Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Book Review: The Sword of Summer by Rick Riordan

Released: October 6, 2015
Pages: 528
Publisher: Disney Hyperion Books
Received: ARC from the publisher
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

I keep calling this The Percy Jackson Book. As in, "I'm reading The Percy Jackson Book" or "I need to write my review for The Percy Jackson Book." Every time I reference Magnus I trip up over his name and do a "Perc-um-Magnus" or a "Percy, I mean whatever-his-name-is," and I'm still doing it even after having spent 528 pages with what's-his-name.

And, I know, this is not a Percy Jackson book. It's a Magnus Chase book.

But, it's totally a Percy Jackson book.

The characters are pretty copy/paste from Percy Jackson, the action follows the same formula, the Gods are typical Percy Jackson gods, and the writing, dialog, and feel are all straight Percy Jackson.

But is that a bad thing? This new series definitely isn't getting any points for originality, but it's a total win if you're looking for more Percy Jackson-ish books. It may be formulaic, but it's a fun formula to follow.

There's a certain comfort in reading a book where you know exactly what to expect in the broad strokes, and that's what The Sword of Summer provides. It's like rereading an old favorite, but not remembering any of the details.

And, yeah, sometimes the formula felt a little forced. The jokes all kind of felt like Rick Riordan was standing there expectantly waiting for me to laugh and pat him on the back for his clever lines. "Did you see that Percy Jackson reference I threw in there?" *elbow jab* "Ha! Did you get that bag lady joke? Totally zany, amiright?" Despite all that, in the middle of my eye-rolls I was laughing. So.

And the pacing? I'm worried Rick Riordan's fame has catapulted him into To Big To Edit territory. This book is huge, and it really doesn't need to be. The majority of the first 160 pages where Percy meets and mingles in Camp Half-Blood, erm, I mean, Magnus hangs out in Valhalla, could have been cut down to about a chapter.

I also could have done without the repetitive remembrances of Magnus's dead mom (that and the pretty-cool -but-not-as-awesome-as-Vic talking sword made me flashback to Mythos Academy), and the entire homeless bit felt beaten to death and not really necessary. The connection to Annabel felt like a real stretch, and while it may prove more relevant in future books, in this one it just felt forced and irrelevant.

This all made it difficult for me to like Magnus (also, that name made it hard). I had trouble connecting with him or even caring what would happen to him. He is also so similar to Percy Jackson that I had a hard time separating Magnus as a character in his own right and not just a mildly annoying Percy Jackson understudy.

Magnus's sidekicks are a different story. Blitz and Hearth went a long way toward making the book for me. They're interesting characters in their own right with backstories, depth, and growth that surpassed that of lead character Magnus. Their humorous moments were also among the best in the book.

I'd be just fine if Magnus and Samirah (his ornery and oh so bland diversity token Muslim Valkyrie sidekick with an incredibly dull side story that should have been edited right out) had just disappeared and let this become the Adventures of Blitz and Hearth. THAT would be an awesome series.

Bottom line

It may seem like I'm knocking The Sword of Summer pretty hard. And I guess I kind of am. It's a rough book that really could have benefited from a lot of editing. It also suffers from a lack of originality and a beta version of Percy Jackson for a main character. Oh, also, no romance.

But, it's still a fun book. I did enjoy it, and I'll probably read the rest of the books eventually (this one ends on a "the story isn't over, but this first part is wrapped up" kind of ending). It even made me decide I should probably pick up the other Rick Riordan series I haven't read yet (I've only read the main Percy Jackson series).

The thing is, I like this formula. I don't love it and I've never been a huge Percy Jackson fan to begin with, but I do like it. It's comforting, light, predictable, and funny, and sometimes that's exactly the kind of book I'm looking for when I want to unwind.


  1. It was interesting reading your review, Smalls, but unlike you I am a big Percy Jackson fan and I liked Riordan's other series. I don't have high expectations for this series just hope it's entertaining and learning something new about Norse mythology (not my strong suit).

    1. I think you'll enjoy it a lot. Definitely entertaining and you should learn some Norse mythology. :)


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