Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Magnus Chase and the Sword of Summer (Magnus Chase #1) - Rick Riordan

Title: Magnus Chase & the Sword of Summer
Series: Magnus Chase & the Gods of Asgard (Book 1)
Author: Rick Riordan
Published: Puffin; Oct 2015
Genre: Middle-Grade Fantasy
My Rating: 3.5/5

Amazon says: "My name is Magnus Chase. I'm orphaned and living rough on the streets of Boston. And things are about to get much worse.
My day started out normally enough. I was sleeping under a bridge when some guy kicked me awake and said, 'They're after you.' Next thing I know, I'm reunited with my obnoxious uncle, who casually informs me that my long-lost father is a Norse god.
Nothing normal about that. And it turns out the gods of Asgard are preparing for war. Apparently, if I can't find the sword my father lost two thousand years ago, there will be doom. Doomsday, to be precise.
A fire giant attacking the city?
Immortal warriors hacking each other to pieces?
Unkillable wolves with glowing eyes?
It's all coming up.
But first I'm going to die. This is the story of how my life goes downhill from there..."


To start, no quotes for this one; I got an uncorrected bound proof copy from work so don't want to quote just in case.

Anyway, let's get to it. So I'm a huge fan of Percy Jackson. As a booky ex-Classics student it's the perfect combination. When I heard that Rick Riordan was doing it all again with the Norse gods I couldn't have been more excited. Ever since the hints seen in Melvin Burgess' Bloodtide I've been quietly intrigued by Norse mythology but it's really not as well known as the Greek and Roman ones. I was excited to see what Rick Riordan would do with them. And, for the most part, Rick didn't let me down.

The premise is pretty much the same, young boy finds out the hard way that he's a demigod, bound by a bleak and damning prophecy and must prove himself to his seemingly uninterested father-god. Maybe it's because I'm older and this book is slightly more gritty than the Percy Jackson books but I really quite enjoyed it. It's harder, and it's darker, and it seems to want to handle real issues far more that its predecessor series, and in a way that only Rick can in his mythical demigod universe. Magnus Chase has been living on the streets since the death of his mother two years previous. He's getting by as best he can until he hears that people are looking for him; his estranged uncle and cousin (the wonderfully familiar Annabeth Chase) seem really quite desperate to find him. Magnus, is not quite as desperate to find them. After a fatal (yes, fatal; no, that's not a spoiler, the first chapter is called "Good morning! You're going to die.") fight with Surt, Lord of the Fire Giants and ruler of Musspelheim, Magnus Chase sees his life set on a very different path.

The story is good, the characters are great - way more diverse than in the Percy Jackson books, I felt.  There are dwarves, elves, Valkyries galore, and of course the gods and goddesses. I'm almost glad Thor isn't Magnus' father, that would've felt quite obvious and it gives readers a chance to explore some of the slightly lesser known Norse gods. There are so many (9 to be exact) worlds to explore and Rick didn't hold back on any of them; they're all fully formed and realised, so easy to imagine with what has been provided on the page. Sure, at times, the names start getting confusing and merging into one, but it's OK because Rick, as always, has provided a super handy glossary at the back.

Where this book struggles is in its categorisation. Rick's protagonists seem to steadily be getting older with each new series; Percy Jackson started aged 12, Carter Kane (Kane Chronicles) was 14. Magnus Chase is 16 years old, he's spent the last two years on the streets. He's a far grittier, far darker character, and yet Rick's writing style doesn't appear to have changed all that much. This is still marketed as a middle-grade, 9-12 book but I can't help but think that that has more to do with Rick's reputation as an MG author and less to do with the content of the book. YA is a somewhat undefinable genre at the minute so what most people tend to go by is the age of the protagonist; at 16 Magnus Chase sits firmly in the YA category. But Rick doesn't seem to have written him that way. I can't help but think that if Rick had put Percy Jackson behind him and written this as a YA novel from the beginning it could have been immensely better. As it was, Magnus suffered by being confined to MG writing; it's typically fun and light which is fine, but it has been written for the same audience as Percy Jackson and I just don't think it works as well.

But that's probably just me, and I'd still absolutely recommend it. It's the perfect filler for Percy Jackson fans and it tackles Norse mythology in a way that I haven't seen done before. So thank you Rick Riordan for gifting the world with this series; I greatly look forward to the next book.

Thanks for reading,
Naomi Joy x

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