Wednesday, 25 January 2017

The Sword of Summer, Magnus Chase & The Gods of Asgard

"I hate this plan." I said. "Let's do it"

* * 
2 / 5

I have read all 10 books of the main Percy Jackson series. I enjoyed them. So when Magnus Chase was part of a buy one get one half off deal at Waterstones I picked it up with the full expectations of reading another book in the vein of Percy Jackson, with a sparkly new setting. Which is what I got. 

I have far less knowledge and experience with reading stories of Norse mythology than I do with Ancient Greek, so that aspect intrigued me, alongside the fact that at 16, Magnus was an older and hopefully more mature character than Percy. 

The Good:
Magnus was likeable and seemed genuine - he cried, got angry, was suspicious and a little untrusting. I appreciated the choice of his godly parent who was not (I don't believe) a particularly major deity (I think after Percy & Poseidon it would have been rather repetitive to choose a god like Thor or Odin for Magnus' father) and his spheres of domain and the powers Magnus got were interesting. 

The supporting cast, whilst once again male heavy, were strong and diverse. A big thumbs up in the well-written (or so I thought) diverse characters department. Further, whilst I have been a fan of some of the romances that Riordan has written, I'm glad it didn't make an appearance here. The focus was on friendship and loyalty and I think these are excellent things to communicate to the audience.

The setting - Valhalla, the Nine Worlds, the Valkyries, the opening few scenes, Riordan used it all seemingly well. Norse mythology has a plethora of interesting tales and figures and settings to make use of. 

The Not-So-Good
Once again, Riordan chooses as his main character a teenage boy who doesn't know his father and is raised by a mother to whom something happens. Its been written. By Riordan. Magnus is, like Percy, snarky and always has a witty quote (also the chapter titles are getting old). He doesn't give up, backchats divine figures and put his friends before everything else - this is a fine thing (not the backchatting!) but it would be interesting to see a character more driven by duty, by love of the gods. A character raised by a parent or a community in which this divine parent wasn't such a massive mystery. Magnus is an older Percy with a slight personality makeover and different powers. 

The way Riordan writes gods and goddesses has often left a sour taste in my mouth. He never quite seems to write them with as much respect as they deserve, and this gives his books a tone of levity that undermines them. One of the best books (in my opinion) based on Norse mythology is Tessa Graton's The Weight of Stars - a collection of three stories (one of which is about Fenris Wolf, who is prominent in Magnus Chase, who Graton writes superbly). Graton's gods are human and wild and divine and they do not suffer for it. They are enthralling and Riordan's are human and comic. 

It's a good novel. If you liked Percy Jackson you will probably enjoy this one too - new setting and new characters give a fresh coat to Riordan's tried and tested formulaic approach. But to anyone picking this up because of Norse mythology I would wholeheartedly instead recommend Tessa Gratton's The Weight of Stars. 

1 comment:

  1. This wan't a book I enjoyed at all. I am glad however to see someone else agrees that the gods and goddesses are not given enough respect.