Tag Archives: mythology

The Hammer of Thor Review

hammer_of_thorThe Hammer of Thor (Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard, Book 2) by Rick Riordan

Disney-Hyperion, 2016. 978-1423160922

Synopsis: How do you follow up almost starting Ragnarok? Well, in my case, you do it by hastening it. I know what you’re thinking: Magnus, how do you hasten the end of the world? Answer: Because Loki. The God of Mischief has something mischievous up his sleeve (metaphor, since he’s y’know, tied to a rock with poison being dripped in his face presumably not wearing much clothing) and he’s gotten not only my Uncle Randolph roped in, but he’s using his kids as pawns too. Which is bad news for Sam since she’s the one that seems to have the most to lose – even in a best case scenario.

Why I picked it up: I like wise-cracking teens and Norse Gods. Especially together.

Why I finished it: I mentioned in another review that Riordan’s books seem formulaic; while this one isn’t any different in terms of the formula department, Riordan has at least mixed it up a little for his readers by going a little bit more outside the box with his characters. They feel more rounded somehow, like even though they are involved in this supernatural world there is still the real world to contend with as well. The fluidity with which the real world relates to the supernatural seems much more urgent and apparent, perhaps because of the juxtaposition between Magnus and Sam. Magnus is dead, but can still cross over to the real world while Sam is still alive and can cross into the world of the dead. Sam still has family and school and everyday teen problems to deal with on top of whatever supernatural duties go along with being a Valkyrie, helping ground the reader even as we are rocketing among the Nine Worlds. Magnus’s wit and sarcasm add a certain spin to the dire situations in which our characters seem to find themselves, keeping the reader eager for the sort of tongue-in-cheek style that has defined the protagonist. I think it’s somewhat poignant that Riordan has introduced a gender fluid character to the cast – it shows he’s keeping with the times and getting in touch with his audience. Really I think what I got most out of this volume is the idea that we might not be able to change where we came from, but we can define who we are in a way that is true to ourselves and how we want the world to see us. We don’t all fit the labels that society wants to place on us – we need to be able to defend our identities and be comfortable in our own skins. We all need to have confidence in who we are and what we believe in, even if it might seem strange or hard to understand. And on the flip side, we need to be understanding and supportive of those around us, even if we don’t always agree with their point of view – that’s how I see it, in any case. It’s a surprisingly fast read considering the book is a hefty 480 pages and I’m eager to see what new adventure and danger Magnus and his friends will face when the third book comes out in the fall.

Other related materials: The Sword of Summer (Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard, Book 1) by Rick Riordan; The Ship of the Dead (Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard, Book 3) by Rick Riordan;  Gods and Goddesses of the Ancient Norse by Leonard Everett Fisher; Usborne Illustrated Guide to Norse Myths and Legends by Cheryl Evans and Anne Millard, illustrated by Rodney Matthews; Favorite Norse Myths retold by Mary Pope Osborne, illustrated by Troy Howell; Treasury of Norse Mythology: Stories of Intrigue, Trickery, Love, and Revenge by Donna Jo Napoli, illustrated by Christina Balit; D’Aulaires’ Book of Norse Myths by Ingri D’Aularie and Edgar Parin D’Aularie; The Blackwell Pages books by K.L. Armstrong and M.A. Marr; The Sea of Trolls trilogy by Nancy Farmer; The Usborne Book of Greek and Norse Legends illustrated by Rodney Matthews; Percy Jackson and the Olympians series by Rick Riordan; The Heroes of Olympus series by Rick Riordan; The Trials of Apollo series by Rick Riordan; The Kane Chronicles books by Rick Riordan

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Kid Beowulf: The Blood-Bound Oath Review

kid_beowulf_1Kid Beowulf: The Blood-Bound Oath by Alexis E. Fajardo

Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2016. 978-1449475895

Synopsis: You’ve heard of the epic poem Beowulf. This is the story of what happens before Beowulf becomes the hero of Norse myth and song. This is the story of Beowulf and his brother Grendel before they became enemies. This is the story of how a king broke his word and tore his family and people apart. So forget everything you know or what you think you know about these characters and join them on new adventures before they became legend.

Why I picked it up: I’m sometimes leery of a reworking of the classics, but this one piqued my interest.

