Book Blitz: The Fever King by Victoria Lee — Excerpt & Giveaway

A few weeks ago I received an ARC of The Fever King by Victoria Lee, one of my most anticipated releases of next year, and weeks after having read it I’m still thinking about it. This is a book you can’t miss out on (YA political fantasy! all-queer cast! important and always-relevant themes such as intergenerational trauma!) and I’m so happy to be able to be part of the book blitz that Xpresso Tours organized, so thank you so much to them for the opportunity!

Read on to find info and preorder links, as well as an excerpt from chapter one and a giveaway for a chance to win one of five ARCs!

 

The Fever King
Victoria Lee
Published by: Skyscape
Publication date: March 1st 2019
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult

In the former United States, sixteen-year-old Noam Álvaro wakes up in a hospital bed, the sole survivor of the viral magic that killed his family and made him a technopath. His ability to control technology attracts the attention of the minister of defense and thrusts him into the magical elite of the nation of Carolinia.

The son of undocumented immigrants, Noam has spent his life fighting for the rights of refugees fleeing magical outbreaks—refugees Carolinia routinely deports with vicious efficiency. Sensing a way to make change, Noam accepts the minister’s offer to teach him the science behind his magic, secretly planning to use it against the government. But then he meets the minister’s son—cruel, dangerous, and achingly beautiful—and the way forward becomes less clear.

Caught between his purpose and his heart, Noam must decide who he can trust and how far he’s willing to go in pursuit of the greater good.

Goodreads / Amazon / Barnes & Noble

EXCERPT FROM CHAPTER 1:

He stood there for a second, staring woozily at the mess while sirens shrieked in his ears. He was sick. Magic festered in his veins, ready to consume him whole.

An outbreak.

His father, when Noam managed to weave his way back to his side, had fallen unconscious. His head lolled forward, and there was a bloody patch on his lap, yellow electricity flickering over the stain. The world undulated around them both in watery waves.

“It’s okay,” Noam said, knowing his dad couldn’t hear him. He sucked in a sharp breath and hitched his father’s body out of the chair. He shouldn’t—he couldn’t just leave him there like that. Noam had carried him around for three years, but today his father weighed twice as much as before. Noam’s arms quivered. His thoughts were white noise.

It’s okay, it’s okay, it’s okay, a voice kept repeating in Noam’s head.

He dumped his father’s body on the bed, skinny limbs sprawling. Noam tried to nudge him into a more comfortable position, but even that took effort. But this . . . it was more than he’d done for his mother. He’d left her corpse swinging on that rope for hours before Brennan had shown up to take her down.

His father still breathed, for now.

How long did it take to die? God, Noam couldn’t remember.

On shaky legs, Noam made his way back to the chair by the window. He couldn’t manage much more. The television kept turning itself on and off again, images blazing across a field of static snow and vanishing just as quickly. Noam saw it out of the corners of his eyes even when he tried not to look, the same way he saw his father’s unconscious body. That would be Noam soon.

Magic crawled like ivy up the sides of the fire escape next door.

Noam imagined his mother waiting for him with a smile and open arms, the past three years just a blink against eternity.

His hands sparked with something silver-blue and bright. Bolts shot between his fingers and flickered up his arms. The effect would have been beautiful were it not so deadly. And yet . . .

A shiver ricocheted up his spine.

Noam held a storm in his hands, and he couldn’t feel a thing.

 

Author Bio:

Victoria Lee grew up in Durham, North Carolina, where she spent twelve ascetic years as a vegetarian before discovering that spicy chicken wings are, in fact, a delicacy. She’s been a state finalist competitive pianist, a hitchhiker, a pizza connoisseur, an EMT, an expat in China and Sweden, and a science doctoral student. She’s also a bit of a snob about fancy whiskey. Lee writes early in the morning and then spends the rest of the day trying to impress her border collie puppy and make her experiments work. She currently lives in Pennsylvania with her partner.

