BookTalk is a new series of blog posts, where I discuss non-Tolkien books in concise and honest reviews. Read on dear reader …
Spurred on by a need to read more about the works that inspired Tolkien’s own stories, I had introduced myself to the myths and sagas of the Norse legends years back. The material was as expected: epic, entertaining, intriguing and also surprising — leaving me wanting to know more about the gods, their stories and the vast plethora of characters and adventures that have been passed down and recorded through history.
When I therefore became aware of the imminent release of Neil Gaiman’s book on Norse mythology, I just had to get myself a copy.
I knew that the content would be along the same lines of what I had already read, but was nonetheless excited at the prospect of reading a more narrative-friendly version of these tales by someone as excellent a writer as Gaiman.
And I was not disappointed.
Norse Mythology is a sharply-written, storytelling journey through the most famous and important myths. Gaiman provides for a delightful and accessible work. The book reads more like some fantasy novel than a collection of nordic myths from a thousand years ago. The author’s writing shines in the way he presents the tales as if they are part of a vast body of work, but never loses scope of the main protagonists in each.
The characters are nothing like their comic book or superhero film counterparts. These are the original, unaltered, wisecracking, violent, comical gods as put down by the Nordic people ages ago. Witness the conflict between the gods and the giants, the god-trickster Loki’s cunning wit, Thor’s hilarious disguise as a giantess, and the final cataclysmic events during Ragnarök.
This is an ideal introduction to anyone wanting to get a taste of this rather special and unique mythos, but may have been daunted by the prospect of an archaic style of writing. This is not the case with this book, and is a welcome change from your typical “retelling” read.
I now look forward to wading through Stephen Fry’s own book about the Greek Myths some day.