The Hammer of Thor: It’s Hammer Time in the Nine Worlds

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The Hammer of Thor by Rick Riordan YA fantasy book reviewsThe Hammer of Thor by Rick Riordan

The god Thor has lost his hammer again, but this time it’s even worse: the giant Thrym has gotten hold of it and has hidden it away where no one else can reach it. If the hammer isn’t returned to Thor quickly, enemies of Asgard will take advantage of their weakness and attack, triggering Ragnarok, the battle at the end of the world, and bringing massive death and destruction in the Nine Worlds.

Loki the trickster, who has been chained up by the other gods as punishment for his misdeeds, visits Magnus Chase in a dream (Loki gets around pretty well in dreamland). He tells Magnus that he’s worked out a deal to get Thor’s hammer back: all Magnus has to do is bring Thrym a certain bride for a wedding in five days, along with the bride-price, and Thrym will give back the hammer as his wedding gift.

There are just a few problems with this plan: The intended bride is the Valkyrie Samirah, Magnus’ friend and Loki’s daughter, who is already engaged to another man and, by the way, has absolutely no interest in marrying a giant. The bride-price that Magnus is supposed to bring to the giant is the magical Skofnung Sword, hidden in a mummified Danish king’s tomb and protected by zombie Viking guards. And certainly not least is the fact that Loki certainly has a scheme, his own devious reason for brokering this deal … if only Magnus could figure out what it is. But Magnus doesn’t see any choice but to go along with the plan, at least for now. Luckily he has his friends Samirah, Blitzen the fashion-forward dwarf, and the elf Hearthstone to help him, as well as a new acquaintance, Alex Fierro, the latest addition to the halls of Valhalla.

The Hammer of Thor (2016) doesn’t diverge from Rick Riordan’s formula of mythological gods and smart-aleck half-blood children who are sent off on various quests and adventures in each book, but Riordan excels at telling a fast-paced, humorous adventure. Magnus’ talkative sword Sumarbrander, the Sword of Summer (fondly known as “Jack”) is back in full force, chatting with Magnus, flying through the air to fight enemies all by himself, and ill-advisedly falling in love with the lovely and deadly Skofnung Sword. Samirah and Hearthstone both become more fully fleshed out characters, as we get to know more about their lives and backgrounds, particularly when we visit Hearthstone’s family home in Alfheim. Thor’s hammer strikes me as a bit of a MacGuffin, an object whose primary function is to advance the plot and, entertaining as it was, I’m not certain the overarching plot of this series was advanced much in this middle book. While the plot is amusing and we explore a few more of the Nine Worlds, the entire book struck me as a rather elaborate way to set up just one particular event that occurs toward the end.

The most notable difference from his earlier books is that Riordan is making an appreciable effort to include more diverse characters, particularly in the MAGNUS CHASE AND THE GODS OF ASGARD series: Magnus is a formerly homeless teen, Hearthstone the elf is deaf, and Magnus’s closest companion is Samirah, a devout Muslim. Now in The Hammer of Thor we meet the gender-fluid Alex, whose self-identification as either male or female can change from day to day. Like Samirah, Alex is a child of the trickster god Loki, who in the traditional Norse legends was able to change his sex: he often disguised himself as a woman. So it does make sense for Loki to have a gender-fluid child. There’s a slightly clunky lecturing tone to Magnus’ discussions with Alex about respecting Alex’s current gender choice and calling Alex by the gender he/she currently identifies as, but overall this somewhat touchy subject is handled sensitively and in a way that most will consider appropriate for its intended age group of readers.

The MAGNUS CHASE AND THE GODS OF ASGARD series is generally light-hearted and humorous, though it does include a fair amount of violence and mayhem, in a nod to the warlike Viking culture that inspires this series. Most of the time the violence is played for comic effect, so it’s not likely to traumatize any but the most sensitive readers. The Hammer of Thor is a solid story; it might not appeal to readers who are tired of Riordan’s formula, but it will almost certainly please the Riordan fan in your house.

~Tadiana Jones


The Hammer of Thor by Rick Riordan YA fantasy book reviewsTadiana’s absolutely correct in saying that Rick Riordan, like most authors who craft multiple series, has a formula in play for his MAGNUS CHASE books — a grand quest is given and an object must be retrieved, and progress toward that goal is made up of smaller quests which must be completed in order to gain a helpful item or piece of information that aids in completion of the larger goal. It’s not all that different from reading Norse folklore, really, but what makes Riordan’s stories shine is his skill in creating characters and dialogue that jump off the page. Sure, the “gender identity” lectures in Magnus Chase and the Hammer of Thor are a little clunky and awkward, but the fact that Riordan’s firmly invested in providing a diverse group of characters who talk about real issues that affect real people is a wise move, considering the target audience. Overall, I thought this was a fun book, and of course I’m very interested to see where the series goes from here.

~Jana Nyman

Published October 4, 2016. Thor’s hammer is missing again. The thunder god has a disturbing habit of misplacing his weapon–the mightiest force in the Nine Worlds. But this time the hammer isn’t just lost, it has fallen into enemy hands. If Magnus Chase and his friends can’t retrieve the hammer quickly, the mortal worlds will be defenseless against an onslaught of giants. Ragnarok will begin. The Nine Worlds will burn. Unfortunately, the only person who can broker a deal for the hammer’s return is the gods’ worst enemy, Loki–and the price he wants is very high.

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TADIANA JONES, on our staff since July 2015, is an intellectual property lawyer with a BA in English. She inherited her love of classic and hard SF from her father and her love of fantasy and fairy tales from her mother. She lives with her husband and four children in a small town near the mountains in Utah. Tadiana juggles her career, her family, and her love for reading, travel and art, only occasionally dropping balls. She likes complex and layered stories and characters with hidden depths. Favorite authors include Lois McMaster Bujold, Brandon Sanderson, Robin McKinley, Connie Willis, Isaac Asimov, Larry Niven, Megan Whalen Turner, Patricia McKillip, Mary Stewart, Ilona Andrews, and Susanna Clarke.

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JANA NYMAN, with us since January 2015, is a freelance copy-editor who has lived all over the United States, but recently settled in Colorado with her dog and a Wookiee. Jana was exposed to science fiction and fantasy at an early age, watching Star Wars and Star Trek movie marathons with her family and reading works by Robert Heinlein and Ray Bradbury WAY before she was old enough to understand them; thus began a lifelong fascination with what it means to be human. Jana enjoys reading all kinds of books, but her particular favorites are fairy- and folktales (old and new), fantasy involving dragons or other mythological beasties, contemporary science fiction, and superhero fiction. Some of her favorite authors are Bradbury, James Tiptree, Jr., Madeleine L'Engle, and Philip Pullman.

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3 comments

  1. I am really, really looking forward to reading this one — even if Riordan isn’t breaking much new ground, his stories and characters are always fun. And I love the cover art for the series!

  2. His books are great fun.

    Let’s all chip in and get Thor a “clapper” for Christmas, so he can keep track of his magical hammer.

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