Why I finished it: This comic has a little bit of something for everyone: adventure, action, mystery, and more. It takes what we know about the classic poem and makes it into a much more universally understood story about the first European peoples, their thirst for power, and how desire can ruin even the best intentions. The story traces back to Beowulf’s grandfather, King Hrothgar (pronounced Roth-gar), who makes a deal with a dragon in order to gain power to rule. The first couple of chapters are pretty standard myth, really: betrayal, cheating, stealing, sleeping around, uneasy truces. It’s the last chapter that really has most of the meat to it, since that is when we meet young Beowulf and Grendel. Both are unaware of the other’s existence, both having lived their separate lives until they are both captured and offered as entertainment for the Heathobards (the clan at war with the Danes, the clan of their grandfather). Besides the apparent lesson of being careful what you wish for, there’s also an element of think before you act that runs through much of the story. Again, nothing we haven’t heard before, but something about the way Farjado is presenting the story makes it seem a little less in-your face. I’m loving the art in this comic as well – for being such a serious story, Farjadas has infused bursts of color to give it almost a jaunty, fun feeling that draws you in. It gives the characters a more figurative color and we feel more attached to them. I’m so excited for this series and I can’t wait to read more!

Other related materials: Kid Beowulf: The Song of Roland by Alexis E. Fajardo; Kid Beowulf: The Rise of El Cid by Alexis E. Fajardo; Kid Beowulf Eddas: Shild and the Dragon by Alexis E. Fajardo; Bone series by Jeff Smith; Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard books by Rick Riordan; Percy Jackson and the Olympians series by Rick Riordan; Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling; Avatar: The Last Airbender series by Gene Luen Yang, Michael Dante DiMartino, Gurihiru, and Bryan Koneitzko

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The Hidden Oracle Review

trials_of_apollo_1The Hidden Oracle (The Trials of Apollo, Book 1) by Rick Riordan

Disney-Hyperion, 2016. 978-1484732748

Synopsis: After angering his father Zeus, the god Apollo is cast down from Olympus. Weak and disoriented, he lands in New York City as a regular teenage boy. Now, without his godly powers, the four-thousand-year-old deity must learn to survive in the modern world until he can somehow find a way to regain Zeus’s favor. – from Amazon.com

Why I picked it up: I’m clearly a sucker for Rick Riordan.

Why I finished it: Well, I’ll be honest: I didn’t finish it for Apollo. He’s a likable enough character, but he’s a little bit too self-centered for my taste and he doesn’t do much to inspire sympathy. What really got me into the story was the plucky demigod Meg that rescues Apollo from his first set of human bullies and manages to secure his servitude for the forseeable future. She’s quirky, funny, and fierce – the exact opposite of her fallen god companion. Plus, she has a little bit of mysterious edge to her that keeps Apollo on his toes. With cameos by some of our old favorites and the introduction of some new faces, Riordan is managing to keep the world of Percy Jackson alive and interesting. He definitely has a skill for crafting stories, as is evidenced by his growing body of work, but this one missed the mark a bit. There’s just so much mythology to draw on and just when we thought the well was dry, there seems to be more…and more and more and more and more to the point where we’re starting to feel a little bit bored. It’s engaging and funny and like I said before, I’m a sucker for Riordan’s work, but the formula is starting to wear on me a bit. We’ll see if I feel the same once I read the second installment, but for the moment, I’m skeptical of this series’ potential.

Other related materials: Percy Jackson and the Olympians series by Rick Riordan; The Heroes of Olympus series by Rick Riordan; Percy Jackson’s Greek Gods by Rick Riordan, illustrated by John Rocco; Percy Jackson’s Greek Heroes by Rick Riordan, illustrated by John Rocco; Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard books by Rick Riordan; The Kane Chronicles by Rick Riordan; Demigods and Magicians: Percy and Annabeth Meet the Kanes by Rick Riordan; Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling; A Court of Thorns and Roses series by Sarah J. Maas; Seven Wonders books by Peter Lerangis, illustrated by Torstein Norstrand; Five Kingdoms series by Brandon Mull; The Blackwell Pages series by K.L. Armstrong and M.A. Marr; The Wrath and the Dawn by Renée Ahdieh; The Rose and the Dagger by Renée Ahdieh; Keeper of the Lost Cities series by Shannon Messenger; Kingdom Keepers books by Ridley Pearson; The Unwanteds series by Lisa McMann; Seven Realms novels by Cinda Williams Chima

