‘Magnus Chase’ provides mythological journey

Steele Giles, Staff Writer

Norse mythology is pretty bleak when you get down to it.


Everybody knows how they’re going to die; the question is how awesomely it’ll happen.


“Magnus Chase and the Sword of Summer” is Rick Riordan’s attempt to fuse this fatalistic and brutal cosmology with his own brand of sarcastic fun.


For the most part, it works pretty well, and the practice he’s gotten writing his other mythology-based series really shows in this entry.


The main character is, as the astute reader may have guessed, Magnus Chase, a homeless kid living on the streets of San Francisco after the death of his mother and subsequent alienation from his relatives.


Upon turning 16, he’s killed by a fire giant. This makes a promising start to his career as a demigod of Frey, the Norse god of fertility, if there ever was one.


Luckily for him, he gets chosen to be an einherjar, one of the spirits of the valorous dead who will train and feast until Ragnarok, the war at the end of the universe.


Due to the dubious circumstances surrounding his admittance to their ranks, the other einherjar push Magnus to prove himself by retrieving the Sword of Summer.


His group sounds like the beginning of a “walks into a bar” joke: a fashionista dwarf (technically a svartalf, or dark elf), a deaf elf mage, a Muslim Valkyrie and a talking sword.


Then there’s Magnus, who mostly brings snark and a willingness to negotiate to the table.


While Riordan has never exactly slouched in the character development and interaction department, it was interesting to see how Magnus dealt with being thrust into a new and alien world right from the get-go; mostly in how he didn’t react the way one would think.


Apparently the things one sees from the homeless community in San Francisco are far stranger than the weirdness that populates the land of myth.


As the story progresses you see the group get closer and closer together. Magnus already knows two of them from his time on the streets, as they were undercover to protect him, but they get to know each other better as the story progresses.


By the time they approach the climax of the book, they consider themselves a family by adoption, regardless of parentage.


Riordan also manages to duck setting up the same romance arc he did in the original Percy Jackson series.


While Magnus and Sam fill the same functions as Percy and Annabeth (clueless newcomer and knowledgeable-if-reluctant guide), Sam is not the love interest. Initial falafel-related misunderstandings aside, they form an interesting sibling dynamic.


The biggest complaint I had with the book is that the party winds up split a lot.


In spite of having a four-man group, they’re rarely all in the same place as they’ve either split up to cover more ground or been separated by gods/circumstances/psychic squirrels.


You don’t get to see much of the whole group interacting because they can’t.


Looking at it, you might assume that there are some barriers to entry. A working knowledge of Norse mythology helps, yes.


Reading Riordan’s previous works isn’t, though it will help explain the significance of Magnus’ cousin. It’s definitely a fun read, though, however you approach it.