‘The Sword of Summer’ redeems Rick Riordan

If you are among the throngs of avid Percy Jackson fans who read your way through the mediocre “Kane Chronicles” and then cringed through “The Heroes of Olympus” series, then rejoice because Rick Riordan is working the magic again!  “The Sword of Summer,” the first installment of the “Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard” series, is the first of Riordan’s works in a long while that is comparable to the glory of his first series.  The book is a blessedly fresh take on the exciting if formulaic Riordan mythological world.

“The Sword of Summer” tells the tale of Magnus Chase (cousin of Annabeth Chase from “Percy Jackson”), a 16-year-old who has been living on the streets of Boston for two years since his mother died in mysterious circumstances.  Magnus eventually discovers that he is the son of a Norse deity, which comes with a unique set of powers and perils.    The ensuing adventure spans across the nine worlds with a seamless integration of ancient legends with modern times.

Though it shares obvious plot similarities with “The Lightning Thief,” one of the aspects that makes “The Sword of Summer” so enjoyable to read is that it stays firmly in the head of the protagonist.  A downfall of “The Heroes of Olympus” was that it was told in the third person and alternated character perspective.  Like “Percy Jackson,” this is told in the first person, Riordan’s obvious strength, and never switches point of view.  Magnus’ witty interior dialogue is often what makes the scene.  His commentary on his experiences is hilarious and is the cause of many laugh-out-loud moments.  Though some of the humor is obviously watered down in order to be appropriate for a younger audience, older readers will delight in the subtly more mature humor slipped in between the lines.  

The characters are more diverse than expected.  The colorful cast includes a Muslim Valkyrie with a magical hijab, a deaf elf and a dwarf with a passion for fashion.  As in all Riordan’s books, the reinvented gods and goddesses  are unforgettable.

Though it won’t leave you with any lasting revelations of the human condition, “The Sword of Summer” is an enjoyable read for fantasy geeks of all ages.