Magnus Chase and the Ship of the Dead book review

Riordan strikes again.

If humans were renditions of Greek gods – I’m using Greek because I’m most familiar with them – then Rick Riordan would probably be Hermes. I say so because he’s become the undisputed mouthpiece of the gods. The tales he writes are every bit as endearing as they are fascinating. And I’m willing to bet a dime, that you have at one point in your reading history, read or come across one of his works.

I’ve been an avid reader of said works since the Percy Jackson series which undoubtedly is my all-time favorite. I got hooked from the first book. You can vividly imagine me fangirling – much better than fanboying – when the movie was released. Following Riordan’s adventures, I’ve indulged in the Greek, Roman, Egyptian, and now the Norse gods. And it’s been quite a ride.

This book, Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard; the Ship of the Dead, is the final installment in the Magnus Chase series. As a bit of backstory, the series follows Magnus Chase – who just happens to be a cousin to Annabeth Chase, Percy Jackson’s girlfriend. Magnus is a Boston local, who lost his mother early and grew up on the streets, adhering to his mother’s warning to not go to his well-to-do uncle. But when he does visit his uncle, he’s cajoled into finding Sumarbrandr, his godly father’s lost sword. He summons the fire giant Surt in doing so, and dies in the proceeding fight.

But, being of Nordic descent, he is taken to Valhalla, joining Odin’s brave warriors, the einherji, pending Ragnarok – the Nordic apocalypse. He’s been making friends and going on quests ever since, which is the best oversimplification one could give.

This book however, details Magnus’ latest quest. After Loki – the god of trickery and mischief – was released from his hold in book two, he raised an army of undead (see what I did there?) and giants alike. This army was to set sail on Naglfar, the ship of the dead, to begin Ragnarok. Our hero’s job is to stop Loki before the ship ever sails, or risk the destruction of the nine realms. No pressure.

With all the praise rendered earlier, it’s no surprise that I actually enjoyed this book. Being almost completely versed in Greek mythology, it was a bit of an adjustment to stop wondering why someone wouldn’t summon powers once in a while to gain the edge. But the book was enjoyable, even without an oversized parentage branding.

Most of the characters in the book didn’t even have warrior parents. Magnus is a child of Frey, the god of summer and fertility. And a couple other yellow things. Both Samirah, the Valkyrie, and Alex (who is gender-fluid by the way) are children of Loki. Loki is known for his way with words, not strength on the battlefield. I believe that Riordan was in this way trying to prove that much of what we become can have nothing to do with our parents. Even if they leave us gifts in our genes.

The story is told by Magnus, whose sarcastic abilities give the book its humour. Most of the jokes are either told by Magnus himself, or his friends explaining things to him. He really is clueless at times. And other times, he has those moments of genius that make you want to hug the life into(out of?) his dead body.

Samirah, the Valkyrie has to be the most enduring in this book. Practically everything happened in the month of Ramadan. And being a Muslim, Sam was fasting. But if you thought that would weaken her, you couldn’t be more wrong. Sam expressed that fasting (and praying the postulated five times a day) helped her focus and renewed her strength, making her invulnerable to Loki’s tactics and tricks. She also has a battle axe and a spear of light. That might’ve helped.

This book brought together the characters we’ve grown to love from earlier books. Mallory Keen, T.J and Halfborn Gunderson from floor nineteen, with Blitzen and Hearthstone who have been keeping an eye on Magnus even while he was on the streets. There was a lot more focus on the deaf elf, Hearthstone, who again had to visit his father. But this time, what he finds is even worse than what he left behind. You wouldn’t think Mr Alderman could get any worse.

Also focused on, was Alex Fierro. The gender-fluid child of Loki had some more adventures in this book, including one in Jotunheim that was nothing short of heartwarming. I particularly liked how Riordan showed that gender fluid people could be … fluid in their choices of pronouns and really anything that signifies a specific gender. That and that shape-shifting is really, really cool.

The book progressed mainly with a viking vibe, with the extremely tall giants, human-sized dwarves and teeth chattering words completing the out-of-this-world experience. But the flow is immediately evident. Riordan explains with sensual continuity what would otherwise be dressed down as a story too foreign.

Perhaps that’s why it’s a beautiful read. The skills of the master storyteller really come to play in this book, so much so that even Vikings and halfborns and a land without nightfall seem oddly normal. An excellent read, if you’re wondering.

Side note, the book is actually titled Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard; The Ship of the Dead. But we can all agree on the extraordinary length of said title. If you feel so inclined, you can get the book here. Thank you for taking the time to read this review. Subscribe so you don’t miss new posts, and as always, have fun reading!

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