For exclusive updates, excerpts, and giveaways, sign up for Victoria’s newsletter at https://victorialeewrites.com/newsletter/

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Interview with Tara Gilboy, author of “Unwritten” (out on October 16th)

I was lucky enough to have been approved for an ARC of Unwritten by Tara Gilboy, a middle grade novel about a girl who has been taken out of a story into our real world and is trying to find out more about the world she comes from and especially about the author who wrote her in the story in the first place.

What I like about “books about books” is that there’s a lot of potential for reflections about fiction, about characters’ agency, about why we read and why we write stories. This book did just that, on top of an intriguing and sometimes a little dark plot.

I want to thank author Tara Gilboy so much for agreeing to this interview, and thank you to Jolly Fish Press for sending me the ARC through Netgalley!

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Synopsis: Twelve-year-old Gracie Freeman is living a normal life, but she is haunted by the fact that she is actually a character from a story, an unpublished fairy tale she’s never read. When she was a baby, her parents learned that she was supposed to die in the story, and with the help of a magic book, took her out of the story, and into the outside world, where she could be safe.

But Gracie longs to know what the story says about her. Despite her mother’s warnings, Gracie seeks out the story’s author, setting in motion a chain of events that draws herself, her mother, and other former storybook characters back into the forgotten tale. Inside the story, Gracie struggles to navigate the blurred boundary between who she really is and the surprising things the author wrote about her. As the story moves toward its deadly climax, Gracie realizes she’ll have to face a dark truth and figure out her own fairy tale ending.

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Silvia: How would you pitch your story to someone who hasn’t read the blurb?

Tara Gilboy: Thank you so much for having me today! Unwritten is a middle grade novel about a girl who lives in the real world but is actually a fairy tale character whose parents took her out of the story-world when she was a baby, so she could escape the fate of what was written about her. When she seeks out the story’s author, that fate – and the story’s villain — soon catch up with her.

S: Tell us a little bit about the main characters of Unwritten.

TG: The main character of Unwritten is Gracie, and she is a flawed character, which is perhaps why I love her so much. She can be stubborn, and she has a bit of a temper, but she’s also passionate and determined. When her mom refuses to tell her about the story written about her, she takes matters into her own hands. Walter is also a character from the story Gracie was born in. He is quieter than Gracie, and a bit kinder and more insightful, but he can also be stubborn in his own way. He’s less willing to believe in the “magic” of the story world, and is always looking for a scientific explanation. But I think he helps keep Gracie grounded. Both characters are fiercely loyal to one another.

S: What inspired you to write “a story within a story”, so to speak?

TG: You know, it’s interesting, because the idea for this novel didn’t start with it being a “story within a story.” It started with the idea of being on the run from someone. I kept having this recurring dream about being forced to flee in the middle of the night, and packing all my things in the car before some sort of supernatural entity caught up with me. I started playing around with this idea and doing some freewriting about shaping it into a story. What would these characters be running from? That idea kind of gradually evolved into the “story within a story,” which quickly became much more complicated than I had anticipated, with questions about fate and free will. I always smile to myself when readers mention the book being short and simple because there were many, many drafts that were extremely long and confusing while I figured this stuff out.

S: This is your debut. Have you always wanted to become a writer?

TG: Oh, yes, for as long as I can remember. I’ve wanted to write pretty much since I learned to read, and I still have some of the stories I wrote in elementary school. My mom recently gave me a letter I wrote to a publisher when I was in third grade, asking if I could write books for their series. (Apparently she never mailed it!) Unfortunately, until I was in my twenties, I had never actually met a writer, and so writing started to seem like this kind of “impossible dream.” Then in college, I took some creative writing classes, published a couple short stories, and worked as an editor at a literary journal, and I realized: “Hey, I can really do this!”

S: Do your characters sometimes take their destiny on their own hands or do you always have complete control over what you write?

