on October 4, 2016
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Also in this series: The Sword of Summer
Thor's hammer is missing again. The thunder god has a disturbing habit of misplacing his weapon--the mightiest force in the Nine Worlds. But this time the hammer isn't just lost, it has fallen into enemy hands. If Magnus Chase and his friends can't retrieve the hammer quickly, the mortal worlds will be defenseless against an onslaught of giants. Ragnarok will begin. The Nine Worlds will burn. Unfortunately, the only person who can broker a deal for the hammer's return is the gods' worst enemy, Loki--and the price he wants is very high.
The Hammer of Thor is as fast moving and action-packed as I’ve come to expect from Riordan, and it’s a heck of a lot of fun! The series will undoubtedly appeal to Percy Jackson fans, and there are decided similarities, but also some differences that go beyond the specific mythologies. For instance, Magnus is as loyal, kind, and snarkily funny as Percy Jackson, but with more maturity and cynicism than Percy has initially, and for good reason: Magnus is 16, not 12, when the series starts, and he has spent 2 years living homeless and orphaned. Unlike Percy, Magnus won’t ever age; he’s an einherji, a warrior taken to Valhalla after dying courageously. But like Percy before him, Magnus is an engaging first-person narrator, and a reasonably reliable one—as long as you remember that what you know is limited to what Magnus knows.
It’s practically impossible to talk about the plot of The Hammer of Thor without spoilers, so I’m not going to try. Instead I’ll talk about some of the other aspects of the book that I appreciated. Riordan ramps up the diversity yet again in The Hammer of Thor, introducing a genderfluid character. I am far from an expert, but I felt he handled this character with respect and insight, and definitely as an individual rather than a “type”:
“As long as you don’t ask me to represent every gender-fluid person for you, okay? I’m not an ambassador. I’m not a teacher or a poster child. I’m just”—she mimicked my handwaving—”me. Trying to be me as best I can.”
(Note: This character—whom I will not name to avoid spoilers—prefers he and him or she and her pronouns as appropriate, and informs those around him/her when those pronouns change. Some genderfluid people prefer them and they, or any of several constructed pronouns.)
Speaking of diversity, I’m actually rather impressed with Riordan on that front. The Percy Jackson books were short on diversity except for some relatively minor secondary characters, but Riordan has been steadily increasing the diversity of his characters since the Kane Chronicles, which featured a mixed-race brother and sister as protagonists. The multiple protagonists in the Heroes of Olympus series included Hispanic and Native characters, and the first Magnus Chase book introduced a hijab-wearing Muslim Valkyrie (Samirah, whom I really like) and a deaf elf, as well as einherjar drawn from various cultures and time periods.
I do find it hard to keep track of all the Norse myths, gods, and creatures at times (let alone the nine different worlds!) I’m not sure if that’s just because they’re less familiar to me than the Greek and Roman myths to begin with, or if it’s because they’re actually more confusing. But Riordan does a pretty good job of explaining things as they occur, and there’s a very useful glossary in the back of the book, plus a handy pronunciation guide.
In case you’re wondering, yes, Magnus Chase is related to Annabeth Chase of the Percy Jackson and Heroes of Olympus novels. Apparently their family is somewhat appealing to mythological deities. While she’s not a major character in this series, Annabeth puts in an appearance in both this and the previous book, The Sword of Summer. And there are strong hints that Percy might show up later in the series. I can’t wait!
My main complaint about the books is that we have to wait a whole year between installments. Book 3, The Ship of the Dead, isn’t due out until October 2017. At least the second Trials of Apollo came out this week, so I have that to look forward to.
And a final warning: Do not read The Hammer of Thor without reading The Sword of Summer first. It won’t work terribly well as a standalone.