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“Myths are simply stories about truths we've forgotten,” Frey. —The Sword of Summer
The Sword of Summer
Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard #1
by Rick Riordan
AR Test, Diverse Characters
Magnus Chase isn’t your average 16-year-old kid. After a terrible incident that killed his mother, Magnus was forced to survive on the harsh streets of Boston for two years. Then everything changes, and not necessarily for the better when Magnus discovers the truth about his parentage. This knowledge is dangerous, and after attempting to outmaneuver his suspicious Uncle Randolph, Magnus lands in more trouble than he ever has before.
Escaping who he believes to be evil, Magnus falls into the hands of his worst enemy, a fire giant named Surt. Magnus dies and his soul is sent to Valhalla, the hall of warriors who will fight with Odin during Ragnarok (the end of the world). This is the beginning of an unlikely story of emotional growth, the development of strength, and the family found in friendship.
Fans of Rick Riordan’s previous works will be pleased as they travel into a fascinating world of Norse mythology. A character from the beloved Percy Jackson and the Olympians series even makes a cameo, making a fun crossover between magical worlds.
This family-friendly adventure is an exciting ride throughout. The characters are well developed and believable, but the sheer amount of characters may become confusing for less attentive readers. Nevertheless, even the timidest readers will enjoy this story as it is filled with well-placed humor. The plot is action-packed, leaving readers excited to turn the next page.
Although this book is entertaining and amusing, there are battles with monsters throughout the book that may upset some readers. The battles are not told in gory detail, but characters are injured and must deal with the consequences of their battles. Ultimately, Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard: The Sword of Summer is a delightful read full of humor, action, and magic.
- Samirah has an arranged marriage to Amir Fadlan. When Magnus questions her feelings on the matter, Sam responds, “Ugh! You don’t get it. I’ve been in love with Amir since I was twelve.”
- Every time a giant comes to barter or make a deal with Freya, the goddess of love, sex, beauty, fertility, and gold, they always ask for her hand in marriage.
- Magnus’s father Frey lost the Sword of Summer because he fell madly in love with a frost giantess. The only way that he could heal his heart was by offering the Sword of Summer to Skirnir.
- Freya has lots of dwarven children. Every time she wants jewelry made by dwarves, she goes to Nidavellir and marries a dwarf in exchange for their craftsmanship. These one-day marriages each end with a child. This interaction is not described beyond this, but it is acknowledged that Blitzen is a child of Freya and a dwarf.
- Magnus describes his first kiss when he is involuntarily given mouth-to-mouth by a goat. “My only previous experience with kissing had been with Jackie Molotov in seventh grade, behind the bleachers at a school dance…. Anyway, with apologies to Jackie, getting mouth-to-mouth from a goat reminded me of her.”
- In the past, a son of Loki was sent to Valhalla and fell in love with the lead Valkyrie, Gunilla, but he “betrayed her. Turned out she was a spy for [Loki]. Broke her heart.”
- After Halfborn nearly sacrifices his life for Mallory in battle, they are on good terms, and it appears that there may be romance in the future for them. “As my hallmates headed back home, I was happy to see Halfborn Gunderson slip his arm around Mallory Keen’s waist. She didn’t even cut his hand off for doing so.”
- Magnus engages in a battle with the fire giant, Surt. “I smacked Surt in the head with my rusty sword. . . The blade didn’t seem to hurt him, but the swirling flames died. . . Then he punched me in the gut.” Later in the battle, “Surt kicked me in the ribs and sent me sprawling. . . Surt must have kicked me hard enough to trigger a near-death hallucination.” After a brief time period, Magnus’s sword begins to act on its own and guides Magnus’s actions. “It spun in an arc, dragging my arm along with it, and hacked into Surt’s right leg. The Black One screamed. The wound in his thigh smoldered, setting his pants on fire . . . Before he could recover, my sword leaped upward and slashed his face. With a howl, Surt stumbled back, cupping his hands over his nose. . . Just as he reached me, my sword leaped up and ran him through.”
- Magnus describes his death. “I actually died. One hundred percent: guts impaled, vital organs burned, head smacked into a frozen river from forty feet up, every bone in my body broken, lungs filled with ice water…. It hurt. A lot.”
