Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard
Disney-Hyperion, October 2016
“It’s Hammer time! (Someone had to say it)”
Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars
Readers will take so long to finish reading the Magnus Chase series because of one annoying reason: it is effing difficult to pronounce the words in Norse. For example, “Ginnungagap,” meaning a mist that obscured appearances, is pronounced as GEENG-un-guh-gahp and “Heimdal,” the god guarding the gate of Valhalla, is pronounced as HAME-doll while “Sleipnir”, Odin’s eight-legged steed, is pronounced as SLAYP-neer, which does not make sense. This is apart from the old words “Einherjar” (in-HAIRR-yar) and “Folkvanger” (FOHK-vahn-ger). I hate you Riordan.
And so the review of the second much anticipated book of Rick Riordan begins with much pressure on my part because it is a month ago since the book’s release and because this should be a pretty important and special article for Geek God Review.
We start by dividing the second book into its junior plots and reviewing if those plots are Thor worthy (meaning good) or Loki worthy (meaning bad). Let’s start.
(Warning: spoilers everywhere, what do you expect. But hey it’s been a month already).
1: The Goat Assassin
RATE: Loki worthy
The book started with funny jokes from Magnus Chase which made us missed him (a bit) and the a lot funnier antics of Otis, one of the goats Thor, the god of thunder, kills everyday for dinner and is resurrected afterwards (I know, gross). So Otis wanted to Magnus to find the missing hammer of Thor, code named “Ham”, by giving them some very useful information, a lead based on a barnyard gossip he heard in his psychiatrist’s waiting room.
It is very dramatic and quiet shockingly gross when the goat assassin killed the, well, goat, but the ensuing chase and duel was boring because we’ve been there before. Then came the revelation that they need to search for the hammer. Of course. The mythology fatigue is settling in again.
2: The Republic of Zombies
RATE: Thor worthy
Then came the stories of the zombies, but technically they’re not zombies, they’re draugr which is just the same thing. The story of Gellir, the prince of the Danes and his berserkers, who really want to decide things via vote like a parliament, is refreshing partly because of their antics and also because their story is gross and fascinating, something new.
The one thing which stood out on this chapter about zombies is the Skofnung sword and its story which made me feel that the title of the book should be Magnus Chase Book 2: The Skofnung Sword but of course Riordan would go to the far more mainstream title because you know, marketing.
3: Alfheim, Hearthstone’s World
RATE: Thor worthy
The rich culture and cool Norse stories came up to life when the book discusses Alfheim, the world of the elves. I especially like the debt payment system wherein you Hearthstone should cover the fur of the beast that killed his brother with gold coins as a payment for his sins (of being responsible for his brother’s death).
While Hearthstone’s story was harrowing, his story shows the future of the series and why this Norse mythology spin-off of Riordan will go a long way. One is because of the fact that Norse stories are so good we can’t get enough of it (some of the stories evolved into fairytales we know today) and also because Riordan utilizes these stories into good use, making a book about Norse mythology in a modern world more meaningful.
4: Bowling Giant World Cup
RATE: Loki worthy
And then came the giants. It was fun while it last. The part where Blitzen made a magic bowling bag (to make the bowling bag small) was cool but the contest part with the giants was a little bit old for us. This part should be where Riordan developed the love story aspect of Magnus Chase because he really needs to do something mainstream like that or else he would lose the interest of casual readers (apart from us).
5: Finally, Meet Thor. Again.
RATE: Loki worthy
The chapters with Thor were just so obviously included to justify the title of the book but we really don’t need or want to meet Thor especially when he was in full angry mode because his hammer was missing. Sif, his wife, saved the chapter and the two goats (I forgot their name sorry) were also fun as always, but apart from that, this junior plot is useless.
6: The Wedding and the Battle
RATE: Thor worthy
I like battles! I while this battle pales in comparison with the other battles in Riordan’s stories, it has some moments in it. Special mention to the appearance of Hearthstone where he did froze Loki with a rune stone (should have frozen Uncle Randolph instead), the description of Loki and his cave, and the use of the Skofnung sword to free him.
You’re right, Loki was freed. Ragnarok begins.
