(A Magnus Chase and The Trials of Apollo Book Review)
(Or Magnus Chase Book 1 The Sword of Summer and The Trials of Apollo Book 1 The Hidden Oracle Book Review Because I am Effing Lazy to Write Two Separate Reviews)
So first off, which weapon will win? Magnus Chase’s Jack the Sword of Summer or the yet nameless Apollo’s Arrow of Dodona? Personally I will bet my money on Jack because of the whole thing about it being the strongest weapon in Asgard (or is it Thor’s Hammer? Umm I need to check on that). But I have a feeling that the Arrow of Dodona will not give up that easy, what with his abilities to declaim Shakespear and to turn an arrow (not itself) to a plague arrow by chanting (by the way, his chanting doth not sucketh). Sayest thou: Plaguey, Plaguey, Plaguey.
Ok let’s do this. Who’s side will you be, Magnus Chase or Apollo? Let me be clear, this is a face-off between Magnus and Apollo the god who was turned into a mortal, as in the Lester Papadopoulos mortal, the one with a flab. Because let’s face it, Magnus cannot compete with Apollo, the god. He could wound him, maybe, like Diomedes (or some other dude hero) did to Athena (or Aphrodite? Not sure) in Illiad. But to actually beat him? Maybe, but Surt the giant is the much easier opponent.
“Wrongly chosen, wrongly slain,
A hero Valhalla cannot contain,
Nine days hence the sun must go east,
Ere Sword of Summer unbinds the beast.”
Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard. Book One: The Sword of Summer
RATING: 3.50 out of 5
To help you decide, here are the obligatory paragraphs explaining the story of the book, the books in this case. In Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard Book 1, The Sword of Summer, we reminisce the days when Percy Jackson discovered his links to the Greek gods (You’re a demigod, Percy!). Magnus’ story on the first few chapters was like that: discovering his destiny as the son of a Norse god. He learned that Ragnarok (the Norse version of the apocalypse) will soon be upon them unless he could stop it. First he needs to find, you are right there, the Sword of Summer, the weapon of his father, the Norse god Frey.
The chapter started with Magnus Chase dying in “Good Morning! You’re Going to Die (don’t look so surprised it’s Norse Mythology after all), then Riordan takes us into a whirlwind ride as Magnus goes to Valhalla starting with the chapter “Mind the Gap, and Also the Hairy Guy with the Ax” and from there he will learn of his destiny (sort of) and he will embark on a journey in search for the Sword of Summer (the funny title of the chapter where he finally found his sword is: My Sword Almost End Up on eBay. It’s funny admit it) in his attempt to slow down the coming of Ragnarok.
Magnus’ character is funny, though I have the funny level standard of Percy Jackson in the first five books (The Olympians) so as I read his lines, I somewhat find it lacking of the humour that I read from Percy, not to mention that from Leo Valdez in the Heroes of Olympus series.
The cycle of the story is now somewhat tiring, because first, we already know how Rick Riordan will have this story end (the hero beating the bad guy after several tasks with the other gods). Second, I have already read this style with his other books, Percy Jackson, The Heroes of Olympus, The Kane Chronicles. So the mythology fatigue is setting in.
Riordan has Magnus teamed up with other two characters too, like Grover and Annabeth of Percy. But this time it is a dwarf and an elf, two characters with stories of their own and those stories I feel, will shape up, in a way, the entirety of the series so that’s a plus there. Another thing is he introduced as to weapons which are talking, and which are in many ways funnier than the protagonist. The refreshing addition will help readers navigate the story of Magnus in a lighter way.
What every Riordan fans look forward to in his every new novel/series is his unique style of retelling our mythologies, making it lighter and more fun (translation: not boring) to read. We, almost always, learn something new on those mythologies even if we have read the stories of the gods in other books (though it never hurts to check some facts in Google).
