Fantasy, Middlegrade, Reviews

Review: Magnus Chase and the Hammer of Thor by Rick Riordan

“One of these days, I would love to exit a world without being pursued by an angry mob.”

I think the trick to this book, and the first book in the series, The Sword of Summer is to just sit back, remove yourself from the logical part of your brain and enjoy the completely ridiculous joyride that it is.

In The Sword of Summer we get to know Magnus Chase, a son of the Norse god Frey and a newly become resident of Hotel Valhalla, a place for all people -or einherjar– with connections to the Norse gods who have died a heroic death. While the first book focuses on getting to know the characters, finding the Sword of Summer, defeating their enemy Surt and getting Fenris Wolf tied again after Surt wants to set him free, The Hammer of Thor continues the story by giving us a new threat for Magnus and the gang to defeat. This time they are set out to find Thor´s hammer Mjolnir that has gone missing, but there´s just one problem – Loki and the wedding he has planned for Samirah. With a four/five-day time limit, they now have to set out through the nine worlds again to find the Skofnung Sword and stone, play bowling with some giants, go head-to-head with Draugr and find a way to prevent Loki from keeping the Hammer and the sword to ultimately delay Ragnarok once again.

THE REVIEW WILL CONTAIN SPOILERS FROM THIS POINT.

In all honesty, reading this book is just easy. It doesn´t really require that much from you and yet Riordan manages to mix all the whimsical with serious topics. I think the way he involves things like friendships, relationships, gender stereotypes and religion in a way that is pedagogic and natural in these middle-grade fantasy novels is fantastic and something other authors can look up to. I particularly like how he is dealing with the topic of gender-fluidity through the new character Alex Fierro in this book. There is never any stigma around his/her identity and while others have questions -which is natural for people to have- those questions are asked with respect and his/her identity is still seen as natural and 100% valid which is just great.

When it comes to the plotline it almost feels as is Rick Riordan is able to kind of play his way through it. Although I haven´t read any other books from him except for these two I know his other series are very popular and somehow it feels like you are able to tell he has experience. The plot has the adventure start almost from the get-go and there isn´t really such a thing as a dull moment. He makes us go from one place to another with new and exciting (if slightly ridiculous) stuff in each place and everything they collect from each place kind of collects into the final showdown. I also really like how he, unlike many other YA and middle-grade books, hasn´t gotten stuck with the characters having to have romantic relationships that have to be part of the main plotline.

If there is anything I can critique it´s that the plot -while containing new things- has quite a similar pattern to the first book and that the protagonist feels almost more static then the side characters.

Normally, the main character would be the person who goes through the largest moral or physical change but when I think back on both books, Magnus has only really changed in the amount of knowledge he has. Much like I argued in my review on the first book (you can read that here) characters like Hearthstone (who once again had quite a large development in the showdown with his father), Alex or even Sam as she has to reinforce her relationship with Amir through showing him the Norse world, make larger character developments than Magnus himself.

While it´s great that Riordan is building so many dynamic and round characters, it can sometimes make Magnus feel a little like he´s just kind of tagging along with Jack doing most of the work. Although hopefully maybe this can improve in the next book as it feels like Riordan is planning to involve Annabeth more and with the loss of Randolph that Magnus will have to deal with.

All in all, I really enjoyed this book. I think it´s a great read and I love how it´s mixing and contrasting the modern world with references to things like The Force Awakens and pop culture in the midst of Norse mythology and old deities. A great read for anyone in the mood for some action and comedy in the middle-grade/lower-age YA genre.

4/5 stars.

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