Neil Gaiman is no stranger to mythology. He already explored the lives of many deities in his novel American Gods (and in many other works), where he showed how they fared in modern times. In Norse Mythology, Gaiman leads us back to the beginning of everything and retells the story of Odin, Thor, Loki and all the other inhabitants of the nine realms which are held in the branches and roots of the world tree Yggdrasil.
Whether you’re new to the world of Norse mythology or drink ale with Odin every day in Valhalla, this book will give you an informative and fun view of the Norse pantheon. After meeting the main players, Gaiman guides us from the formation of everything to the end of everything through 15 stories. Even though these chapters can be seen as standalone stories, they make up one big story arc about the rise and fall of the nine worlds of Norse mythology. The gods are described in all their splendour and fallibility. For all their magnificence, they tend to exhibit very human-like characteristics at times.
The most interesting character, without a doubt, is Loki, son of a giant and blood brother to Odin. Loki is mostly known as the god of mischief, and we get a very good look at that side of him. However, he is much more than that. He relies on his wits and considers himself to be the most cunning of all gods, but he somehow always ends up having to fix the things he stirs up. Reading Loki’s parts is like being on roller-coaster of emotions. Even though he is malicious towards other gods, there are moments when you start feeling (kind of) sympathy for him, just for him to turn around and do something horrible again. Basically, if something went wrong, it Loki probably had his hand in it – “Because,” said Thor, ”when something goes wrong, the first thing I always think is, it’s Loki’s fault. It saves a lot of time.” That’s not to say that the other gods are all sunshine and flowers. You might find some of them are less charming than you might remember. But to be fair, you don’t get into Valhalla by being nice and compassionate.
If you’re looking for a book that will introduce you to world of Norse gods, this is an excellent place to start. The stories are short and sweet. Even though you won’t find out everything about everyone, you will go on an epic journey to the end of the world. As for those who are more familiar with Norse mythology, this book is a delightful way to refresh your memory. Gaiman once again shows that he is a masterful storyteller. He draws you in with just the right amount of humour, violence and feels. As cliché as it sounds, the gods really do come alive on the pages of this book. So, sit down, take a goblet of mead and let them introduce themselves to you.