- Number of pages: 512
- Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
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