- When getting a tour of Hotel Valhalla, Magnus is “pushed down as a spear flew past. It impaled a guy sitting on the nearest sofa, killing him instantly.” The guy is already dead, so this is just a temporary “death” as he will regenerate in a few hours.
- Magnus and all those who inhabit Hotel Valhalla observe how newly inducted einherjar (inhabitants of Hotel Valhalla) died. In one video, a warrior “saved a bunch of kids at her village school when a warlord’s soldiers had tried to kidnap them. She’d flirted with one of the soldiers, tricked him into letting her hold his assault rifle, then turned it on the warlord’s men . . . The video was pretty violent.”
- Mallory is excited to “see the new boy get dismembered.”
- The einherjar participate in practice battle exercises to prepare for Ragnarok, when the nine worlds will fall. One of these “battles” is comically described, but each “death” is also shown. Many characters get shot, punched, or stabbed to “death” in the heat of battle.
- In a dream, Surt threatens Magnus by saying, “When we meet again, you will burn, son of Frey. You and your friends will be my tinder. You will start the fire that burns the nine worlds.”
- Samirah attacks Magnus after he leaves Valhalla. “She charged from behind the concession building and kicked me in the chest, propelling me backwards into a tree. My lungs imploded like paper sacks.”
- An eagle drags Magnus away from his friends to convince him to do something for him. “The eagle veered, slamming me into the fire escape. I felt my ribs crack, like vials of acid breaking inside my chest. My empty stomach tried unsuccessfully to hurl.”
- When Blitzen competes in a dwarf craftsmanship competition, Magnus acts as his bodyguard. “A random dwarf charged me from the side-lines, swinging an axe and screaming, ‘BLOOD!’ I hit him in the head with the hilt of my sword. He collapsed.”
- Otis, a goat who belongs to Thor, marvels at Magnus’s talking sword. Otis exclaims, “I’ve never been killed by a talking sword before. That’s fine. If you could just make a clean cut right across the throat-”
- For Odin to learn the secrets of the runes, he sacrificed an eye and “fashioned a noose and hanged himself from a branch of the World Tree for nine days.”
- Magnus attacks and kills two giantess sisters. Magnus threw a knife and, “The spinning steak knife hit her in the chest. It didn’t impale her . . .She lowered hands, grabbing instinctively for her chest, which allowed Jack full access to her nose. A second later, Gjalp was lying dead on the floor next to her sister.”
- The book concludes with a giant final battle in which warriors of Valhalla fight fire giants and attempt to rebind Fenris’ wolf. Within this battle, several warriors get hurt and three Valkyries die, including Gunilla. “Blitzen was so angry—between the Wolf gloating about his dad’s death and Surt stealing his fashion ideas—that he howled like Crazy Alice in Chinatown and rammed his harpoon right through the giant’s gut. The fire giant stumbled off, belching flames and taking the harpoon with him.” “Halfborn Gunderson buried his axe in the breastplate of a giant. X picked up another fire-breather and tossed him off the side of the ridge. Mallory and T.J. fought back-to-back, jabbing and slashing and dodging blasts of flame.”
- Magnus’s Uncle Randolph is poisoned by Loki. “Randolph smelled the poison before he felt it. Acrid steam curled into his nostrils. The side of his face erupted in white-hot pain. He fell to his knees, his throat seizing up in shock.”
Drugs and Alcohol
- Magnus thinks, “Random police and park rangers I could deal with. Truant officers, community service volunteers, drunken college kids, addicts looking to roll somebody small and weak—all those would’ve been as easy to wake up to as pancakes and orange juice.”
- The mead of Valhalla doesn’t contain alcohol as it is magical goat milk that tastes like a mixture of delicious flavors. However, this topic makes Magnus share his own experience with alcohol. Magnus says, “Yes, I’ve tried alcohol, thrown up, tried alcohol again, thrown up.”
- The god Aegir is a brewer who “spends all his time at the hops shop, or going on brewery tours with his buddies…. He’s always talking about microbrews. He has a cauldron a mile wide!”