TG: Oh my goodness, my characters ALWAYS take their destiny in their own hands. I am horrible at outlining because if I plan out everything in the story ahead of time, when I sit down to write, everything feels a bit “forced,” as if I am trying to make my characters do things that don’t feel natural for them. I actually just wrote a scene the other day, where at the end of it, a character had done something that took me completely by surprise, and when I had finished the scene, I kind of sat there thinking “Wow. I had no idea that was going to happen when I sat down to write.” But it took the story in a new and wonderful direction I had not anticipated, and was much better than what I had initially planned.

S: What are your favorite stories to read about? How do they inspire you in your own work?

TG: I feel like this changes all the time depending on my mood. Sometimes I go through periods where I am reading a lot of historical fiction, or ghost stories, or classics, or fantasy…. One thing that is consistent, though, is that middle grade and young adult are my absolute favorite books to read – I rarely read adult novels anymore. I feel like in middle grade and young adult novels, the stories are condensed into their essential elements – there’s no room to let the story digress and go off on tangents – so the focus is on telling a good story, which is something that is really important to me. I always start off my writing day by reading: reading books I love keeps me inspired. I’m working on another fantasy right now and reading a lot of Harry Potter to keep myself inspired. I think JK Rowling is a genius at both developing character and creating exciting plots.

S: How did your experiences as a writer influence you when writing the character of Gertrude Winters?

TG: Gertrude’s character is interesting to me because I was so reluctant to bring her into the book in a major way, and I’m not sure why. My critique partners kept telling me in draft after draft that I needed to reveal more of who she is and explain why she had written the story she did. I think in the initial drafts, I really didn’t know why Gertrude wrote the story, or perhaps I was hesitant to really start examining my own creative process through her. I think in some ways Gertrude’s writing process is really an exaggeration of the writing process of many writers. We all kind of “write behind our backs,” so to speak, where we draw on things in our own lives, or repeatedly explore themes that are important to us, sometimes subconsciously. My critique partners have pointed out that a lot of my work explores relationships between mothers and daughters, something that I never set out to do intentionally, but comes up again and again in my writing. Gertrude, I think, takes this tendency even further, basing her characters on people she knows, and drawing on her own experiences in a huge way as she shapes her stories. And, of course, one thing that I have in common with Gertrude is that I love writing villains – they are such interesting characters!

S: I think the way you talked about heroes and villains in this book was brilliant. What do you hope your young readers take away from it?

TG: Thank you so much! This idea of heroes and villains is something that evolved in later drafts, and it is SO important to me. I am so concerned lately by this kind of “call out culture” that is so prevalent on social media right now. Any time someone makes a mistake, or does or says something bad, that mistake can immediately be made public, and more and more, I’ve been seeing people labeled as either “good” or “bad,” without compassion or consideration for “why” the person might have done the things they did. Everyone makes mistakes – we don’t say or do the right things all the time, but the important thing is being able to learn from those mistakes, move on, and try to do better next time. People are so much more complex than the labels we ascribe to them. Heroes often do bad things, and villains are capable of doing good. I hope readers will be inspired from my book to offer compassion and forgiveness when others make mistakes, and consider the whole person, rather than simply the mistake.

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ARC Review: The Queen Of Ieflaria by Effie Calvin // F/F romance with princesses, kittens, dragons and unicorns

I was sent this book as an advanced copy by the publisher via NetGalley for reviewing purposes, but all opinions are my own.  

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★★★.5

Short review: this was good and very gay and it had kittens, dragons and unicorns. You can stop here if that sounds like something you need in your life (and honestly, you can never have enough of all those things).

Actual review: I liked a lot of the stuff in this, and that’s also the biggest problem of this book.

Let me explain, but first let’s talk about what I liked, because as you can see from my rating I did like it.

I liked the main characters Adale and Esofi. I liked them in their differences and on their own. Their romance was sweet, slow paced and even if there was miscommunication it was almost always resolved pretty soon and easily.

