The Sword of Summer by Rick Riordan

The Sword of Summer, by Rick Riordan, was published in 2015 by Hyperion.

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 puzzle pieces fall into place. Stories about the gods for 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 this own safety and the lives of hundreds of innocents….Sometimes, the only way to start a new life is to die.

I’ve read every Percy Jackson book. I’ve read the Kane Chronicles (probably my favorite of Riordan’s works). And even though I had major problems with the Heroes of Olympus series, I decided to read at least this first book in Riordan’s new series, this one about Norse mythology.

And I was disappointed to find out that Riordan is doing pretty much exactly the same thing as he did with Percy Jackson. The Sword of Summer is exactly like Percy Jackson, except with Norse gods instead of Greek. Annabeth Chase even puts in an appearance, for no apparent reason beyond fanservice. I get it. Percy Jackson is very popular, and I liked the books when I was younger. But I’m older now, and while I was reading I was having a very hard time taking the book—and Riordan—seriously.

The problem with The Sword of Summer (and with Percy Jackson and even the Kane Chronicles at times) is that beyond the nonstop humor and shenanigans, there is very little of substance. What we get instead is Magnus reminding us over and over (and over and over) again that he’s homeless and Riordan’s writing being incredibly not-so-subtle in every way . That might be great for twelve-year-old boys, but I’m to the point where a book so clearly aimed at a particular audience does not grab me.

I’m also disappointed with Riordan’s apparent lack of imagination. What I liked most about the Kane Chronicles was that the interaction between the gods and the humans and how the protagonists got their powers was different from what we’d seen in Percy Jackson. Yet in Magnus Chase, we get exactly what we saw in Percy Jackson, which seemed like Riordan was merely recycling old material because it worked for him the first time. And that seems a little lazy to me.

There were a few things I liked about The Sword of Summer, such as Odin’s appearance at the end, but for the most part I found the humor tedious and annoying, the world unimaginative and the book as a whole a carbon copy of “the Percy Jackson formula.” I doubt I’ll pick up the next book in the series.

Rating: 2/5

Recommended Age Range: 14+

Warnings: None.

Genre: Fantasy, Middle Grade

“How can this place have five hundred and forty floors?” I said. “It would be the tallest building in the world.”

“If it only existed in one world, yes. But it connects with all the Nine Worlds. You just came through the Midgard entrance. Most mortals do.”

“Midgard…” I vaguely remembered something about the Vikings believing in nine different worlds. Randoph had used the term worlds too. But it had been a long time since my mom read me those Norse bedtime stories. “You mean, like, the world of humans.”

“Aye.” Hunding took a breath and recited, “Five hundred and forty floors has Valhalla; five hundred and forty doors leading out into the Nine Worlds.”

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