Magnus Chase Brings the Hammer Down


Book cover of “The Hammer of Thor”.

Todd Kleiboer, Co-Editor

With its third installation coming Oct. 3, Rick Riordan’s series “Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard” is an adventure into Norse mythology without the boring lectures from instructors, and the second novel “The Hammer of Thor” is no different.

Opening a few months after the first novel’s ending, son of fertility god Frey and Valhallan einherjar Magnus Chase finds himself roped into the task of retrieving Thor’s hammer that, despite the belief that only the worthy can wield it, can very well be stolen.

Loki, Norse god of trickery, is the mastermind behind this scheme but his freedom from thousands of years of punishment for the murder of his sons is his ultimate goal. To make matters a little more complicated, another child of Loki is introduced in this novel: Alex Fierro.

As Magnus Chase fans know, there is already one child of Loki in Valhalla serving as a Valkyrie: Samirah al-Abbas, a close friend of Magnus who oversaw his einherjar selection.

She likewise oversees Alex’s einherjar selection, and Alex’s first appearance is as a cheetah sprinting across Valhalla with Magnus’s floormates chasing her (I’ll be using the feminine pronoun for Alex because she refers to herself as a female for the majority of the novel). Alex is different from most other einherjar in more ways than just her lineage; she’s gender-fluid, switching between male and female genders and complementing her usage of transformation.

She comes under fire for this from the thanes (high officials) of Valhalla and from fellow einherjar as they call her “argr”, Old Norse for unmanly. However, her exploits in the novel prove her right to be an einherjar, Odin’s chosen warriors.

Turning back to Loki’s plot, Magnus is unknowingly manipulated through his friends by Loki to bring the trickster the Skofnung Sword, a magical sword capable of cutting through Loki’s binds. Loki’s manipulation of Magnus certainly earns him the moniker of “The Liar”, and it (spoiler) ultimately succeeds.

The themes addressed in this book are broad, but I like how Riordan doesn’t become too preachy in his novel. Sure, I can tell he’s trying to make a clear point, but it doesn’t drag on for pages about this or that is unfair or wrong. He, through Magnus, says a paragraph or two and moves on.

Only with Alex does he spend more time, but this time is also meant for characterization. In regards to Alex, she explicitly states that she is not the representative for the entire transgender population, and Riordan has a point about that. He made much the same point about Samirah on Twitter, saying “Samirah is obviously not meant to represent all muslimahs, but I hope she falls believably on the spectrum for young US muslimahs.”

However, being a popular young adult author has power, and Riordan surely knows this. Young adult readers may have no contact with the Muslim or transgender population outside of literature, and most will take Samirah or Alex as representatives. However, Riordan counters this by portraying characters that do not fall into stereotypes and perhaps illuminate the diversity of people on Midgard-or Earth.