The world felt well researched and thought out, and I felt like if given more page time this could become something big and epic. Unfortunately, I think this is where the book fell short: there were a lot of elements that were interesting and I would have loved to see more of, but there just wasn’t enough time to explore everything. I would have liked fewer elements but explored more deeply. One example of this is the science vs religion thing that was only briefly mentioned. The thing is, I can live with something being mentioned in passing, but the way this was shown felt like it was going to have a lot of weigh in the story, when in fact it didn’t. The same could be said about other worldbuilding elements as well as the relationships between the main characters and secondary ones.

One thing I did love about the world was how absolutely not heteronormative this was. Everyone is pan and that’s really cool, I 100% approve.

Overall, I liked it but I felt like too many things were shoved into it, with a world that was too big for 175 pages where we also had to get to know the characters and see a relationship develop.

Nevertheless, it was an enjoyable read and it’s definitely clear that the author has very good worldbuilding skills. I think with a bigger focus on fewer elements and more page time this could easily have been a five stars read.

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What are your favorite mythological creatures?

Book Rant: A Court of Frost and Starlight by Sarah J. Maas

Hardcore SJM fans need not engage, kindly move along without reading this review.

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Summary: The Winter Solstice. In a week. I was still new enough to being High Lady that I had no idea what my formal role was to be. If we’d have a High Priestess do some odious ceremony, as lanthe had done the year before. A year. Gods, nearly a year since Rhys had called in his bargain, desperate to get me away from the poison of the Spring Court to save me from my despair. Had he been only a minute later, the Mother knew what would have happened. Where I’d now be. Snow swirled and eddied in the garden, catching in the brown fibers of the burlap covering the shrubs* My mate who had worked so hard and so selflessly, all without hope that I would ever be with him We had both fought for that love, bled for it. Rhys had died for it.

*why is this book so bad starting from the blurb

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★✩✩✩

Me after finishing the book:

IM FREEEEEE!!!!!!!! WORST EXPERIENCE OF MY FUCKING LIFE

So let’s start by saying this book was almost entirely useless.Things this book has:

• lots of walking around Velaris
• shopping for presents
• lots of bad innuendos
• me physically rolling my eyes every two pages
• way too much internal monologue about who had fucked whom, where and in which position
• one really long and really cringy sex scene
• somehow galaxies were involved in the sex scene and that’s not even the weirdest thing that’s ever happened in a sjm sex scene
• mate mate mate mate mate m a t e ma te ma t e mat e m ate mAtE mATe MATE matE M a te
• “gentlemales”
• I repeat: g e n t l e m a l e s
• a few cute moments
• a few funny moments
• a tiny bit of actual fucking foundation for the next books

Basically Feyre and Rhys need to retire and let secondary characters finally have the spotlight.* The only POVs I genuinely enjoyed were Cassian’s and Nesta’s, which, surprise surprise, will be the focus of the next book. Fucking finally.
*except SJM has a talent for ruining main characters so what happens when secondary characters become the main ones? Uhhh we shall find out I guess.

Speaking more generally, this book was just mostly bad. I’m not only talking about the writing, which needed a lot of editing, but the general feeling surrounding it all. Starting from the blurb, which is just a few sentences from the first chapter copypasted together. People, the blurb doesn’t even make sense. That extra sentence about snow? It shouldn’t be there. They obviously needed one more sentence to make the blurb longer and didn’t know what else to pick. It’s just bad. Whoever did that did a very poor job. And that makes me angry.

Authors, even big ones, still have to fight hard to see their books picked up by publishers, be sold, and then be read and hyped by readers. But apparently that rule doesn’t apply to SJM. The publisher doesn’t even put any effort in pre-release things like writing a decent blurb, because they know her books are going to sell anyway. And I mean, I’m here writing this review because I’ve read this book despite swearing that I was done with this series after ACOWAR, because she has a talent for making you want to know what happens to the characters, even if (especially if) they’re not the main ones.

