The Sword of Summer (Magnus Chase and The Gods of Asgard #1)

A Rick Riordan book can be summerized as a diverse lesson in mythology without the feeling you’re learning. Most of the time it’s as thrilling (if not more) and laidback as watching a movie. Only with more diverse casting than Hollywood is known for. It shouldn’t be a surprise that I went into this book expecting just that. But it didn’t deliver on all fronts.

The diverse aspect is delightful. It may even surpass some of his other books because this time he features a deaf character that uses sign language and a very heroic and noble moslim woman. Write what you know, they say. I ask you to ignore that advice like Riordan does. All you need is a lot of research and the gift to not stuff your whole book with all the information you’ve gathered. As a writer myself I look to Rick for inspiration for this. Whether it’s the myths, the modern references or a character’s background you get the feeling he knows what he’s talking about. But it’s never about the knowledge he gathered, rather using it as a tool to bring his characters to life. Even in a book that deals with a lot of afterlives, he managed to do it once again. I love his take on all characters: diverse heroes, villians and especially the Norse gods (with an honorable mention for Loki).

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However I can’t ignore the fact this book took me more than a month to read. At first I thought this was due to the sheer weight of the edition I’m reading. It’s so big that it hurt my wrists reading it in the first few chapters. But as I continued I still wasn’t as stoked as I usually am with his book.
It’s not as exciting or thrilling like the fastpaced adventures of Percy Jackson, Heroes of Olympus and Apollo. When things finally get rolling and the adventure starts it all reads like a caricature, a summary of jokes. The heroes have some bonding, but I wasn’t feeling it. When the book tells me the three best friends welcome another to their group it doesn’t feel as organic as Rick usually pulls off. Only near the end I finally accepted their friendship as a group.

The meetings with gods or slaying of enemies all happen so fast. Despite this the book still feels slow. I think this is due to the start where Rick Riordan takes a lot of time to set up the story. I’m not even sure this is his fault, because even though norse mythology clearly shaped many fantasy stories, the public doesn’t know much about it. So you will have to explain many things about the gods and the afterlife. As with any book he doesn’t spell it out, which is a good thing. But it does take the thrill out of the first half. When he finally decides to speed up the pace I feel like I’m always running behind, trying to catch up to it all but being so caught off guard by it that I never really do.

But as much as you know you can expect Rick Riordan to deliver a diverse myth packed as an adventure novel, it’s also common knowledge that the first book in one of his series is never the best. I have high hopes for the next book.

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Eleanor & Park

Some people can alter your life. Their actions change you, shape you. Who would have thought so the first time you met? Looking back on that first meeting seems impossible, because how could you not see the importance back then? Whether they’re there for the long haul, some people have come into your life to help you. Just as Eleanor helped Park become more authentic to himself and no longer wishing he was invisible on the back on the bus. And how Park helped Eleanor wish she wasn’t invisible at times.

This book is one of my favorite books ever. I wish I could tell you why, but it’s hard to explain. That would be like Eleanor and Park trying to figure out why they like each other. They just do. However I’ve been trying as hard as Park tries to put into words what he loves about Eleanor.
I like the references to geek culture. Whenever books do this it always feels familiar, even if I don’t know the fandoms. It’s just that I can relate very much to falling in love with stories that it puts a smile on my face when characters do this. In theory I could expand my love of this book by listening to all the songs they mentioned. Which reminds me of listening to music a friend (or love interest) recommends to me. That’s how much I care about this book.

Maybe I love it because it’s not love at first sight. At first they look at each other like you might look at any random person you come across. Merely stating the facts viewed through their life experiences. Not knowing that Eleanor takes any scraps of fabric she can finds and puts them on her clothes for anything but a fashion statement.

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I love this book for its dialogue. Not just the nerdy moments, but also Rainbow Rowell’s gift of saying things without rubbing it in your face. In the end you find out the truth has always been there, but its too ugly to face. Too hard to acknowledge.

It’s the details and her ever fun and compelling characters that make the story. Personally I love character driven stories. Rainbow uses the describtions that are unique to her characters, which makes them feel very real and organic.

I love this book because it’s more than just a fluffy romance. To some this feels overdone, to me it feels realistic. It’s in the way Eleanor can’t imagine why anyone could ever like her, because at home and at school she only hears she’s not good enough. Or the fact she’s always cautious, afraid of those moments when she lets go of that fear because that could mean the end. The end of her, the end of them. My high school years very much felt like finding a way to survive and I’m very grateful for every person that made me escape my fears. Even though, like Eleanor, I was afraid to let them get too close. Maybe because that meant I could lose them for they might not stick around if they found out the truth. This must be the biggest part of why I like Eleanor & Park so much. Because a huge chunk of it, are my high school thoughts thrown back at me in a slightly different form. Perhaps that’s also why I always break near the end.

I’m constantly trying to convert people to start reading this. If I had to pick a top 5 of favorite books this might just be the number one. It’s confirmed to me just how much people can make your life better, how it’s silly to begrudge high school bullies and how trying to stay invisble can be one of the bravest acts of them all. And let’s face it. I want to find my own Park.

Eleanor & Park is a novel by Rainbow Rowell. This is my second time reading it. I first read it in January 2014 and this is what I thought about it back then.