Note: This review will assume you are up to date on Riordan’s other books.
Magnus Chase, a new hero who will take us into the Norse portion of the Riordan-verse and is totally not Percy Jackson. The Sword of Summer is book #1 in a series of we-do-not-even-know-how-many-yet. It is the chance for Riordan to have a fresh start and give the readers something new. That is not at all what happened.
We will start with Magnus Chase, Annabeth Chase’s cousin and Percy Jackson’s apparent clone. Granted this is not the first time Percy Jackson’s character has more or less been reused; Jason Grace also had many similarities to Percy, but he was supposed to due to his fulfilling the same role in the Roman world as Percy did in the Greek one and the parallel/connections between those two mythologies. Magnus’ personality, particularly his sense of humor, was pretty much identical to Percy’s in The Lightning Thief. The key issue with that is that Magnus is older than Percy was at that point in time, making Magnus seem rather juvenile in comparison. As reused as Magnus was, the other characters were worse. You had the female sidekick with a temper, sidekicks who were somewhat useful but mostly comic relief, and villains who were extremely overconfident and ended up being all, “No, how could my evil plan have possibly failed?!” All of these are things that can be expected from the typical Riordan storyline.
On the subject of the storyline, the Norse mythology this part of the Riordan-verse is based off of. Within the confines of the mythology Riordan is using in his storytelling there is only so much he can do. As far as gods, monsters, and other creatures go most mythologies will generally tell you, “This guy is good, that guy is bad, these people are indifferent, etc.” Despite these restrictions, Riordan managed to give us some twists within the mythology in his previous series’. That was not the case in this book. Every villain is someone who is a classic villain within the Norse world. And while Riordan force-feeds Norse mythology to his readers throughout The Sword of Summer, the “classic villains” approach makes the book bland and predictable. The whole “you cannot change fate, but you can still fiddle with the details” element from Heroes of Olympus resurfaces here, as does the adventuring tactic of “we need to do the thing, let’s go do the thing” from The Kane Chronicles.
The Sword of Summer is still a good read for the middle school level, but it does not branch out to other age ranges and audiences the way Percy Jackson and the Olympians and some of Riordan’s other works did. For individuals who just enjoy the Riordan style of writing and want more of the same, this book is great. You will love it. For those of us who are hoping to get something new from Riordan’s writing, Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard may not be what we were hoping for. Now it could be that this is all Riordan knows how to do. Some actors are only good with one type of role; some authors are only good with one type of writing. But with The Lightning Thief being more than a decade old at this point, Riordan would do well to get something new out there in order to keep long-time fans interested and to serve as a hook for a larger number of new readers.