Sunday, 24 February 2019

Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard
The Sword of Summer (Book One) by Rick Riordan.  Junior Fiction

           Magnus Chase has been homeless for two years.  He has been living on the streets of Boston since his mother was murdered by supernatural wolves when he was fourteen:  he knows that something supremely evil is looking for him and so far, hiding in plain sight, dossing down under bridges and in parks, and fossicking in dumpsters for food feels a whole lot safer than contacting his few living relatives – all of whom could care for him, but he doesn’t want to bring mortal danger into their lives.  Until finally, it becomes unavoidable:  at an unplanned meeting with his uncle Randolph, an expert on Norse mythology, he is ordered to raise the Sword of Summer from the Charles River, where it has been submerged for a millennium – yes, it is Uncle Randolph’s firm belief that the Vikings did sail, plundering and looting, as far south on the eastern seaboard as Boston and Magnus, who is turning 16 on this very day, must call the sword forth from the river-bed, for the Sword of Summer is a vital weapon in the Doomsday War of Ragnarok, the destruction of the Gods of Asgard.
            Needless to say, Magnus wants to leave uncle as soon as it’s polite to go, especially when told he is the son of a God (!) -  but he is stopped by (yes, truly!) a gigantic fire-demon called Surt who, in his efforts to track Magnus down, has also set fire to most of the bridge they are standing on.  He wants the sword, so hand it over and he’ll promise a quick death.  Oh, Okay then.
            So begins Magnus’s adventures  in the Nine Worlds:  he is introduced in many dangerous and undignified ways to various elves, dwarves – two of which are his firm friends from his homeless days – Valkyries (including Samirah Al-Abbas, Sam for short, of Iraqi heritage but deeply ashamed that she is a daughter of God Loki the Liar:  at the Hotel Valhalla it gets her into no end of strife) and he and his friends have to battle (or at least try to avoid) a giant, homicidal squirrel, one of the guardians of the World Tree, whose tangled branches conceal the entrances to the nine worlds, most of whom Magnus has to visit on his quest to prevent Ragnarok beginning.  The action is non-stop and the mythical beasts of Norse mythology all make an appearance, either to rescue the adventurers, impede them – or eat them.  In the meantime, the Sword of Summer gets sick of its name and decides to change it to Jack:  yep, time to be cool, dude.
            This is the first of the Gods of Asgard series, and as with Rick Riordan’s forays into Greek Mythology, he takes readers of all ages on a fabulous, action-packed ride through the old Norse tales.  It’s hard to know what is most admirable about his books;  his pinpoint accuracy of character and legend, or his wonderful humour which raises a laugh on every page (especially the chapter headings!):  either way it’s a winning formula.  FIVE STARS.      

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