Book Review: Norse Mythology

How does someone review a Neil Gaiman book? For the most part, every reader and author knows his name and has been captivated by his work. I don’t need to praise his skill when he’s got multitudes of awards, accolades, fame, and respect from millions of people. So why bother reviewing his latest book, Norse Mythology? Two reasons. One: No matter who the author is, reviews are important. Not only do they help sell books (they really, really do), it’s a way of showing an author how much their work has meant to you, which is basically as great a thank you as an artist can get. Two: If you’ve ever had an inkling of interest in mythology or are wondering about what the true Thor, Loki, and Odin are like, or are simply looking for a unique re-telling of classic and famous myths, then you need this book yesterday.

Introducing an instant classic—master storyteller Neil Gaiman presents a dazzling version of the great Norse myths.

Neil Gaiman has long been inspired by ancient mythology in creating the fantastical realms of his fiction. Now he turns his attention back to the source, presenting a bravura rendition of the great northern tales.

In Norse Mythology, Gaiman stays true to the myths in envisioning the major Norse pantheon: Odin, the highest of the high, wise, daring, and cunning; Thor, Odin’s son, incredibly strong yet not the wisest of gods; and Loki, son of a giant, blood brother to Odin and a trickster and unsurpassable manipulator.

Gaiman fashions these primeval stories into a novelistic arc that begins with the genesis of the legendary nine worlds and delves into the exploits of deities, dwarfs, and giants. Once, when Thor’s hammer is stolen, Thor must disguise himself as a woman, difficult with his beard and huge appetite, to steal it back. More poignant is the tale in which the blood of Kvasir, the most sagacious of gods, is turned into a mead that infuses drinkers with poetry. The work culminates in Ragnarok, the twilight of the gods and rebirth of a new time and people.

Through Gaiman’s deft and witty prose emerge these gods with their fiercely competitive natures, their susceptibility to being duped and to duping others, and their tendency to let passion ignite their actions, making these long-ago myths breathe pungent life again.

***

Tricky as this book is to review (hence why it’s not very long), but I’m going to do my best. It’s February, and I’ve already listed Norse Mythology as one of my favourite books of the year. It’s beyond stellar, because Gaiman has mastered the task of treating myths like stories. I read a lot of mythology texts and references, so few of these stories were unfamiliar to me. It wasn’t a long epic, but it was told beautifully. Classic myths that were familiar to me were told as epically crafted stories and adventures. I didn’t feel like I was reading a myth, but a collection of short stories and a glimpse of the coming Ragnarok. Even knowing the myths pretty well, there were still parts that were new and thrilling to me. I couldn’t get enough, and it’s so hard for me to pick a favourite telling, though Freya’s false wedding and Fenrir’s strength test were likely my favourites.

 It’s no secret to anyone that Mr. Gaiman is a master storyteller and one of the most iconic and talented authors of our time, but this truly transported me on countless adventures and schooled me with deeper knowledge of Norse mythology. I wanted to re-read it as soon as I was done. This is a book for everyone. Gaiman fans, mythology lovers, fantasy readers, adventure buffs, students looking for a fun way to learn some history, even Marvel fans who want to know more about what the “real” Thor, Loki, and Odin are like. I LOVED this little, gorgeous book, and cannot recommend it highly enough. You need it yesterday. A must have!

Amy

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2 Comments

  1. Teresa Cypher

    You’ve made me want to read this one. 🙂 Good, thoughtful review.

    Reply
    1. amybraunauthor (Post author)

      It’s truly excellent, you won’t regret reading it!

      Reply

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