Norse Gods and Norse stories
I would just like to mention some of my favourite Norse gods here and some that I need to mention because we don’t know them that much, taking a look if their true stories resemble that from the story on the book. Also we would take a look on some of the Norse stories mentioned and how those bizarre stories were used by Riordan in this second book. This should be quick, promise, with the help of the ever reliable Wikipedia.
Andvari and the cursed ring
In Norse mythology, Andvari (Old Norse for “careful one”) is a dwarf who lives underneath a waterfall and has the power to change himself into a fish at will. Andvari had a magical ring Andvaranaut, which helped him become wealthy.
Using a net provided by Ran, Loki catches him as a pike and forces him to give up his gold and Andvaranaut. Andvari cursed the stolen gold which would destroy anyone who possessed it. After several of its possessors were killed, Andvari’s ring and his gold were left in a cave. Years later, Andvari discovered the cave and his lost gold, although his ring was lost forever.
Sounds familiar? Yeah that was the inspiration behind the Lord of the Rings series, especially the Hobbit series. Remember the talking dragon? Cue Ed Sheeran’s “I See Fire”.
Thrym, the giant and the missing hammer of Thor
In Norse mythology, Þrymr (Thrymr, Thrym; “uproar”) was king of the jǫtnar. In one legend, he stole Mjǫlnir, Thor’s hammer, to extort the gods into giving him Freyja as his wife. His kingdom was called Jötunheimr, but according to Hversu Noregr byggðist, it was the Swedish province Värmland, then a part of Norway.
Þrymr was foiled in his scheme by the gracefulness of Heimdallr, the cunning of Loki, and the sheer violence of Thor, who later killed Þrymr, his sister, and all of the jotnar kin that had been present at the wedding reception. The poem Þrymskviða gives the details of how Thor got his hammer back.
So the book’s plot should be pretty obvious. And of course, it ended in a wedding too.
Skofnung was the sword of legendary Danish king Hrólf Kraki. “The best of all swords that have been carried in northern lands”, it was renowned for supernatural sharpness and hardness, as well as for being imbued with the spirits of the king’s 12 faithful berserker bodyguards.
It appears in saga unrelated to Hrólf, it being said that an Icelander, Skeggi of Midfirth, who was chosen by lot to break into the gravemound and plunder it, recovered the sword while doing so, so it may have had some historical reality. Other similar incidents are found in Norse literature, such as Grettir the Strong’s recovery of a sword from a burial mound. Events concerning the recovery of Skofnung are related in chapter 9 and 10 of Kormáks saga.
Skofnung is briefly lost when Thorkel’s ship is capsized while sailing around Iceland, and all of those on it drown. The sword stuck fast in some of the timbers of the ship, and washed ashore. It was thus recovered at some point by Thorkel’s son Gellir, as he is mentioned carrying it with him later in the saga. Gellir dies in Denmark returning from pilgrimage to Rome, and is buried at Roskilde, and it seems Skofnung was buried with him (near where the sword was recovered from the burial mound in the first place) because the saga records that Gellir had the sword with him “and it was not recovered afterwards”.
According to Eid of Ás in chapter 57 of the Laxdœla saga, the sword is not to be drawn in the presence of women, and that the sun must never shine on the sword’s hilt. This is in accordance with many other ancient superstitions, such as the Eggjum stone in Norway. It is also told by Eid that any wound made by Skofnung will not heal unless rubbed with the Skofnung Stone, which Eid gives to Thorkel Eyjólfsson along with the sword.
Now back to Hotel Valhalla (and to being dead)
So now Loki’s been freed and is set to sail on a boat supposedly made from dead fingernails and other gross stuff to start Ragnarok. That is enough to keep us waiting for the third book, but if this second one, The Hammer of Thor could be our basis, well we could just wait for another cooler series to come from Riordan, and pick this one next year when we have time. Seriously, if Riordan’s whole basis of a book nowadays is to get a single Norse story and lazily spin it on Magnus’ story to make a modern one, then his magic which started with Percy Jackson has come to an end.
But then again, Percy Jackson might save the day on the third book, and I am eagerly hoping for Magnus Chase to finally meet him.