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Book Review

The Hammer of Thor by Rick Riordan has been reviewed by Focus on the Family’s marriage and parenting magazine. It is the second book in the “Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard” series.

Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

Other Negative Elements

Conclusion

Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Magnus Chase is beginning to adjust to his new life in Hotel Valhalla. Until a few months ago, Magnus was an orphaned teenager living on the streets of Boston. After dying a heroic death, however, he arrived at the hotel where he learned that all of the Norse gods really exist, and one of them — Frey — is his father. As a result, Magnus gets to spend his afterlife training to fight in a final battle between gods and giants called Ragnarok.

About six weeks after Magnus defeated the Fenris Wolf, Samirah al-Abbas (Sam), the Valkyrie, asks to meet him for coffee. Sam has been busy collecting the souls of dead heroes and keeping up with her homework. Sam explains that they are supposed to meet an informant but gets summoned to collect a soul before he arrives. Magnus waits for the informant who Sam promises he’ll recognize.

Magnus notices a goat in a trench coat and recognizes him as Otis — one of the goats that pulls Thor’s chariot. Otis explains that Thor’s hammer is missing, and the giants of Jotunheim are preparing to attack the mortal world. Without his hammer, Thor can’t stop the invasion, so Magnus must try to find and return it before the giants act. Otis has heard from a source that the hammer might be hidden in the tomb of a powerful undead creature called a wight.

As soon as Otis delivers the information, an unknown assassin kills him with an ax. Magnus tries to heal him using power from Frey but is unsuccessful. Magnus isn’t too worried since Otis is butchered and resurrected daily by his master, Thor. Magnus then chases the assassin who, before escaping, warns Magnus not to go to the wight’s barrow in Provincetown.

Magnus returns to the coffee shop to find Sam. The two then return to Valhalla while she explains that the soul that she left to collect belongs to her brother — another child of Loki. Magnus meets Sam’s brother and his new hallmate, Alex. Alex is a gender-fluid shape-shifter and asks to be referred to with she/her pronouns until she says otherwise.

All of the warriors in Valhalla participate in a daily battle as part of their training for Ragnarok. On this particular day, Magnus and his hallmates, including Alex, are faced with a dragon that’s unlike anything they’ve ever seen. Alex suspects that her father, Loki, sent the dragon since it isn’t able to leave its home at the roots of Yggdrasil — the tree that connects the nine worlds — on its own.

While Magnus is fighting the dragon, he has an out-of-body experience. Loki, the god of evil, used Magnus’ uncle, Randolph, to create a connection through which they can communicate. Loki explains that the only way to avoid a war with the giants is through a marriage alliance, so he has arranged a wedding between Sam and a giant in five days. He instructs Magnus to bring the bride price. Alex notices that Loki is channeling power through Magnus and kills him to break the connection since warriors in Valhalla are automatically resurrected.

After the battle, Alex is welcomed to Valhalla with a feast. Magnus uses this opportunity to talk to Sam about his conversation with Loki. She explains that Loki has arranged a marriage between her and an earth giant named Thrym. To make matters worse, he sent invitations to her grandparents and to her fiancé, Amir, forcing Sam to explain her godly lineage and position as a Valkryie to her mortal family. Sam believes the best way to prevent this marriage is to find and return Thor’s hammer, so they immediately make plans to travel to Provincetown.

Magnus and Sam meet up with Hearth and Blitz — an elf and dwarf that Magnus befriended while living on the street — and they head to Provincetown. Since Blitz is a dwarf, they need his knowledge of earth and stone to find the entrance to the tomb. In the center of the tomb, there is a sarcophagus and mummified men stand in alcoves in the walls. The group decides to open the sarcophagus to look for the hammer, which has the unfortunate effect of waking up both the wight in the sarcophagus and the mummies in the walls.

The four friends are able to defeat the mummies, but Thor’s hammer is not in the tomb. Instead they find a weapon called the Skofnung Sword and realize that they were set up by Otis’ source. Loki and Randolph suddenly appear in the tomb using a portal. Loki explains that the sword will be the bride-price for Sam’s wedding to Thrym. He also reveals that Thrym is the one who stole Thor’s hammer. If Sam marries Thrym, however, and gives the giant the Skofnung Sword and its whetting stone as a bride-price, the hammer will be returned.

