This past week, I did exactly what I said I was going to do. I took a break from my young adult project, and got a stack of library books. The problem was, I didn’t particularly want to be reading library books. I wanted to be working, so it was really hard for me to get invested in something else.
Sticking with my young adult genre, I got 2 different Rick Riordan series’, and by random selection, began reading the first book of the Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard trilogy, The Sword of Summer. I was looking forward to these books, because I’ve read both the Percy Jackson series (twice) and the Heroes of Olympus series, and I thoroughly enjoyed them. A new series with the Norse gods seemed like a fun adventure.
Right off the bat, I was struck with how nearly identical Magnus Chase’s story is to Percy Jackson’s, and that was really disappointing for me. I already read about Percy Jackson. I wanted something new. The basis of this trilogy is exactly the same as the others: kid finds out his dad is a god and suddenly he’s in a lot of danger. He has to go on a quest or the world will end. Magnus Chase even finds a magic sword almost immediately that’s destined to be his, which mirrors Percy Jackson exactly.
It’s understandable that the same author would have the same writing style across multiple works, but in this the series is also just like the previous ones. It’s fairly campy, and sarcastic, and most paragraphs end with a joke. The mythology is also similar. The gods are completely disconnected with who they’re expected to be, and are overly involved with petty, twenty-first century life. For example, Odin is obsessed with making power points and Thor neglects his giant-fighting duties to binge-watch Game of Thrones. The Olympian gods were portrayed in similar ways.
Through all that, I finished the first book in an embarrassing three days, because I kept losing interest and watching TV instead. But, persistent as I am, I started book 2 today, The Hammer of Thor.
One thing that struck me in book 1 was the fact that one of the main characters was a Muslim girl who wears a hijab. In general, I don’t have a problem with this, except for the inclusion being simple pandering to shifting cultural expectations. It wasn’t a big deal, and I continued reading the book. Book 2 went too far for my tastes. I was about an hour in this afternoon when a new child of Loki is introduced who is both gender-fluid and transgender.
I do have religious convictions about this issue, but since this is a writing blog, I’m not going to make that the focus of my opposition. I put the book down, and I will not finish the series, because I have no desire to read about transgender characters or to pretend that this is “normal”. But, like the Muslim girl in book 1, I do see this character as pandering. The Hammer of Thor was published in 2016, and transgenderism and all related issues have been hot-button topics for a while now. The addition of this character is culturally relevant and trendy and, again, pandering to popular political expectations. I can’t say why Rick Riordan decided to include this character, but I do disagree with writing something specifically to strike a cultural chord. Percy Jackson didn’t include transgenderism. The Heroes of Olympus didn’t include transgenderism. It is only now, in our current cultural climate, that he decided to include the issue.
Rick Riordan has the right to write his characters however he sees fit. I have the right to decline to read his works if I disagree with him. And this is only the most recent reason causing me to set this series aside.