It’s books like this that tempt me to give up writing forever. Because, seriously, why even try to compete against this genius? Rick Riordan is the best writer for young adults that I’ve read in probably a decade. (And I’ve read a lotttt of YA. Especially in the last decade.)
I’ll rewind to the very beginning. As a lowly bookseller in the B&N children’s section way back in 2007, I was selling a lot of copies daily of this new series about a boy called Percy Jackson. There were probably only one or two books out at the time, but I never read them. (Now I plan to.) Although I’ve always held an interest in world mythology, I admittedly – and foolishly – had no interest in Rick Riordan’s books until the cover of his latest, Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard, Book One: The Sword of Summer (Hyperion 2015) caught my eye on Amazon. I knew very little of Norse mythology (my fortes are Greek/Roman and Arthurian) and was interested in learning more. I clicked on the listing, and then was like, “Eh, it’s another of those Rick Riordan books.” But when the cover kept popping up in my Amazon Recommendations, I decided just to peek at the first page in the sample. A peek can’t hurt, right?
And that’s when I realized, “Oh, crud. This stuff’s REALLY good.”
The writing is addicting. The main narrator, Magnus, and his trademark sarcasm are laugh-out-loud hysterical. The side characters – even if they’re elves, dwarves, Valkyries, undead warriors or a talking sword – are real and interesting, each with depth and backstory. The research, world-building and author’s use of the Norse myths, pantheon and culture to create an epic adventure of this magnitude are sheer genius. Even the CHAPTER TITLES, for the gods’ sakes, were hilarious.
While I’m usually one to turn up my nose at urban fantasy, as I’m prone to detest pop culture references dating my literature, the modernization of the gods and mythical beings within the Nine Worlds was explained simply. Humans no longer wear Renaissance-style clothing and live in castles; they’ve evolved and modernized since then, and therefore, so have the gods, elves and dwarves, etc. Admittedly, sometimes the humor and satirizing of the gods took me straight out of the story (like, seriously? The goddess Ran’s husband is now a hipster who microbrews? And Thor is addicted to Game of Thrones?). Also, Magnus’s sarcasm at times could be downright rude. Nevertheless, I overlook it all because of the otherwise superb writing, lovable and colorful characters, and wickedly smart plot-crafting of Riordan. At the core of this book is a beautiful message of friendship reminiscent of the Potter series- there’s barely even any romance in here! And yet it still captured my interest and I dug the heck out of it.
I realize I haven’t even summarized the story. In Boston, a sixteen-year-old homeless orphan named Magnus dies and is carried by a Muslim Valkyrie to Valhalla… wait, you know what? Just read it. If you’re into fantasy/adventure, YA, humor, mythology or any combo of the above, read the first book in the Magnus Chase series. You will learn all about Norse mythology, in the most entertaining way imaginable. You’ll even learn runes and American Sign Language! And yes, I did cry at a few parts. (Also…LOKI! I LOVE LOKI!) Yeah, this story is fan-girl/nerd heaven. Totally on the edge of my seat for Book 2 (why do I have to wait until October 2016?!). An enthusiastic five stars!!