But the least the author and the publisher could do is put some fucking effort and deliver a product that’s better than this. Instead, it feels like either SJM is a rare case of writer who gets worse every book she writes, or the publisher has decided that she’s still going to sell regardless how many rounds of editing her books get, so they might as well never edit them, thus never delivering a polished book.

Because, folks, we might have started making fun of the word m*te for shits and giggles, but it’s become a big fucking problem, especially in this book. You know the writing advice that says to just use someone’s name when talking about them, instead of saying, idk, “the French girl,” or “the red-haired boy”? SJM has never heard of it. Think about your own internal monologue. Do you think of your spouse as “my spouse” all the time? Or do you simply think about them with their name?

Cassian and my mate’s sister did not speak to each other at all.


This sentence just does not flow. And it’s just one of about 70 times the word m*te was used (and keep in mind this is a 200 pages book). I wonder how many creative writing students failed their assignments for doing exactly what the most hyped YA fantasy author these days does constantly.

Do we also want to have The Talk about the weird connotations and implications that this word has? Oh boy, this conversation is about three years late, but I absolutely Do Not like all this animalistic shit, starting with m*te, moving on to how many times people purr, referring to people as males and females (ah, the good ol’ binary) (YES I FUCKING KNOW SHE CAN’T CALL THEM MEN AND WOMEN BUT JFC JUST STOP), to the weird possessiveness that the whole m*ting system entails. Also!!! Toxic masculinity!!!!!!! Weird unchallenged sexist comments!!!!! Trying to make Rhys sound soooo feminist when apparently his job is being horny 24/7!!!!!! Have Rhys (a literal sexual abuse victim) talk about how he can’t stand to be next to his m*te without, and I quote, BEING BURIED INSIDE HER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Ohhhh now you’ve done it, you got me mad. If you read a SJM book it seems like thinking/talking/having sex for most part of your day is the normalcy. Which it can be!!!! But guess what! Ace people exist!!!! People with low sexual drive exist!!!!!!!!!! That’s normal too!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Oh no I’m using too many exclamation points let me hire an editor. When every single character you portray acts the same exact way towards something like sex, you’re telling your readers (mostly teens) that that’s what’s expected of them, that that’s how everyone is like. It’s no secret that diversity doesn’t exist in SJM’s world, and that involves how people view sex and romantic relationships too.

It’s amazing that YA books have sex positivity. But books need to also acknowledge that ace people exist too. Protagonists and love interests that aren’t some sort of sex gods need to be there too. Thin boys, fat boys, trans boys need to be there too. If after >10 books a writer can’t get out of her own self-insert fantasies about what type of men she likes, maybe she isn’t a great writer after all. Maybe she needs to listen to the (still too small) part of her readers that demand More, that demand Better.

I went on a HUGE tangent and I don’t even fucking care. There were parts of the book that I liked. I even enjoyed most of its central part. I enjoyed Nesta’s PTSD portrayal and she’s the only reason I’m going to read the next book because parts of her trauma and her way of dealing with it have the potential to mean so fucking much to me. But I’m going to lower my rating to 1 star because I’m tired of all the things I mentioned above, I’m tired of being treated like shit by an author and her team because they expect me to worship her when she doesn’t even try anymore. My 1 star isn’t even gonna change anything because everyone’s giving this the usual five stars, but I don’t care. I’m here and as a reader I demand better, I demand the bare fucking minimum, and I don’t think this book even tried.

ARC Review: Circle of Ashes (Wish Quartet #2) by Elise Kova & Lynn Larsh

I was sent this book as an advanced copy by the author for reviewing purposes, but all opinions are my own. 

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Summary:EVERY WISH HAS A COST BUT WILL THE SOCIETY BE WILLING TO PAY IT? 

Once a hacker-for-hire living in the shadows, Josephina “Jo” Espinosa is the newest member of a magical Society. Their mandate? To grant the wishes of mortals. A simple enough task until Jo is faced with an impossible wish – and her inability to grant it might spell disaster for her entire team, if not the Society itself. 