The downside of writing a novel regarding Norse mythology is that the writer will have no choice but to be sucked on the dreary stories of the Norse gods and their love for inevitable destiny of losing in battles. What is unique about having a Norse demigod is that we have a character who died, like right in the beginning of the story. While Percy Jackson and the Kanes spend their series evading death, Magnus, on the other hand, has no problem dying, because that’s what makes you a hero as per Norse custom. So how can a writer turn a dreary story (and a character that needs to die) into a compelling novel?
In this regard, Rick Riordan certainly did not disappoint. He turned the annoyingly dark stories of the Norse gods to an interesting one by transforming it into a refreshing story of Magnus, something that will make us understand, learn and appreciate the circumstances, the stories and adventures that made these Norse gods who they are and to what we have known them today.
“There once was a god named Apollo
Who plunged in a cave blue and hollow
Upon a three-seater
The bronze fire-eater
Was forced death and madness to swallow”
The Trials of Apollo. Book One: The Hidden Oracle
RATING: 3.75 out of 5
In the first book of The Trials of Apollo: The Hidden Oracle, we found the Greek god Apollo in a dumpster. Yes. He was turned into a mortal, for the third time, by Zeus after his blunder which resulted to the Battle of the Camp Half-Blood with Gaea. It really is his fault no matter what he says otherwise.
And be warned for the Apollo that you are going to read is really, really annoying like Greek gods level annoying. In this novel, we got to find how the thoughts of the Greek gods work, and how they act and how they view humanity. For example, for the Greek gods we found out that demigods are fodders, umm I mean heroes.
What I discovered upon reading this first book of Apollo’s misfortunes, I mean adventures, is how I missed Camp Half-Blood and the modern world of Greek Mythology that Riordan introduced to us and that made the read more fun. We got to visit Percy Jackson’s New York apartment, riding towards Camp Half-Blood with, of course, monsters in tow (because Aquaman is driving). Visiting the camp again is one of the coolest part of reading this book (gods, how long has it been since The Blood of Olympus? 2 years?). Upon Apollo’s arrival, we come to meet other new demigods and as usual found out that there is a lurking problem inside camp: the prophecy stopped coming in, which means no adventures for the heroes. It is Apollo’s fault, I’m telling you.
“Check your spam folder
The prophecies might be there
No? Well, I’m stumped. Bye.”
First, let me say here that I am happy for Nico’s lovelife (after being dumped by Percy) and of Leo Valdez’s return from the dead! Vaya con queso! In writing this new series, Riordan graciously provided details about what happened to the other demigods in both Percy and the Olympus series, and in doing so continues their adventures which I am grateful.
Being Apollo’s point of view, the new readers would definitely hate the god for his thoughts but for the old Camp Half-Blood fans this is normal. Riordan made the irritating actions and thoughts of a Greek god into a light and funny story. The thing that makes the Riordan novels so good and fun to read is his ability to bring the stories of the gods (and demigods) to a human level and in his new series, he successfully show us the differences and the similarities of gods and humans on a level that we can understand and appreciate.
For example, one of the amazing things about this book is that it has Haiku as titles for its chapters, and while Apollo seemed to be self-centered, he managed to make us all laugh with his antics and drama of being relegated to a mere mortal, not to mention his promise to write an ode to the power of bacon and to hotdogs (plus bug juice).
The downside of this novel is that we already know what will happen in the end of the book (in the end of the series for that matter) because we are all familiar with Riordan’s style by now (as I mentioned in the Magnus Chase review). This might be the reason why I found the adventures in this first book lacking of the grandeur and excitement that we come to expect. But Riordan certainly did not disappoint in revealing details that are new to us, and turning those details into a remarkable story, a story that we sure will follow until the end.
“Ode to a hot dog
With bug juice and tater chips
I got nothing, man”
So, there you go. Do you have your pick now? Personally, I’ll choose Magnus on this one, because Norse gods are much tougher to beat and, well, they’re not afraid to die. They want to die in battle as a matter of fact. But seeing that Apollo can rely on some of his godly powers in the worst of times (like turning the arrow in a plague arrow which smells like a deep-fry food) is not fair. Then again, Magnus has defeated Surt.
So there you have it. Now, you choose.