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The Sword of Summer Review

The_Sword_of_SummerThe Sword of Summer (Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard, Book 1) by Rick Riordan

Disney-Hyperion, 2016. 978-1423160915

Synopsis: Magnus Chase thought he had it pretty rough since his mom died two years ago and he’s been living on the streets. But then he’s tracked down by an estranged uncle who starts raving about a lost Viking sword and how Magnus is the only one who can retrieve it. Then, when he finds it, he’s attacked by a creature he though only existed in those mythology books his mom used to read him as a kid. And when he dies, things just get a whole lot rougher….

Why I picked it up: New Rick Riordan? Yes, please!

Why I finished it: Riordan has a gift for making ancient myths fun and accessible to an audience that might not have that great of an interest in the subject. Sure, he’s taking some liberties with the legends and whatnot, but that’s really not the point of his series. They’re about ordinary kids having the courage to do extraordinary things. And yeah, it probably helps that there are some supernatural forces behind their parentage, but there’s still the sense of adventure and the notion of a quest to prove themselves. Magnus believes that he’s just a typical teenager: wary of the previous generations, sarcastic, and questioning of the unfairness/fairness of life. His largely dead pan responses and general indifference to the concern about his rule-breaking make him an intriguing narrator. Plus, I don’t know of many people that can manage to find their way to the afterlife and back. I appreciate that Riordan has tied in this new series with his world from the Percy Jackson/Heroes of Olympus books as a way to ground the reader, but I have to cross my fingers and hope that there’s not too much crossover. I feel like this new series has a lot of potential on its own, and has a chance to create a new thread within the same universe that could get muddled and uninteresting if there’s too much intertwining. But we’ll see what happens. Riordan has given us a new cast of off-the-wall, somewhat odd, and always rebellious characters that take the reader on a non-stop, action-packed adventure through Norse mythology that keeps us turning the pages and wishing for more. I’m interested to see what other mischief Magus can get into and how he will eventually save the world. Because, let’s face it, we know he will…some way or another, it’ll happen.

Other related materials: The Hammer of Thor (Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard, Book 2) by Rick Riordan; Gods and Goddesses of the Ancient Norse by Leonard Everett Fisher; Usborne Illustrated Guide to Norse Myths and Legends by Cheryl Evans and Anne Millard, illustrated by Rodney Matthews; Favorite Norse Myths retold by Mary Pope Osborne, illustrated by Troy Howell; Treasury of Norse Mythology: Stories of Intrigue, Trickery, Love, and Revenge by Donna Jo Napoli, illustrated by Christina Balit; D’Aulaires’ Book of Norse Myths by Ingri D’Aularie and Edgar Parin D’Aularie; The Blackwell Pages books by K.L. Armstrong and M.A. Marr; The Sea of Trolls trilogy by Nancy Farmer; The Usborne Book of Greek and Norse Legends illustrated by Rodney Matthews; Percy Jackson and the Olympians series by Rick Riordan; The Heroes of Olympus series by Rick Riordan; The Kane Chronicles books by Rick Riordan

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The Blood of Olympus Review

the-blood-of-olympus-coverThe Blood of Olympus (The Heroes of Olympus, Book Five) by Rick Riordan

Disney-Hyperion, 2014. 978-148472492-7

Synopsis: Heroes, gods, and monsters clash in this epic finale to Riordan’s Heroes of Olympus series. The crew of the Argo II was briefly reunited, only to be split again when Nico volunteers to go with Reyna to deliver the Athena Parthenos to Camp Half-Blood. Both heroes are being stretched to their limits: Nico’s power to shadow travel is waning, and Reyna must confront the ghosts of her past in order to move forward. Back on the Argo II, Leo is secretly working on a plan that he hopes will save his friends, Jason ponders how he will be able to prove himself, and Piper contemplates the single word she must use that will aid in the conclusion of a now inevitable conflict.

Why I picked it up: I am a borderline rabid Heroes of Olympus fangirl. Plus, I’ve come this far; it would be a shame to stop now.

