If you know me at all, you know how much I love Rick Riordan’s books. I am obsessed with the Percy Jackson and the Heroes of Olympus series. However, you might also know that I wasn’t super impressed with his two current spin-offs, the Magnus Chase and the Trials of Apollo series. I gave both first books five stars, because they are still fantastic, but they just pale when compared to his other novels.
Now, this book completely changed my mind. While The Sword of Summer was, in my opinion, a weak start to the new series, The Hammer of Thor brought back everything I love about Rick Riordan’s writing. It’s funny, it’s interesting and fast-paced, and it’s lovingly diverse.
If you’re not aware, the Magnus Chase series is all about Norse mythology. It follows Magnus, who discovers in the first book that he is the son of Frey, a Norse god. In this sequel, Thor has lost his hammer, and now it is up to Magnus and his friends to retrieve it and stop Loki from basically destroying the world.
When I read the first few chapters I wasn’t very impressed – the humour was a bit weak, and the jokes felt slightly forced. However, I kept reading, and it paid off. The book quickly finds its way back to hilarious lines and good action, enemies with odd hobbies, and everything we love about the Percy Jackson universe.
But this instalment does not just live up to Rick’s previous works, it actually surpasses them. While we get the well-loved sense of humour and action, the characters have to deal with a variety of issues, from abusive parents to homelessness and transphobia. The book is definitely much darker than the other middle-grade Rick has written so far, and the characters seem to have grown alongside the readers. He tackles a lot of difficult subjects, and he does it really well. When Magnus realises he is the son of a Norse god, for example, it is stressed how lucky he is – most homeless people don’t get to become warriors for the Norse gods.
The book features characters from all sorts of backgrounds, and they all have different things to deal with. There is the Muslim girl who saved Magnus and brought him to Valhalla, who now has to explain her strange life to her fiancé; there is the newest addition to Magnus’ group, a genderfluid shape-shifter with a homeless past; and there is Hearth, a deaf elf, something unheard of and looked down on in his world. I loved getting to know all these characters better, exploring their motives and opinions, and seeing how, despite their differences, they became close and stood up for each other.
The darkest and most heart-breaking part of this book was definitely the visit to Hearth’s home. Being a deaf elf, he is shunned by his people, and was abused his whole life by his father. Although reading about Hearth’s childhood and hopelessness made me incredibly sad, I believe it was an important thing to include in the novel. I am not sure if some of the things in those particular chapters might be too much for a middle-grade audience (particularly servant abuse), but I think they are important, and I am glad that Rick Riordan decided to highlight those issues.
I also loved seeing the way Magnus interacts with Alex, the genderfluid character. At first I thought it was a bit idealistic to have everyone accept Alex they way he/she is (Alex dislikes the pronoun they), as non-binary people are not often well-loved. But after reading some of Magnus’ thoughts, it made perfect sense – having spent a long time being homeless, Magnus is aware that a big part of homeless teens are on the LGBT+ spectrum, and is used to being around them. Not only did this make Magnus’ behaviour seem more realistic, but it brought up an issue that isn’t discussed in fiction, especially middle-grade, very often: the problem of how many LGBT+ teens end up on the streets.
The Hammer of Thor was an absolutely fantastic read and a wonderful sequel. I can’t wait to get my hands on the third book in the series later this year, and to find out what the characters have been up to.
Have you read the Magnus Chase books? Do you like them? Or do you think Rick Riordan’s writing has gone down-hill? What do you think of the representation and the more serious issues he brought up? I’d love to have a bit of a discussion, so let me know!
‘Till next time and happy reading!