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The Sword of Summer: Book One of Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard by Rick Riordan

THE SWORD OF SUMMER
Book One of Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard
by Rick Riordan 
(Disney Hyperion; $19.99, Ages 9-12)

The_Sword_of_Summer_Magnus-Chase

Welcome to the first book in Rick Riordan’s new series,
The Sword of Summer: Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard.

Imagine this: it’s your 16th birthday. You wake up on a cold Boston street, your friends tell you this evil dude is looking for you … and not because he wants to bring you a birthday present. Your untrustworthy uncle reveals that you are the son of the Norse god, Frey, god of fertility of the land, peace and prosperity. Yeah, right. As the son of Frey you have the power to summon an ancient, long lost sword. Apparently, whoever wields it can do some pretty cool stuff with it. Some pretty scary stuff, too. And just think, all this time it’s been sitting at the bottom of the Charles River. Nasty.

Oh, and that evil dude looking for you? He’s the god Surt, Lord of Muspelheim, the realm of fire. He wants that sword, too. And not just to polish it up. See, he’s got this plan (or maybe it’s something like his destiny) to use the sword to free the wolf Fenir and set doomsday into motion. Wolves … dude, you hate wolves!

Someone has to stop him.

Could this be your destiny?

Ready to romp through the nine worlds of Asgard to prevent the end of the world? Well, before you take off, there’s just one. small. thing.

First, you gotta die.

Whew! So, are your ready for the The Sword of Summer, the first book in Riordan’s new series? I’ve got a feeling you’re hooked! From cold Boston streets, where the homeless (and not so prosperous) Magnus Chase lives, to the halls of Valhalla (the realm of the fallen heroes), prepare yourself for a wild and exhilarating ride through the many strange, wonderful, and sometimes frightening worlds of Asgard. Magnus and his friends, who include a snappy-dressing dwarf, a deaf elf, and a Muslim ex-Valkyrie, race against the clock to prevent a cataclysmic war.

Pursued by Valhalla heroes, giant wolves, and monsters, Magnus and his team bargain with powerful beings and magical creatures in order to prevent Surt from obtaining Frey’s sword, Sumanbrander. Whoever wields it has the power to bring about Ragnarok, the apocalyptic battle between the forces of the gods Odin and Loki.

Percy Jackson fans will snap up this latest series (I can’t keep it on my library shelves). Using his now familiar model, Riordan has readers take a look at an unlikely hero struggling to understand who he is and the events swirling around him. Like all great heroes (Hercules, Gilgamesh, and yes, Percy Jackson), Magnus’ journey throughout the worlds of Asgard bring him a deeper understanding of self and greater empathy for his companions, who have sacrificed much to support him.

Riordan has inventively created a world blending Norse mythology with contemporary culture and peopled it with diverse characters in positive roles. In doing so, he shines a spotlight on contemporary issues such as Muslim culture, homelessness and people with special needs. Filled with nail-biting and dramatic action, it has the same irreverent humor found in Riordan’s earlier series.

Not familiar with Norse mythology? No problem, Riordan provides a handy glossary and other back matter materials to enhance the reader’s understanding of the ancient Norse world.

Visit all the worlds of Rick Riordan for more information on this and his other series.

  • Reviewed by Dornel Cerro

 

 

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Treasury of Norse Mythology by Donna Jo Napoli

TREASURY OF NORSE MYTHOLOGY:
Stories of Intrigue, Trickery, Love and Revenge
 Written by Donna Jo Napoli
Illustrations by Christina Balit
(National Geographic Children’s Books; $24.99, Ages 8-12)

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Gullinkambi
Yggdrasil
Ragnarok
Ginnungagap

Do these words make your head spin, and your tongue tie up in knots? Never fear, the team that brought you the Treasury of Greek Mythology and the Treasury of Egyptian Mythology is here to guide you through the complex world of the ancient Norse with their third volume in National Geographic’s exquisite mythology series, Treasury of Norse Mythology. This handsome collection will be popular with fans of Rick Riordan’s Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard, the Dreamworks movie of Cressida Crowell’s How to Train Your Dragon book series, and Marvel.com’s Thor: The Dark World.

Don’t skip the “Introduction.” It clearly and succinctly explains the Norse world. Napoli describes how the geography of this area (Norway, Sweden, and Denmark) affected the Norse “worldview” and how their Norse passion for storytelling kept these myths alive long after the spread of Christianity.

What follows are eighteen traditional myths, retold in Napoli’s beautiful prose and dramatically illustrated by Balit. From the creation of the cosmos to the final terrifying battle between the gods and the giants, the stories presented in this collection include arduous quests, terrifying monsters, devious shape-shifters, and thwarted lovers. The stories, each several pages long, are preceded by Balit’s two-page spreads, which perfectly capture dramatic moments and complement Napoli’s vivid and accessible prose.

 

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Interior artwork from Treasury of Norse Mythology by Donna Jo Napoli with illustrations by Christina Balit, National Geographic Children’s Books ©2015.

In the myth “Cosmos,” Napoli clearly explains the creation of the universe and the mind-blowing Norse belief of multiple worlds. The ash tree, Yggdrasil, stretches through these worlds, which include Asgard (the home of the gods) and Midgard (humans). Balit creatively and colorfully depicts the nine worlds, giving the reader an excellent visual of this complex concept.

“Destruction,” another fine example of Napoli’s and Balit’s collaboration, is the final, hair-raising battle between the gods and the giants, ending with the fall of Yggdrasil and the fiery consumption of the cosmos. Balit’s illustrations of the raging fires’ glowing flames, set against the frigid white of the snowy land, are breathtaking.

Extensive and substantial front and back material and sidebars in each story are included to help readers understand the background of the myths. Readers will find a map of the ancient Norse world, thumbnail sketches of the characters, a timeline of Norse history, and a detailed index. The afterword discusses the history of the different versions of the myths as well as linguistic challenges faced by the author.

Author Donna Jo Napoli is the recipient of many awards including the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrator’s Golden Kite Award for Stones in Water. Visit her website for a biography and lists of books, awards, and reviews.

Christina Balit, a British playwright, author, and illustrator, was shortlisted for the Kate Greenway Award in 1996. Find out more about her and her books here.

  • Reviewed by Dornel Cerro
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