Neil Gaiman’s Odd and the Frost Giants
Harper Collins, 2009

Everything I know about Norse mythology, I learned from playing World of Warcraft’s Burning Crusade. Okay, maybe I picked up a little from Jane Smiley too. But overall, it’s a weak spot with me, my knowledge limited to daily quests in Jotenheim.

But that didn’t hurt my ability to enjoy this slim volume inspired by the likes of Thor, Odin and Loki one bit.

And, speaking of which, how does the LOC determine the order in which these fellows should be listed: Loki, Thor and Odin; it’s obviously not alphabetical, not order of appearance like a cast roll, and not about on-air time, so I don’t get it.

Anyhow, that, too, is a bit of information that is not essential to one’s enjoyment of this story: you just need to settle in with this this story for an hour and get to know Odd and his companions.

“Really, truly, with all of his heart, Odd found that he wanted to believe that he was still in the world he had known all his life. That he was still in the country of the Norse folk, that he was in Midgard. Only he wasn’t, and he knew it. The world smelled different, for a start. It smelled alive. Everything he looked at looked sharper, more real, more there.”

You can readily get a sense, even from this short passage, of this story’s flavour, its archetypal tones, and the simple rhythm of its prose (which makes it a joy to read aloud to younger listeners and older readers alike). Beyond that, it’s really quite simple: Odd has an adventure and he makes friends along the way and shows courage and loyalty and cleverness.

That makes it sound a bit sappy, but none of it feels like a morality lesson. In Neil Gaiman’s tale, lions aren’t draped across altars as pseudo-deities; the gods are who they are, imperfect and, sometimes, even annoying.

And, as an added bonus, read this tale of northern lands, icy and blustery, on a viciously hot summer afternoon.

(BTW, I was inspired to try this one because I happened upon it on a library browse, whilst waiting for the girls to choose their books, with the recommendations of Aarti, Nymeth and Nathalie fresh in my mind; I’m sure others have mentioned Gaiman’s work positively as well — and I have dabbled here and there — but I was freshly interested by mentions they’d made recently, and this slim volume was a perfectly proportioned temptation. Thanks!)

Anyone else finally started into the work of an author whose writing has lingered too long on a TBR list?