Welcome to another series review! I love doing these but I’m really lazy so I just don’t happen to be writing them often. But once in a while I come across books that are such a great reading experience as a whole, so instead of doing single reviews I love talking about why I loved them, talking about the character arcs (that often happens throughout the whole series and not just in the single installments), and convincing people to read them.
First of all, I LOVED THIS SERIES SO MUCH OK. This was my first Rick Riordan series ever. I didn’t know much of what I could expect but I pretty much can’t name one thing I didn’t like in the whole three books. Since I finished them (which was almost…..four months ago yikes) I’ve actually started reading Percy Jackson and the Olympians so if there is something that I can now add about this series in relation to Riordan’s previous work is that this is like a more diverse and woke version of Percy Jackson and I loved every bit of it.
There’s a common thread along the three books and it’s all about trying to delay Ragnarok (the final battle that will destroy all the nine worlds), which Loki wants to initiate. There’s also a series of subplots at the core of each installment. It’s a very plot/action driven series because it’s meant to be entertaining for a younger audience and as someone who doesn’t care that much about plot/action scenes, let me tell you that this was absolutely great and fun to read. It’s also a perfect balance of plot and character development (which I’ll get to in a bit) so I can’t really complain about anything here.
As we follow the plot we get to learn a lot about Norse mythology and some of its most famous figures, be it giants or gods. Basically Magnus starts out by knowing very little about it and we follow his journey into the Norse myths.
I started this series with absolute zero knowledge of Norse mythology (like, I had a very basic and blurred idea of who Thor was, maybe I knew Odin was like the Main Dude, and I didn’t really know what Loki’s deal was at all…yeah that’s how ignorant I was leave me alone we don’t learn Norse mythology in Italy which is a shame but that’s a discussion for another time) but I absolutely fell in love with it and I really wanted to know more.
Because of my ignorance, I read the series without really knowing how accurate some things were, and I just sort of assumed that some myths were simplified and/or not accurate at all. But after reading, because I became so fascinated with some of the characters and I wanted to know more, I started audiobooking Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman and a lot of the myths he wrote about are actually the same as they were explained or portrayed in the Magnus Chase trilogy. So I think it’s safe to say that it was pretty accurate.
Magnus Chase is the protagonist and we meet him as a homeless teenager. Something happens, and he’s brought to Valhalla by Samirah. The story is entirely told from his point of view (in first person), so we get an idea pretty soon of his personality and his coping mechanisms (mainly sarcasm and irony). I found him to be a perfect narrator, with enough introspection and empathy to understand the other characters’ perspectives, but he can also be a bit clueless and awkward sometimes (relatable). Also, because I know you’re all wondering, yes he is related to Annabeth Chase.
Samirah al-Abbas is the Valkyrie that brings Magnus to Valhalla, and she becomes his friend. She’s also a Muslim and wears a hijab and this is addressed multiple times throughout the trilogy, especially since Magnus (who’s an atheist) often has questions about her faith (and he is always respectful of it). Samirah is always ready to help and fight for her friends and even in the most difficult situations she finds strength in her faith, which I found pretty good to see even as an atheist myself.
Hearthstone and Blitzen are two of Magnus’ friends from his days of being homeless, and they follow him in his adventures. Hearth is an Elf and Blitz is a Dwarf and the two are very close friends. (There’s canonically nothing more to their relationship than a deeply rooted friendship but I’m pretty sure they’re at the very least platonic boyfriends, but that’s just my opinion.) Hearthstone is also deaf and mute and he communicates through sign language, which Blitzen and Magnus (and several other characters) know how to speak (others simply learn it along the way).
Alex Fierro is the only one of the main characters who’s introduced only in book two. I’m going to be using she/her pronouns for her in this post because that’s what she uses most of the time, but she is genderfluid and sometimes uses he/him pronouns. I loved her so much, she is sassy and fierce and doesn’t take crap from anybody. She has fully embraced her heritage (on the gods side) and has made it her strength instead of letting it be something to be ashamed or scared of.
Thomas Jefferson Jr. (TJ), Halfborn Gunderson and Mallory Keen are all einherjar and live on floor 19 of Hotel Valhalla, the same floor where Magnus and then later Alex are assigned. These three characters are present in all the books but they are explored more in the last book, where they all get a full backstory.
One thing I love is how the different characters participate in different quests, and since there are so many subplots and adventures, Magnus has the chance to talk and form a deeper bond with each of them. Sure, some characters are more present than others, but there isn’t one single relationship that is seen as more important than others throughout the narrative (which I feel it’s something that happens fairly often in YA). I’m actually impressed by the development that all of these characters got and how well they were portrayed, even from Magnus’ limited point of view.
One of the main themes is the found family trope, which I absolutely love. A lot of the parents that appear here are downright awful (Loki is one of them but not the only bad parent) or at the very least absent (being gods and all), so it’s nice that the characters are able to find and make their own family.
Magnus calls himself an atheist on page. I start with this because he’s the protagonist and because being an atheist myself it meant so much to me to see myself represented this way, which is something that never really happens. (A discussion post on atheist representation in books is coming soon). He also mentions many times that he doesn’t like physical contact, and it’s only after scary situations that he allows for it to happen (only a few times he hugs/is hugged by his closest friends). His sexuality is not specified but I believe it falls somewhere on the pansexual/panromantic spectrum.
Samirah, as I mentioned before, is a practicing Muslim. In the third book she goes through her quest while observing Ramadan and throughout the trilogy she has a few conversations with Magnus about her faith but also her faith isn’t the only thing about her. I am not Muslim myself but from what I could tell I feel like this was good representation, and I also haven’t seen reviews that said this was in any way bad.
Alex Fierro is genderfluid and of Mexican heritage. I feel like both aspects were handled in a good way, especially the genderfluid part (but also keep in mind that I’m not genderfluid myself). She actually introduces herself right away saying she’s genderfluid and transgender, and she’s about to scold Magnus for staring at her but he quickly says that that’s not the reason why he’s looking. Magnus also mentions how during his homeless days he has met many transgender and genderfluid kids who couldn’t live in their homes anymore, just like Alex (she too has lived as homeless for a few years before becoming an einherji). She is also Magnus’ love interest.
Both Blitzen and TJ are black. Blitzen is a dwarf and he was born and lived his life in Niflheim so he doesn’t have history of racism, but TJ is the son of a freed slave during the Civil War and we learn of the struggles he’s gone through while he was alive.
Hearthstone is a lifelong victim of psychological abuse by his father. It was actually very hard to read and his story takes up a good chunk of books two and three, so be aware of it if this is something potentially triggering to you. Like I mentioned, he’s also deaf and mute and he talks through sign language, which almost all other characters also speak or learn in order to be able to communicate with him directly.
If you’ve read other books from the Riordan universe, you will like this, especially if you thought that the earlier series needed more diversity. Being in the middle of the PJO series myself, I feel like Riordan kept his PJO formula and adapted it to different characters and a different set of gods, and made it so more kids could relate to one or more characters, ones that aren’t white, allocishet, or able-bodied.
So whether you’re nostalgic of the Percy Jackson experience or you’ve never read another Riordan series, I highly recommend this to everyone. The series is targeted to middle graders / the younger side of young adults, but I’ve read it at twent-*coughs while a loud train passes by* and I found it so enjoyable and I wish I could have read it when I was younger.