Beyond Books, Discussion Starters, Fantasy, Reflections
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Should You Read Rick Riordan’s Latest: Magnus Chase?

magnus-chaseMagnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard: The Hammer of Thor

Rick Riordan’s The Hammer of Thor is the second book in his Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard series. After saving the world, sixteen year old Magnus Chase and his friends are thrown headlong into another adventure orchestrated by the god of mischief, Loki. Thor’s hammer has been stolen and it’s up to Magnus to find it before giants attack and Ragnorak (the Norse Apocalypse) is unleashed.

While I did not think the first book was appropriate for the middle grade audience, I enjoyed the story and I had hope that this book would continue to engage an older teen audience. Unfortunately, when I got about a third of the way through the book, the cautions became too great for me to be able to recommend this story to our audience here at Redeemed Reader.

Giving a Voice to the Marginalized

Rick Riordan is an author who is unafraid to give a voice to characters who may be marginalized or misunderstood in society. In the Percy Jackson series, Percy is an ADHD kid who never fit the mold of traditional learning. Percy was a symbol of hope for other kids with learning disabilities. As a teacher, I saw firsthand how special Riordan’s series was to students who felt like their differences were a handicap.

Through the years, Riordan sought to give a voice to students of different races, talents, and backgrounds. One of my favorite aspects about his work is that he writes diverse characters for a diverse audience. He normally treats characters and their struggles with respect, but lately his work has seemed less respectful to those characters he wants to explore.

Turning a Corner

This latest installment highlights this lack of respect in glaring technicolor. Riordan introduces Alex Fierro, a trans-gender, gender fluid teenage shapeshifter. Alex is a child of Loki who wants to break free of the god’s powerful hold. The introduction of Alex felt forced, especially when other characters are constantly left wondering what gender the teen will identify with at any given moment. This is treated by the author as something that other characters have to accept, respect, and if they are confused or hesitant, they (and the reader) are treated to a lecture on tolerance.

While Alex certainly has a painful backstory, other characters in Riordan’s world who have painful stories have refused to let their pasts define them. A great example of this would be Samirah al-Abbas, another child of Loki who is a Muslim. She’s had to endure many obstacles during her life, but is a brave, well-rounded character who is treated by the author with respect. Riordan beautifully portrays her heart and desire to honor her culture and family. Her heritage is brought up frequently, but she does not wear it as a chip on her shoulder. She quietly encourages Magnus (an atheist) to open his mind and heart.

Alex, on the other hand, is not given the same courtesy by the author. Riordan uses Alex to force tolerance in his readers. The subject is approached multiple times, and Alex’s spiteful attitude towards the world is given a pass because of the pain he endured.

In Conclusion

Riordan’s treatment of LGBTQ issues has been disrespectful to both the characters and the audience. Young readers should not be bullied into tolerance. Riordan spends a good deal of time convincing readers that to disagree with an LGBTQ lifestyle is to be narrow minded. Along those same lines, characters in a story should have room to grow and should be identified beyond their sexuality, race, gender, and special skill set. Samirah al-Abbas is given goals (she wants to be a female pilot), a sense of humor, integrity, and loyalty. Alex is forced into the box of sexual identity. We as people should not be reduced to one aspect of ourselves and neither should these characters.

Riordan may believe he is giving a voice to the voiceless, but his brash manner and heavy handed language will alienate readers who used to love his work, and does a disservice to anyone who feels excluded in our society.

We’ve given Riordan a lot of attention here at Redeemed Reader–one summer, The Lightning Thief was one of our official Summer Reading picks! As always, we encourage our readers to be discerning; one author’s body of work is not always equally bad OR good. For reviews of/coverage of Riordan’s other works, see our posts on Percy Jackson and the Olympians, The Mark of Athena (Heroes of Olympus 3), A Reflection on Rick Riordan, The Trials of Apollo (book 1), The Lightning Thief Movie, The Lightning Thief (Summer Reading), The House of Hades, Sea of Monsters Movie
Talk amongst yourselves...

5 Comments

  1. Justine says

    I enjoyed your thoughts on this. I am a reader who loved reading Riordan’s books. As more have been written, I have not enjoyed the social agenda. Writing is a powerful thing. I will not steer my children away from the earlier books but will definitely not have them reading the later ones.

    • Alysha says

      Justine,
      Thank you for the comment, and I agree with you, writing is a powerful thing. The earlier works are a wonderful resource for readers!

  2. Pingback: Rick Riordan Makes His Case. Or Not Really -

  3. Fierrochase says

    I do not understand what you mean by “brash manner” and “heavy handed language”. He is trying to capture Magnus’s emotions through that tone. Magnus is a bottler, trying to hide his true feelings while spreading positivity. Alex is similarly a botter, and both of them are sarcastic to hide a darker past which they both share. They were both homeless, they both had rick jerk relatives, and they both complement each other nicely. I fell in love with Alex’s character – its just so refreshing to see some attitude and a bringing down of the cis-tem. I agree that these topics are more for the 14+ age group as such topics may be hard for young audiences. And can we agree that it’s cute that Magnus likes Alex? Atleast I think it is. I am hoping that Alex likes him back but I have to wait and see.

    • Alysha says

      Fierrochase,

      Thank you for your response. I feel like we should clarify some terms. I did not think Riordan’s writing style was brash or heavy handed. Yes, he is trying to set a tone…I thought that his treatment of Alex was brash and heavy handed. Riordan, although writing for a primarily middle-grade audience, threw in themes and ideas that some younger readers would not be able to process. Riordan created a character who is full of resentment, and uninterested in the feelings and opinions of others unless they completely agree.

      I got a different vibe from the story. Magnus has no problem expressing his feelings: look at his frank conversations with Sam, Blitz, and Hearth. Both he and Alex feel no need to expressly hide their pasts. They both have a history of homelessness and feeling rejected by society, but they both express that to one another and other characters. I agree that the sarcasm is a defense mechanism in both of their cases, but there comes a point where sarcasm ceases to be funny and begins to feel like an attack.

      I’m glad we can agree that the book should have been marketed to an older audience, but I’m afraid that’s the only main point on which we can agree.

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