As is so often the case for my second book review of the week, I’m reviewing a short book because I needed to finish something quickly. It’s not necessarily a bad strategy as there are some really good short books out there but it still feels like a bad reason for picking something up. Although, I don’t think I’d ever regret picking up a Neil Gaiman. Well, I didn’t like The Ocean at the End of the Lane when I read it but I suspect I missed something there. After all, the majority of people rave about that book. I keep meaning to give it a reread but I’m still wary. But that’s beside point. This time, I went back to a classic Neil Gaiman story. One that feels so Gaiman. There’s Norse mythology, an odd (literally) protagonist, and Chris Riddell illustrations. I decided to listen to the audiobook at the same time because I needed the comfort of his narration.
It’s strange reading this bookagain now that Neil Gaiman’s Norse Mythology has been released. What was once a pretty flawless story revolving around those myths now just seems like a warm-up to something greater. That’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy going back to this gem of a story but we’ve been spoiled at this point. We’ve seen Odin, Thor and Loki in all of their glory so the snippet we see here just isn’t as satisfying. It’s like a really good amuse-bouche. It’s tasty and exciting but you still want to sit down for more. Although, who knows if we’d even have had Norse Mythology without Odd?
Odd and the Frost Giants was initially published as a World Book Day book in 2008. It is set in a Viking village and takes the reader on a journey to Asgard. The titular Odd is a young Norseman whose father dies at sea. When his mother remarries, Odd leaves his home due to his stepfather’s neglect. With winter dragging on, Odd ends up in his father’s old cabin where a woodcutting accident leaves one of his legs crushed. Despite this setback, he is quickly drawn into an adventure accompanied by a mysterious bear, eagle and fox. But just what is so special about these three creatures?
Odd and the Frost Giants is an absolutely delightful and super quick read. Odd is the perfect literary hero for young readers to enjoy. He is injured but never lets that prevent him from doing what he thinks is right. Viewed as an outsider in his village, Odd is the kind of character that children should be exposed to. He doesn’t exactly find things easy but he never gives up. He’s kind and clever. He’s also a little sassy and laidback. It’s hard not to love him. This is the kind of tale that shows you that physical strength isn’t necessarily the most important thing.
The book also serves as a wonderful introduction to Norse mythology. Obviously, it can’t go into much detail about all of the Gods and their various tales. However, it gives you a pretty good idea about the what’s out there. You meet most of the key players and come face-to-face with a Frost Giant. It’s the kind of story that could definitely inspire younger readers to find out more. The Norse myths are already pretty fun but this gives them a Gaiman twist. It’s such a simple story but there is so much to get your teeth into.
Neil Gaiman is a fantastic writer but there is something about this that just feels even better. You can tell how much passion he has for the mythology at the heart of this and how much fun he had in telling a story that featured them. It has his trademark wit and creativity that will make it easy for young readers to get their head around everything. It’s a short read that has the feel of a traditional epic tale. You can imagine a group of Norsemen sitting around a fire retelling the story of Odd. It’s why I’d recommend getting the audiobook version. Although, that does stop you from appreciating Chris Riddell’s amazing illustrations.