At Loki’s request, Randolph grabs the Skofnung Sword, which was still lying on the floor of the tomb, and stabs Blitz with it. Magnus attempts to heal him with the power of Frey, but the wound won’t close. Loki explains that the Skofnung Stone is the only thing that can heal a wound inflicted by the sword. Hearth’s father owns the stone.

Loki leaves them with instructions to bring the sword and the stone to the wedding in four days. Magnus remembers that sunlight will turn dwarves to stone, so he exposes Blitz’s skin to direct sunlight to preserve him until they can find the stone.

Sam must return to her home in Boston, so Magnus and Hearth travel to Alfheim — the world of elves — carrying a petrified Blitz. When they arrive at Hearth’s childhood home, they ask Hearth’s father, Alderman, for the stone, but he refuses, stating that they must give him something in return. The elves respect Frey, so Alderman asks Magnus to be his guest of honor at a few parties to improve his reputation. Hearth, however, must pay his blood-debt before Alderman will give them the stone.

Alderman blames Hearth for the death of his other son, Andiron. When they were children, Andiron and Hearth often played in the forest. A forest beast attacked Andiron. Hearth was a short distance away but did not see or hear the attack, and his brother died. Hearth must earn enough gold to cover the hide of the beast that killed his brother before Alderman will consider his debt paid.

Hearth and Magnus know they will not be able to work off the debt before the date of the wedding, but they hear rumors about a dwarf that hides his treasure in the forest behind Alderman’s house. They manage to steal the treasure and use that to pay the debt. Alderman reluctantly gives them the Skofnung Stone, and they are able to heal Blitz after using running water to unpetrify him. Blitz, Hearth and Magnus then return to the mortal world.

Magnus and his friends are running out of time to find the hammer and prevent Sam’s wedding to Thrym, so they ask a god named Heimdall to help them locate the assassin that warned Magnus against going to the wight’s tomb. They discover that he is a giant named Utgard-Loki. Magnus, Alex, Sam, Hearth and Blitz travel to Jotunheim to find him and discover what he knows. After they best the giants in feats of skill, Utgard-Loki is willing to give them information.

He explains that the wedding is just a cover for Loki’s escape plan and was never about Thor’s hammer. Loki has been imprisoned for centuries and can only appear in the mortal world in a weakened form. The Skofnung Sword is one of the only weapons that could cut his chains, and even it would need to be repeatedly sharpened, which is why he needs the stone as well. If Loki succeeds in escaping, it could trigger Ragnarok, unless he is promptly recaptured. The giant is unable to tell them how to prevent Loki’s plan.

As the five of them prepare to leave Jotunheim, they see a goddess beckon them through a portal. They follow her and arrive in Thor’s home in Asgard. The goddess, Sif, offers to help the heroes in their quest to reclaim the hammer. They decide that Alex will disguise herself as Sam and pretend to go through with the wedding, since Sam has vowed she will not have any part in a marriage alliance with Thrym. Sam and Magnus will accompany Alex and will be in communication with Thor, Hearth, Blitz and some warriors from Valhalla. Thor and the warriors will attack once Thrym retrieves the hammer to bless the ceremony, killing the giants and reclaiming the hammer.

Sam, Magnus and Alex arrive at the wedding as planned, but the giants immediately move the ceremony into the cave where Loki is imprisoned, using earth magic to seal the entrance behind them. The ceremony begins, and Magnus is forced to give the sword to Randolph as the bride-price. Thrym summons the hammer as promised, and Loki commands Randolph to cut him free. Alex, Sam and Magnus attempt to fight the giants on their own but are outmatched. The gods and other warriors are finally able to break into the cave and defeat the giants, but Loki escapes by opening a cavern in the floor of the cave. Magnus tries to save Randolph, but he falls into the cavern as well.

The warriors all return to Hotel Valhalla to celebrate the return of Thor’s hammer, but the hotel manager summons Sam, Alex, Magnus, Hearth and Blitz. He explains that since they all played a role in Loki’s escape, it will be up to them to recapture him. They will have to sail to Scandinavia to find the Eastern Shore where Loki is constructing a ship to sail to Asgard once Ragnarok begins.

Christian Beliefs

When Magnus chases the goat-assassin, he ends up on the roof of a church. As he slides off the roof, he inadvertently breaks a stained-glass window depicting baby Jesus.