Jo is used to high-pressure situations, but after a string of disasters, the last thing she needs is stakes of this magnitude. Especially given that neither she nor the Society know quite what the consequences of failing to grant a wish might be. 

The only person with answers is the Society’s aloof and cryptic leader, Snow. Yet while Jo is enigmatically drawn to the man, all their clandestine encounters leave her with only more questions about the true nature of the Society, her magic, and her own history. 

Time is running out for the Society, and an executioner will rise from among them to exact the price of failure.

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★★★.5

I liked this book much more than the first one. Almost all the main problems I had with Society of Wishes weren’t present here, so that was definitely a plus.

I enjoyed the plot and it was much easier to get invested in it compared to book one. The stakes were really high and I just wanted to know what came next. I also think there was more than one plot hole, some more obvious than others, so if you’re someone who cares a lot about the plot maybe that would bother you more than it did me.

I think the characters, and especially Jo, were also better fleshed out here. I enjoyed getting to know more about some of them and I have a few theories about some of them, and I’m curious to know if I’m right. Also let it be known that Nico has my undying love.

That said, I’m still not fully invested in the romance between Jo and Snow. I also have theories about it though, so I’m hoping that things will make sense after a future reveal. I still should be able to feel a chemistry between them, something I still don’t feel halfway into the series.

I’m also……….not okay with the way the book ended. It felt very unnecessary and just a way to finally establish a certain someone as the villain (something that so far wasn’t confirmed). I don’t mind when certain events happen, but they need to make some sort of sense and while I can kind of see why it was the only choice that made sense, I also found it to be anticlimactic.

Despite its flaws, I had a good time reading it (I also read it super fast for some reason) and I’m looking forward to the next book!

#T5W: Auto-Buy SFF Authors

Top Five Wednesday is a book meme that Lainey started and I discovered through the lovely Samantha‘s videos. If you’re interested you can join the goodreads group to get the topics for each week.

This week’s topic:

April 11: Auto-Buy Scifi and Fantasy Authors – Booktube SFF Awards Babble Crossover Topic! 
— This month’s crossover topic is your auto-buy authors that write SFF.

Victoria Schwab: granted I’ve only read Shades of Magic and Vicious (because I have commitment issues and also I’m a mood reader), I’m still going to buy all her books, both the ones already out and the upcoming ones.

Leigh Bardugo: I already own everything by her and have read all of it except The Language of Thorns (but I have my beautiful hardcover that I look at when I’m feeling sad). I will definitely buy everything she writes, no matter what genre.

Jay Kristoff: granted I haven’t read his early work and I’m probably not going to, I fell in love with Nevernight and Godsgrave, and of course I love The Illuminae Files, so I’m pretty sure I’m going to want to check out everything he writes. I am aware that he’s used some problematic things in his books here and there and I also don’t always agree with his online behavior, but if I have to choose only one problematic favorite to stan for the rest of my life, it’ll be him (unless he does something truly unforgivable, then I’m returning my stan card).

Rick Riordan: listen. I’m still getting through all his books so this is both a case of retroactive auto-buy and future auto-buy if that makes sense. I’m not totally sure if he counts as fantasy author but hey, mythology is kind of fantasy okay.

Elise Kova: I really love her ability to create new words and concepts. Sometimes I might not like the executions of the romantic tropes or stuff like that, but so far I’ve read (or partially read) all of her series and there isn’t one world that’s similar to another and they all blow my mind in their originality. So I’m pretty sure I’m going to keep buying her books.

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Who are your auto-buy SFF authors? What makes you say, “I’m going to have to buy everything this author writes”?

Series review: Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard by Rick Riordan

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Have you read this series? What did you think of it? Are you a life-long Riordan fan? Do you like series reviews like this or do you prefer single installments reviews? Let me know below ♥