Why I finished it: Before I start, here’s a Greek and Roman myth refresher. Riordan has presented the reader with a well-crafted finale that harkens back to the previous books, following Jason, Piper, Leo, Reyna, and Nico as the grand journey comes to an end. We begin by paying homage to the story of Odysseus, a mortal hero whose journey home after the Trojan War is familiar to most students. The reader is also treated to introductions of a handful of minor gods and goddesses that, I will confess, I forgot about right along with most of the rest of the characters. But I digress. Though our heroes are still struggling with the roles they will play in the ultimate showdown with the Earth Mother, it’s clear that no matter what their decision, there will be consequences. I like that Nico and Reyna are a large part of the story this time around, Nico because I feel like he’s a little bit undervalued as a character, and Reyna because she’s definitely a character that I knew I would like once I knew more of her story. I thought it was interesting that Riordan chose to deal with the ghosts of the past more closely in this last installment, but it worked well to help polish the characters and showed how these ghosts made the heroes stronger. Leo, in particular, seems to be making some very key decisions as he maps out a plan to defeat the Earth Mother and make his way back to Calypso like he promised. Each of our characters will have a hard choice to make before the book is over, but it is these difficult decisions that endear us to these heroes. We continue to cheer for them, knowing that they will somehow overcome their struggles to be able to be the people they always hoped they could be, to be able to save the day even when everything seems to be working against them. It’s a bittersweet ending that leaves a lasting impression, and just like with any ending to a series, the reader is now left to wonder what to read next.

Other related materials: The Lost Hero (The Heroes of Olympus, Book 1) by Rick Riordan; The Son of Neptune (The Heroes of Olympus, Book 2) by Rick Riordan; The Mark of Athena (The Heroes of Olympus, Book 3) by Rick Riordan; The House of Hades (The Heroes of Olympus, Book 4) by Rick Riordan; Percy Jackson and the Olympians series by Rick Riordan; Olympians series by George O’Connor; Myths and Legends of Ancient Greece and Rome by E.M. Berens; 100 Characters from Classical Mythology: Discover the Fascinating Stories of the Greek and Roman Dieties by Malcolm Day; Oh My Gods: A Modern Retelling of Greek and Roman Myths by Philip Freeman; The Everything Classical Mythology Book: Greek and Roman Gods, Goddesses, Heroes, and Monsters from Ares to Zeus by Lesley Bolton; Greek and Roman Mythology graphic novels by Cirro Oh & C.S. Chun; Underworlds series by Tony Abbott; The Kane Chronicles series by Rick Riordan

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The Titan’s Curse Review

The_titan's_curseThe Titan’s Curse (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Book 3) by Rick Riordan

Disney-Hyperion, 2008. 978-1423101482

Synopsis: When the goddess Artemis goes missing, she is believed to have been kidnapped. And now it’s up to Percy and his friends to find out what happened. Who is powerful enough to kidnap a goddess? They must find Artemis before the winter solstice, when her influence on the Olympian Council could swing an important vote on the war with the titans. Not only that, but first Percy will have to solve the mystery of a rare monster that Artemis was hunting when she disappeared-a monster rumored to be so powerful it could destroy Olympus forever. – from Amazon.com

Why I picked it up: I’ve read it a couple times before because I can’t get enough of this series, but this time around, it was because I just finished The House of Hades and I wanted to go back and refresh my memory about when Percy met Nico di Angelo.

Why I finished it: This is the calm before the storm, so to speak, and it’s a lead up to the next book which is the turning point before we get to the grand finale in Last Olympian. The reader is more properly introduced to Thalia, daughter of Zeus, who was awakened from her state as a pine tree at the conclusion of Sea of Monsters. I love the dynamic between Thalia and Percy, who waver right on the edge of being friends and enemies, but the two seem to overcome the fact that they could potentially throttle each other by the time we finish the story. Plus, we learn that the hero prophecy could potentially apply to Thalia now that she has been awakened. The reader is also introduced to the Hunters, a group of clandestine females who have sworn loyalty to Artemis, Goddess of the Hunt. They’re a group that (perhaps wisely) avoids getting too heavily involved with half-bloods and the rest of the Olympian population in general, but it is their gifts and their loyalty to each other that contributes to the quest to find Artemis. There are also the di Angelo kids, whose parentage and history is rather mysterious in and of itself, but an astute reader can perhaps pick up on some of the clues Riordan gives as to who they are and where they came from. The plot to overthrow Olympus becomes a little clearer (beyond the overarching Kronos is coming back to overthrow his sons who overthrew him bit), yet the mystery behind Luke’s allegiance to the Titan is still a little unclear. We’re introduced to even more baddies that will play a role in later books, but given no clue as to how the story will finally end. Will things end in disaster or will the half-bloods be able to find a way to stop Kronos?

