Book Review # 63: The Sword of Summer by Rick Riordan

Saturday, 12 September 2015
Please note that before you read this review that I am reviewing this publication for Puffin.  I received an advanced readers copy of this title in exchange for an honest review. In no way is my opinion influenced by the fact that I received this free of charge. Now on with the review.

Title: The Sword of Summer (Magnus Chase # 1)
Author: Rick Riordan
Publisher: Puffin
Format: Paperback

Publication Date: October 6th 2015
Pages: 528
SourceReview Copy from Publisher
PurchaseThe Book Depository / Waterstones

Magnus Chase has always been a troubled kid. Since his mother's mysterious death, he's lived alone on the streets of Boston, surviving by his wits, keeping one step ahead of the police and the truant officers. One day, he's tracked down by an uncle he's never met—a man his mother claimed was dangerous. His uncle tells him an impossible secret: Magnus is the son of a Norse god. The Viking myths are true. The gods of Asgard are preparing for war. Trolls, giants and worse monsters are stirring for doomsday. To prevent Ragnarok, Magnus must search the Nine Worlds for a weapon that has been lost for thousands of years. When an attack by fire giants forces him to choose between his own safety and the lives of hundreds of innocents, Magnus makes a fatal decision. Sometimes, the only way to start a new life is to die . . .
Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy! I am so excited to be reviewing this book today because it was probably one of my most anticipated books of 2015. When the lovely Roz from Puffin sent me an advanced copy in the mail I was absolutely ecstatic, just in time for my holiday too! With such high anticipation and knowledge of Rick Riordan's work, I expected this to be extraordinary, but did it live up to all of my expectations? I have to say that I wasn't disappointed with the next installment in Rick's mythology saga. So breaking away from my initial thoughts, what did I think of this highly anticipated release?

Oh goodness guys, there aren't words to describe my happiness to be back in the world of Rick's imagination. There is something special about Rick's books, something that is so enticing and exhilarating about the stories he tells that has me coming back to them time and time again. As Rick has clearly stated in previous interviews, his obsession with Norse mythology has always been grand, and he has always wanted to write this story. It's very clear to see the passion that Rick has put into this novel, and he should be extremely proud of it because it is truly fantastic. Rick has really stepped up the boundaries in this book, bringing the usual traits that are reminiscent of Rick's work whilst also bringing something new and refreshing to the table.

Looking at the plot in particular, I have to admit that there are some elements in the book that did obviously feel very familiar and slightly repetitive in their nature, but I felt that this was expected. Obviously with the popularity of the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series, Rick's exciting incidents had to follow a similar pattern that he knew his readers appreciated. Hotel Valhalla obviously is very reminiscent of Camp Half Blood and Camp Jupiter, but whilst there are some similarities, it does hold it's own very well and I loved how communal and yet individual it felt with each of the hotel rooms. The prophecy is also a feature that played a similar role in the story, even if it was one that was slightly reduced. As much as I enjoy the part the prophecies play in Rick's books, it was nice to see that it wasn't just the sole focus of the story and that we could observe the important character development that was taking place. Standing at over 500 pages, this book is long and at times this felt both like a curse and a blessing. There were some elements, especially in the beginning set up where the pacing felt quite slow and was overly wordy. However this definitely did not continue because within an eye blink we were back to the fast pace that Rick's readers are accustomed with. However, I felt that this was purely down to the fact that this was the first book in a refreshing new series and first books always tend to be a little slower than you hope for in the beginning.

As per usual, we get the witty enthusiasm and humour in Rick's writing. Whether this was due to the reappearance of the humorous chapter titles (which I greatly missed from the Heroes of Olympus series) or to the comical references to his other series through character interaction - it was all incredibly excitable! There is a wonderful reference to Percy's sword Riptide where Magnus declares that is seems a stupid idea to have a sword turn into a pen. I chuckled greatly at that, and then later when we get Jason Grace mentioned in a chapter title, I grinned from ear to ear. As for the narration of the story, we are introduced to Magnus who is a hardened soul with a peculiar parentage. I really enjoyed Magnus as a narrator because unlike Percy who was vulnerable in the beginning and quite naive to the world he is thrust into, Magnus seems a lot harder baring and replies a lot on his experience from the streets. Being presented with difficult choices on a daily basis really shapes a person and I think that this element has benefited Magnus' character really well and as a reader we can see this reflected in his narration. However, we still do get the comical factor that Rick's character's are known for having in their points of views and it was so exhilarating to see that this is still a focal feature in these focal characters.

One thing that I have always admired in Rick's work is his use of diversity in terms of his characters. In the Percy Jackson/Heroes of Olympus series we have always had characters of colour integrated throughout, and Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard is no different, except this time Rick takes his diversity to the next level by including characters of other religions and also those with physical disabilities. We have Sam the Valkyrie, who happens to be muslim, which I really enjoyed. I loved how straight off the bat Rick announced that she was wearing hijab and I really respected his decision to do that. We also have Hearth who is mute and relies on sign language to communicate throughout this book. I also really enjoyed the integration of his condition and I found it to work really well in the story, which at first I questioned. I hoped he wasn't going to be a minor character simply because he was mute and therefore wasn't going to have many lines. This however wasn't the case and it worked really well. Rick never fails to create a dynamic team to support his main characters and we were given nothing different from Magnus Chase and his crew.

Whilst I did adore this book, I did have a slight grievance with the ending. Similarly to my feelings towards to end of The Blood of Olympus, book five in the Heroes of Olympus series, I found the end battle to be ever so slightly rushed. With so much going on in one area I expected a whole combination of elements that could bring around quite a lengthy fight scene. Rick has commented on this issue in the past, saying that who wants to read endless pages of the hero hitting the villain with a sword, when there can be so much more development going on instead. Whilst I totally agree with this theory, I still felt that there wasn't as much development in those final battle scenes as their could have been that would have left me completely satisfied. It's slightly a shame because I know how capable Rick is of concluding an ending in such a way. Luckily this was not all because as per usual, Rick brings around the conclusion to one book with an ending that leaves any reader craving for more. This book is no different. Whilst the battle scenes felt slightly rushed, I loved the integration of Loki's character in the overall story and the integration of Uncle Randolph into the overall story arc. I really look forward to seeing where Rick will take this series next because I am 100% going to be picking up the sequel to this Norse mythology saga.

So overall I thoroughly enjoyed this installment in Rick Riordan's new series, it's definitely one to check out if you're a fan of anything Rick has written because you can truly feel the passion woven throughout this stunning new story. Rick has taken his fascination for Norse Mythology and crafted a new world rich with wonderfully diverse characters that feel not too dissimilar from the ones we know and love. I award The Sword of Summer by Rick Riordan a 4 out of 5 star rating on my classification scale. I definitely am looking forward to seeing where Rick can take the story from here.

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