Review: Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman

book cover with thor's hammerA collection of the extant Norse myths, retold with Gaiman’s unique voice, “Norse Mythology” recounts the stories of the gods and goddesses of Asgard from creation to the end of all things – Ragnarok.

In an informative introduction Gaiman tells of youthful hours poring over library books filled with the exploits of Odin, Thor, Loki, and the rest of the  Norse pantheon, as well as the giants, serpents, and wolves that also populate the myths. These beings bicker, compete, play pranks on each other. They are funny, petty, and cavalierly cruel. They speak to ravens, own boats that can be folded and stored in a bag, shape-shift, and drink so much beer and mead.

Throughout Gaiman keeps a good balance of serious and silly with a stories-told-around-the-campfire tone. Chapters stand alone as simple short stories that beg to be read aloud. The themes, morals, and messages of “Norse Mythology” are familiar in the way of most myths and fables, but Gaiman’s assured, occasionally laugh-out-loud retelling makes this a must-read. Ideally on a cold night with lots of extra blankets.

An advance galley of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest opinion.