Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman is a compulsively readable retelling of various myths from Norse Mythology.
Once upon a time, in that hazy prehistoric time before Goodreads, Neil Gaiman was my favorite author. Sandman was the gateway drug but I read all the Gaiman works I could get my hands on: American Gods, Neverwhere, Coraline, Stardust, you get the point. As the years went by, some of the shine wore off that penny. As I explored Gaimain's influences, like P.G. Wodehouse and Ray Bradbury, some of the magic was diminished.
Anyway, I heard Gaimain was writing this book and my interest was rekindled. I've been curious about Norse mythology since reading my first Thor comic. Gaimain delivers the goods here.
In Norse Mythology, Gaimain retells fifteen Norse myths, from the creation of the Aesir to Ragnarok, the twilight of the gods, making them accessible to the modern reader.
All of the Norse gods you're familiar with from pop culture, namely Odin, Thor, Loki, Balder, and Heimdall, are here, as well as a slew of others like Vidar, Kvasir, and Hod. I was tangentially aware of some of what transpired, like Loki giving birth to a six-legged horse and Odin hanging from Yggdrasil, the world tree, for nine days and nights before gaining his wisdom, but a lot of it was new to me. The Aesir sure liked to booze it up, didn't they?
While there was quite a bit to like about this book, the thing that really stuck in my mind was Naglfar, the ship of the dead made out of fingernails. Really. Loki tying his junk to the beard of a goat for entertainment purposes was right up there, though.
Reading Norse Mythology, I noticed echoes of it in fantasy novels I've read in past couple decades, most notably The Elric Saga Part II and The First Chronicles of Amber. For my money, this is the best thing Gaimain has done since The Graveyard Book (though Doctor Who: Nothing O'Clock was also pretty sweet.) Four out of five stars.
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