By the time you read this post, I’ll have been twenty years old for a couple of hours. Which is TERRIFYING. I’m writing it in advance, as usual, and I’m sitting here going, “No, I’m not allowed to be twenty. Adulting is forbidden.” But there we go. As of today, I’m no longer a teenager. That won’t stop me reviewing YA fiction, though, so don’t expect any changes here.
I bought myself The Sword of Summer as a present because it was going cheap on Amazon (£4.50 for the hardback, bargain), and it arrived the day that college maintenance had to pull up half my floorboards because of dry rot, so it was a comfort while I sat there watching my room be taken apart.
For those who aren’t aware (who are you), The Sword of Summer is Rick Riordan’s first foray into Norse mythology. I loved the Percy Jackson series, even though I read them only last year when I was considerably older than the target audience. But, as you’re probably aware, my degree is Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic. Which meant when I heard about Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard, I knew I had to get my hands on it.
Now, I’m very much a Celticist. I am the C in ASNaC. I took Old Norse in first year, but found it really hard and didn’t like it enough to persevere, so I dropped it this year in favour of a medieval French literature module. This means that while I’m enough of a Norse nerd to have got the jokes, even the more obscure ones, and to pick up on a lot of allusions that would have passed most people by, I’m absolutely not a purist.
So much Celtic-based lit is so bad because people have no idea what they’re talking about, but this isn’t the first great Norse-inspired book I’ve read recently. (I also liked C. Gockel’s I Bring The Fire series, which is about Loki.) It takes the stories I loved and mashed them up, without dwelling on the bits that caused me to drop Old Norse (grammar), and manages to be entertaining and well-written at the same time.
It’s definitely more YA than the Percy Jackson books, which are usually classed as MG or Children’s if you’re in the UK where MG isn’t really a thing. Magnus, the protagonist, is sixteen, so already we can see that it’s aimed at a slightly older audience. The writing is a little more sophisticated, so while it’s informal and full of jokes, Riordan doesn’t feel the need to explain literally everything the way he sometimes does in Percy Jackson.
This might mean some of the more subtle mythological references would be lost on the average reader, but hey, it makes a nice bonus for the nerds like me.
This is also a very diverse book. One of the Valkyries is a Muslim girl (Samirah), and I loved how she was portrayed. Another character is deaf, and we see him using sign language throughout the book. His deafness is treated with sensitivity, but it also acts as a plot point — he can’t hear the enemy’s voice so he’s immune to charm, for example. Losing him makes things tricky, though. Yelling HEARTH! isn’t very effective when he’s deaf.
There’s NO ROMANCE in this book. Can we take a moment to appreciate that? We have a male protag and a female main supporting character, and they don’t get together. Sam’s interested in someone else! Magnus doesn’t even seem to be thinking about that kind of thing, which is refreshing in a YA book! I’m just so happy this didn’t go down the cliched romance route.
I think there were fewer laugh-out-loud moments in this than in the Percy Jackson books, but more quiet chuckles and smiles. The humour’s a bit more mature, and since I have the sense of humour of a twelve-year-old boy, this was both a good and a bad thing for me. Good, because it was more sophisticated, but bad because it didn’t make me cackle in quite the same way. Lots of funny moments, though, and situational absurdity, so that was fun.
I guess there’s nothing else to say but to share with you a few of my favourite quotes.
I smiled. “So this horse is your nephew, Sam?”
She glared at me. “Let’s not go there.”
“How did your dad father a horse?”
Blitzen coughed. “Actually, Loki was Sleipnir’s mother.”
“Let’s definitely not go there,” Sam warned.
― Rick Riordan,
(Oh yeah, should probably have mentioned that Sam’s a daughter of Loki, and Magnus is a son of Frey. That’s not a spoiler, is it? I don’t think that’s a spoiler. Moving on.)
“I call it Andskoti, the Adversary. It is woven with the most powerful paradoxes in the Nine Worlds—Wi-Fi with no lag, a politician’s sincerity, a printer that prints, healthy deep-fried food, and an interesting grammar lecture!”
― Rick Riordan,
“I told my new friends I was allergic to dismemberment. They just laughed and herded me toward the combat arena. This is why I don’t like making new friends.”
― Rick Riordan,
There were lots of other funny moments, but those were a few of the highlights for me. ANYWAY. I’d better get going with something more useful before maintenance arrive to continue destroying my floor, so I’ll finish up here. I’m giving the book four stars; it didn’t do anything particularly to lose that fifth star, but it didn’t quite earn it either. Looking forward to seeing how the rest of the series pans out, definitely.