Rick Riordan, author of the famous Percy Jackson series is back doing what he does best with the first book in his newest series: Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard. Within other series Riordan has already explored what Greek, Roman, and Egyptian mythology would look like in the modern world. In this newest adventure we see his take on the Nordic gods such as Thor, Loki, and Odin.
If you enjoyed Riordan’s wit in his other books, you’ll love The Sword of Summer. He pulls out all the stops and lets loose with the humor. Everything from heroes, villains, and even the chapter titles are written with an ever-present comedic flair. Most of the humor is a result of strange Nordic mythology being viewed through the teenage eyes of Magnus, including a compare and contrast between Marvel’s Thor and the “actual” Thor. It always impresses me when an adult author can dive back into the mind of kids and believably present a world as understood by a teenaged protagonist.
Magnus dies. And no, that is not a spoiler. At the very beginning of the book we see a very quick look into Magnus’ life, and then see him lose it. On his 16th birthday he loses some sort of mystical protection demi-gods have and he is instantly thrust into the world of Norse mythology. He does a decent job defeating the first giant who comes to attack him, but ends up getting killed in the process. And that is how his story begins.
Magnus’ tale continues as he is enlisted in Odin’s army of afterlife warriors. His job is now to train and prepare to battle in Ragnorak, a kind of Nordic “end times” where the forces of good and evil do battle. However, Magnus has other worries other than waiting around for Ragnorak. He wants to find his mom, god-dad, and figure out how to stop an ominous prophecy that says he’ll be the cause of Ragnorak. A classic mythological tale ensues, where Magnus needs help from various gods each sending him on some side-quest for their often petty desires. Along the way he makes friends, enemies, and figures out his new abilities. But in the end… I’ll let you find out what happens.
Living After Death
Most stories keep you on the edge of your seat because you fear for the protagonist’s life. Even the conclusion of most stories are defined by one main point, did the hero live or die? Riordan offers a fairly unique approach by killing off his hero at the offset and exploring the afterlife with him. In most stories, death is something to be feared. For Magnus Chase, death is just the beginning, the start of a new and better adventure.
Within Western society, fewer and fewer people believe in an afterlife and it is definitely not something that is considered normal to talk about. Some friends once told me about a young girl they helped take care of who suffered from a mortal illness. This girl wouldn’t live past her young teen years, and these friends told this little girl about how Jesus offers a new life with him when we’ve left this one. Sadly, the parents were upset saying that they should not be confusing their daughter with false hope. Obviously, the parents wishes were respected and I’m not judging them for doing what they honestly thought would be best for their daughter. But I do think it is a powerful example of the dwindling belief of an afterlife.
Why doesn’t anyone want to talk about life after death anymore?
I think part of the problem is that we are constantly shielding ourselves from the reality of death. So many elderly are left in nursing homes with no family coming to visit. I hear of parents not bringing their kids to their grandparents funeral because it would be too traumatic. I’ve even seen a dad told that he was “barbaric” for teaching his son how to hunt, kill, clean, and cook a turkey.
I think the main problem is that we are far too obsessed with this life. We think we should be free to do whatever we want in this life and not be worried about any potential rewards or consequences in the next. I recently helped conduct a survey at a state university asking students what their religious beliefs were. One obviously popular young lady with about 5 admirers in tow promptly blew us off saying “I don’t have time to think about that”.
With death looming in the background of every single person’s life story, I believe not many things could be worth considering more than what we believe about what happens after death. I don’t suggest to consider life after death only as an exercise to speculate about what will happen, but because what we believe about life after death has very real effects on what we do with this life. As an extreme case, Islamic suicide bombers believe that their martyrdom will ensure paradise. A monk seeking Nirvana will detach himself from all relationships in this life. Someone who believes that there is nothing after death is free to pursue anything he finds pleasurable without fear of eternal consequences.
I found it very refreshing to see a story set in the middle of what so many people won’t speak of-an afterlife. In Magnus’ world, a better life full of possibility awaited him. For myself, I foresee an even better life of peace, satisfaction, fulfillment, and love. I’m convinced that there is only two possible destinations after death. The worse destination has endless paths to get there. The other only has One. So I’m devoting my life to pointing people to the only Way, Truth, and Life.
You can contact Tim at email@example.com