Magnus Chase series ends with a tailwind

Todd Kleiboer, Co-Editor

Courtesy | Rick Riordan website

The Big Banana has set sail for now, but Rick Riordan’s third installment of the Magnus Chase series “The Ship of the Dead” leaves readers dazed with its action-packed adventure with romantic undertones as Magnus strives to stop Loki from starting Ragnarok, the end of all nine worlds.

With his fellow floormates, Samirah the Valkyrie, and his friends Blitzen and Hearthstone, Magnus Chase travels across the pond on the Big Banana (the neon yellow Viking longship gifted by his godly dad) to England and Norway, and each of these places is given its own unique personality.

York, England is a bustling city whose architecture is a mishmash of different historic time periods, and its significance comes from the mouth of TJ, or Thomas Jefferson, Jr., a black Union soldier who died bravely in charging a fort. He states that the Union’s biggest worry was Britain siding with the Confederacy because the war threatened the cotton industry centered in the South, and he had dreamed of one day traveling to Britain to thank the people. It is an important scene in characterizing TJ, and other floormates are given more time who before were just pure personalities with no gripping backgrounds.

For the berserker Halfborn Gunderson, York was not as friendly a city. It is where he died in a battle centuries before to take control of the then small village, and he at times softens and regrets leaving his home to fight for fame.

In the sleepy village of Flam, Norway, Halfborn Gunderson comes to the forefront again as he states that this is his birthplace where he had hoped to return with the fjord ringing with his praises, and Mallory Keen later reveals that she died trying to defuse a bomb on a bus full of children, Loki having goaded her into planting it. Frigg, the queen of Asgard, also appears to tell Mallory that the young einherjar is her daughter.

This renewed focus on Magnus’s floormates is a welcome change, and it gives York and Flam a certain sense of importance to the characters beyond it being a site for combat. However, more time could have been devoted to building the setting as each whizzed by in the fast pace of the novel, leaving its outline fuzzy and unclear but purpose unquestioned.

Different settings are certainly interesting, but in the last novel of the series, the setting should have been a little more stable. It creates a rushed feeling, and while it gives diversity to the novel, each setting can be shallow in its treatment.

In the course of the novel, romance buds between Alex (she/her) and Magnus, and it follows much the same course as Percy Jackson and Annabeth Chase, Magnus’s cousin. Magnus is unsure of his feelings, and it is largely up to Alex to make the first move as she kisses him under a blanket in the deadening cold of Niflheim.

Magnus continues to be unsure after that, and after he shouts the kiss was the best thing that has ever happened to him during the very public flyting of Loki, Alex (then he/him) clears the air by kissing Magnus again. Then Magnus is very sure of his feelings.

As with the other books of the series, Riordan does not shy away from potentially controversial topics. When Samirah talks about her faith and says the phrase “Allahu akbar”, Magnus notes his uneasiness about the phrase and ties it to terrorism; however, he listens to Samirah’s explanation of the phrase which means “God is greater”, imbuing it with heavy significance for those of the Muslim faith.

Also, when Alex, then using the masculine pronouns, kisses Magnus, his thoughts are split between “I just kissed a dude” and “I was just kissed by Alex Fierro, the greatest thing to ever happen to me.” Obviously, the latter thought wins as they continue their relationship.