Magnus compares Loki being imprisoned and tortured to Jesus’ crucifixion. He notes the outstretched arms and expression of pain, but also states that Loki is not good or a savior. He refers to Christ’s death as a noble sacrifice.

Other Belief Systems

In this novel, there are nine worlds that the Norse gods monitor and rule in some way. The worlds are connected by the World Tree, and certain magical places, such as the wight’s barrow, can shift as the tree grows and sways. Various forms of magic are used throughout the story, including Hearth’s rune magic and the giants’ earth magic. Hearth uses rune magic to see the future at one point, and it predicts Blitz’s injury. Magnus also has healing powers from his father, Frey.

A few different types of afterlives are depicted. A Valkyrie carries Magnus’ soul to Valhalla after he dies, and he becomes a warrior training to fight in Ragnarok. He stays essentially the same after death, just becoming slightly stronger, but comments that he can still be killed outside of Valhalla. It is unclear what would happen to him or his soul if he died again.

Magnus briefly instructs the reader to consider location when choosing an afterlife, comparing suburban afterlives to Hotel Valhalla. Magnus hears a story about a child of a Norse god who refused to accept his lineage and died a cowardly death. He reflects that the man will end up in the cold land of Hel after he dies, which is considered the worst fate a warrior can receive.

The wight that Magnus and his friends encounter is referred to as a zombie or undead monster. The wight explains that his father stole the Skofnung Sword. Since the wight inherited the sword, he and his warriors were cursed to live in their tomb forever as zombies.

Magnus’ cousin Annabeth is the child of a Greek god, so he briefly explains that all of the old myths are true (Greek, Roman, Aztec, Norse, etc.) and they feed on memory and belief. As long as the stories exist, so will the gods.

Sam is Muslim and talks to Magnus about her faith. Magnus is an atheist. He asks her how she can believe in an all-powerful being when they see magic and Norse beings every day, especially since God never seems to step in. Sam argues that a God that doesn’t interfere and allows people to make their own choices seems more divine and merciful.

Sam mentions going to a mosque, and her grandparents have arranged her marriage to Amir. She believes that the Norse gods aren’t actual gods, just powerful beings created by Allah. Heimdall, one of the Norse gods, states that he agrees with her views. Sam asks Magnus to watch over her while she completes her noon prayers. She prays five times a day as required, only postponing it when they are in mortal danger.

Authority Roles

Magnus remembers his mother as a joyful, loving woman, and he reminisces about trips they would take together. Magnus’ Uncle Randolph is unreliable and hurts Magnus and his friends repeatedly. Loki promises to reunite Randolph with his dead family if he goes along with Loki’s plan. Magnus pities him and wishes that Randolph would realize that he and Annabeth are his family, too, but Randolph works against them and cuts Loki free despite the consequences.

Loki manipulates his children, Sam and Alex. He can exert a form of mind-control over them, since their powers come from him. He uses this to force Sam to faint or stop breathing a few times. He also wills Sam and Alex to die in the battle where he escapes, but they are able to resist.

Loki arranges a marriage for Sam despite the fact that she wishes to marry Amir. The other gods seem to have varying levels of care for and involvement with their children, but Magnus notes that he and his friends can’t rely too heavily on the gods to keep Asgard and the other worlds safe.

When Hearth and Magnus travel to Alfheim, they encounter two hostile police officers. The police officers warn them about loitering in nice neighborhoods where they don’t belong. Magnus reflects that they remind him of the police officers that would abuse him when he lived on the streets. They repeatedly call Magnus a thick, which Magnus thinks is a type of racial slur since he is not an elf.

Hearth’s father is cruel and unreasonable, blaming his son for the death of his other child and forcing him to complete grueling labor to work off the debt. He also forces Hearth to write down everything he would like to say, rather than using ASL, because it forces him to think first. Alex explains that her parents resented her and found her embarrassing both because of her gender-fluidity and because she was the result of an affair between her father and Loki.

Profanity/Violence

Heck appears infrequently. Characters swear by Norse deities and worlds, using exclamations like “what the Helheim.” They also use Norse curse words like meinfretr, which Magnus translates as stinkfart. Magnus and his friends call each other moron, fatso, stupid and idiot.