- Magnus and his friends go to Nabbi’s tavern and the dwarves that he travels with order mead (not the Valhalla kind).
- Thor, the thunder god, “loved drinking mead.”
- When the group comes across giantess sisters, the enormous monsters are drunk. Magnus thinks, “They’d obviously been hitting the mead pretty hard.”
- Profanity is used a few times throughout the book. Profanity includes ass, dammit, crap, and idiot.
- Many characters exclaim, “Gods of Asgard” and “gods” as a form of profanity.
- When Gunilla introduces a new video system that shows how einherjar die, “the warriors cheered and banged their mugs, drowning out the sound of Sam cursing next to me.”
- Magnus is angry towards a Valkyrie that he dislikes and thinks, “No, but your dad was apparently a jackass!”
- While trying to escape Valhalla, “Mallory cursed in what was maybe Gaelic. Our little hallway group was a veritable United Nations of Cussing.”
- When attempting to arrange his dead body, Magnus’s “hands had come unclasped so I appeared to be giving everybody the finger.”
- When Blitzen talks about his mother’s requests, he says, “She wants her damnable earrings.”
- Thor could “cuss like a drunken, creative sailor. ‘Mother-grubbing scum bucket!’ he yelled (or something along those lines. My brain may have filtered the actual language, as it would’ve made my ears bleed.)”
- Magnus wants to comfort Hearthstone. “I wanted to hug the poor guy, bake him a batch of cookies, and tell him how sorry I was about his crappy childhood, but I knew he wouldn’t want pity.”
- The story exists in a world where Norse mythology is real, including all of the gods, heroes, and monsters. For example, Magnus is the son of Frey, the god of peace, fertility, rain, sunshine, and summer.
- In the beginning of the book, Magnus doesn’t understand why Blitzen hates daylight. He says, “Maybe he was the world’s shortest, stoutest homeless vampire.”
- Two magical, evil wolves broke into Magnus’s apartment and killed his mom when he was fourteen. “From the hallway, two beasts emerged, their pelts the color of dirty snow, their eyes glowing blue.”
- Surt is a fire god and has powers. “Around Surt, flames began to swirl. The firestorm spiraled outward, melting cars to slag heaps, liquefying the pavement, popping rivets from the bridge like champagne corks.”
- Due to Magnus being a demigod, he has magical abilities. He doesn’t have a problem in extreme temperatures, can walk through fire, can heal others, and mentally communicates with horses.
- There is a vala who is a “seer. She can cast spells, read the future, and… other stuff.” She can also read/use the runes, which is a form of non-inherited Norse magic.
- Hearthstone is an elf, and Blitzen is a dwarf. Their identity gives them special abilities like fashion sense, craftsmanship, and rune magic.
- As an einherjar, Magus acquires super strength, has more muscles, and has accelerated healing.
- Heartstone uses rune stones and eventually becomes a runemaster. These stones allow him to perform magic, usually to help his friends on their quest.
- The group encounters Mimir, a disembodied head who floats in water and knows the secrets of the nine worlds.
- The Sword of Summer is a magical weapon that Magnus wields. It can speak and fight on its own. Magnus transforms it into a stone on a chain that he wears around his neck. Magnus “could easily pull it off the chain. As soon as I did, the stone grew into a sword. If I wanted it back in pendant form, all I had to do was picture that. The sword shrank into a stone, and I could re-attach it to the necklace.”
- Valkyries can fly, camouflage magically, and teleport back to Valhalla in a poof of light.
- Norse gods are real, but they are not worshipped. They are treated more like characters than all-knowing deities.
- Magnus describes the place where his funeral occurs. “It was set up like a chapel: three stained glass windows on the back wall, rows of folding chairs facing an open coffin on a dais. I hated this already. I’d been raised non-religious. I’d always considered myself an atheist.”
- Magnus says, “If there is an Almighty God up there, a head honcho of the universe, He was totally laughing at me right now.”
- Samirah is Muslim and wears a hijab. When arguing with Magnus she says, “A good Muslim girl is not supposed to hang out on her own with strange guys.”
- Thor is described as watching television religiously. Then Magnus says, “Can I say a god did something religiously?”
by Morgan Filgas