Other related materials: The Lightning Thief (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Book 1) by Rick Riordan; The Sea of Monsters (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Book 2) by Rick Riordan; The Battle of the Labyrinth (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Book 4), by Rick Riordan; The Last Olympian (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Book 5) by Rick Riordan; The Heroes of Olympus series by Rick Riordan; The Lightning Thief: The Graphic Novel by Rick Riordan and Robert Venditti, illustrated by Attila Futaki and Jose Villarrubia; The Sea of Monsters graphic novel by Rick Riordan and Robert Venditti, illustrated by Attila Futaki and Tamas Gaspar; The Titan’s Curse graphic novel by Rick Riordan and Robert Venditti, illustrated by Attila Futaki and Gregory Guilhaumond; The Heroes of Olympus: The Demigod Diareis by Rick Riordan; The Chronicles of Narnia series by C.S. Lewis; Artemis Fowl books by Eoin Colfer; Harry Potter books by J.K. Rowling; The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster; Ranger’s Apprentice books by John A. Flanagan

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The Girl Who Soared Over Fairyland and Cut the Moon in Two Review

The-Girl-Who-Soared-over-Fairyland-and-Cut-the-Moon-in-TwoThe Girl Who Soared Over Fairyland and Cut the Moon in Two by Catherynne M. Valente, illustrations by Ana Juan

Feiwel and Friends, 2013. 978-1250023506

Synopsis: September misses Fairyland and her friends Ell, the Wyverary, and the boy Saturday. She longs to leave the routines of home and embark on a new adventure. Little does she know that this time, she will be spirited away to the moon, reunited with her friends, and find herself faced with saving Fairyland from a moon-Yeti with great and mysterious powers.  – from Amazon.com

Why I picked it up: I loved the first two books in the series, so I was eager to read the next one.

Why I finished it: Much like September, the reader is yearning to return to Fairyland to spend time with Ell and Saturday, but we soon find that there is more at work than just the mischief of the past. September is older now, and much as we do as we grow older, we wonder if we should be putting our childish ways behind us in order to enter into adulthood, though we long to stay young so that we can still play the same as we have before. She is battling internally with the notion that she may become too old for Fairyland, though her life in the real world means she has to take on more responsibilities now that her father is back from the war. Yet, she is still the same girl that we knew back in the first book that longs to go places and do something more with her life than simply clean teacups. Valente creates for the reader a vivid picture of life on Fairyland’s moon, complete with the odd assortment of creatures that charmed the reader in her first two Fairyland books. The mix between the Victorian and the fantastic is oddly reminiscent of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, another tale about a girl who finds herself in a world that is not her own, and she has delightfully blended the two worlds together to capture our imaginations once again and leave us wondering where September’s next adventure will take her.

Other related materials: The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente, illustrations by Ana Juan; The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Lead the Revels There by Catherynne M. Valente, illustrations by Ana Juan; The Bread We Eat in Dreams by Catherynne M. Valente, illustrations by Kathleen Jennings; The Melancholy of Mechagirl by Catherynne M. Valente; Rags & Bones: New Twists on Timeless Tales edited by Melissa Marr and Tim Pratt; The Apothecary by Maile Meloy, illustrations by Ian Schoenherr; The Apprentices by Maile Meloy, illustrations by Ian Schoenherr; The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom by Christopher Healy, illustrated by Tom Harris; The Hero’s Guide to Storming the Castle by Christopher Healy, illustrated by Tom Harris; The Aviary by Kathleen O’Dell; The Golden Door series by Emily Rodda; How to Catch a Bogle by Catherine Jinks, illustrated by Sarah Watts; Starry River of the Sky by Grace Lin; The Books of Elsewhere series by Jacqueline West; The Wildwood Chronicles books by Colin Meloy, illustrations by Carson Ellis

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