Otis the goat is killed every night by his master, Thor, eaten and then reincarnated the next morning. Magnus remembers eating Otis on another world. Magnus is surprised to see an ax sprout out of Otis’s chest. It pierces his heart. The assassin also throws an ax at Magnus, who notes that it almost opens up his chest. Magnus cuts the assassin’s thigh, which glistens with blood.

The warriors in Valhalla do most things to the death, including buffets, as training for Ragnarok. In a training battle, Magnus sees warriors laughing as they slaughter one another. One warrior is shot in the head; another is decapitated. Magnus and his hallmates face a giant dragon. They shoot, stab and hack at it, but to no avail. Alex is able to use a garrote to strangle the dragon while another warrior stabs it in the stomach.

When Loki contacts Magnus through Randolph, Magnus feels Randolph’s pain and comments that it feels like someone is branding his face with an iron. Alex uses her garrote to strangle Magnus to break his connection with Loki.

At the feast to honor Alex, they play footage of the battle where she died. She battles three large wolves. The first she decapitates with the garrote. Then she shape-shifts into a German shepherd. The two remaining wolves rip at her face and throat. She turns back into a human and strangles the larger wolf. Another warrior kills the other wolf, and Alex bleeds out on the pavement.

Hearth falls and breaks an ankle. Magnus reports hearing a wet snap. The wight threatens to consume Magnus’ flesh and devour his soul. Magnus and his friends impale several zombies. Blitz’s hand gets stuck in the abdominal cavity of one and Hearth rips the head off another. Randolph stabs Blitzen in the gut and blood seeps out of the wound. Magnus cuts off a few of Randolph’s fingers in a swordfight.

A bear-wolf creature kills Hearth’s brother. Their father kills the beast and makes Hearth skin it and cure the hide. Magnus has a vision of Loki being tortured. His wrists and ankles are bound with guts, and a serpent sits above his head, dripping poison into the god’s eyes. Loki writhes and screams in agony. He is emaciated and covered in scars.

When the friends visit Utgard-Loki, the giants try to drown them in a giant mug of beer. Hearth also mentions that he was almost mangled in the ball-return machine. Sam challenges a giant to an ax-throwing contest, but instead of throwing at the target, she lodges the ax in the giant’s forehead. He ends up being the god of fear, so he is unharmed. Magnus sees a vision of 10-year-old Alex being kicked and beaten by a group of teenagers. Gods and giants often threaten to kill each other, Magnus and his friends.

In the battle between Magnus, his friends and the giants, all of the giants are killed. Alex strangles one, several are stabbed and a god steps on one’s head. The Skofnung Sword rebels against Randolph as he attempts to free Loki, and he begins to turn blue and dissolve. Magnus is thrown against a wall, which cracks several of his ribs. His friends also sustain injuries.

Kissing/Sex/Homosexuality

Demigods like Alex, Sam and Magnus are the result of affairs between humans and gods. Alex explains that Loki shape-shifted into a beautiful woman to seduce her human father, who was married at the time. Loki then gave birth to Alex and left her with her father. Utgard-Loki explains to Magnus that Thor’s hammer would be given to Sam as a morning-gift after the marriage to Thrym was consummated.

Alex identifies as transgender and gender fluid. Her pronouns change several times throughout the story. She expresses a fear that she will be stuck in a single gender during her afterlife in Valhalla. She also explains that she cannot change gender at will or control it.

Magnus explains that, while he was homeless, he met a lot of transgender teens whose families had disowned them. One of Magnus’ friends states that many Norse priests and sorcerers were gender-fluid people. He also comments that priests of Frey were very fluid and that there is no shame in being attracted when he notices Magnus staring at Alex.

Discussion Topics

Get free discussion questions for this book and others, at FocusOnTheFamily.com/discuss-books.

Additional Comments/Notes

Lying: Magnus and the other characters lie to further their agenda.

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Episode Reviews

Credits

Rating

Readability Age Range

9 to 12

Author

Rick Riordan

Cast

Director

Distributor

Network

Performance

Record Label

Platform

Publisher

Hyperion Books, a division of Disney Book Group

Released

On Video

Year Published

2016

Awards

Mike Morgan and Larry Roman’s Children and Young Adult Literature Award, 2017

Reviewer

We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

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