“Magnus Chase has seen his share of trouble. Ever since that terrible night two years ago when his mother told him to run, he has lived alone on the streets of Boston, surviving by his wits, staying one step ahead of the police and truant officers.
One day, Magnus learns that someone else is trying to track him down–his Uncle Randolph, a man his mother had always warned him about. When Magnus tries to outmaneuver his uncle, he falls right into his clutches. Randolph starts rambling about Norse history and Magnus’s birthright: a weapon that has been lost for thousands of years.
The more Randolph talks, the more puzzles pieces fall into place. Stories about the gods of Asgard, wolves, and Doomsday bubble up from Magnus’s memory. But he doesn’t have time to consider it all before a fire giant attacks the city, forcing him to choose between his own safety and the lives of hundreds of innocents…
Sometimes, the only way to start a new life is to die.”
And the Riordan magic is back.
Well, sort of.
The first Magnus Chase book, The Sword of Summer, isn’t breaking new grounds. In fact, the premise of a lost weapon isn’t new at all–as it was employed in the very first Percy Jackson book, The Lightning Thief. Fortunately, that’s pretty much where the similarities end. Well, that and the fact that Annabeth Chase also plays a part in Magnus’s life. Though, only a very small part for now.
Magnus, although just as plucky as the other Riordan heroes, has a more practical way of viewing the world. He’s also the first Riordan hero we have who isn’t all sunshines-and-rainbows. Which is probably because prior to getting introduced to the readers, he’s already been living in the streets for two years. And I think this is the reason why The Sword of Summer feels different (in a good way) from the other series beginnings from Rick Riordan. It no longer feels like a Percy Jackson retread.
To be fair, neither did The Red Pyramid, the first book from the Kane Chronicles. I had a different problem with the format Riordan employed in telling that story. But that’s a discussion for a different post–one that I actually already wrote about a few years ago.
Going back to Magnus Chase–
The Sword of Summer isn’t actually as engaging as any of the Percy Jackson books… Well, maybe more engaging than The Mark of Athena. Which is maybe because Norse Mythology isn’t as well-known as Greek, Roman, or even Egyptian myths? Or it could also be because we’ve suddenly gotten an influx of Norse-mythology-based material with the Thor movies and the Witches of East End book and television series– Whatever the reason, it doesn’t have that Percy Jackson magic.
What it does have though is chutzpah. Riordan knows he’s written a lot of books based on mythologies. He knows that this is his fourth mythology-driven series, and it shows that he’s trying to veer away from familiar territory. Maybe he realized that his Heroes of Olympus series didn’t start out so well, feeling like a retread of the original Percy Jackson series. And so Magnus Chase immediately sets out to be different. Which I like.
Reading The Sword of Summer, you can see that the series has the potential to be just as good (if not better) than the Percy Jackson series. The Norse Mythology doesn’t feature gods and goddesses who have to be better than the people who worship them. And their tragedies are already foretold. Unlike the Percy Jackson series where you have an idea that the characters you care for will be safe, the first book in the Magnus Chase series is quick to skewer that idea… By killing the protagonist within the first few chapters.
So, sure, liking the book wasn’t as immediate as it was when I picked up the first Percy Jackson book. But the future is looking bright for Magnus Chase. And I, for one, cannot wait to see how Riordan tops his past three mythology-based series.