I first discovered Neil Gaiman in high school when a friend recommended American Gods to me. The premise hooked me immediately, and it quickly became one of my favorite books. Stardust and Neverwhere joined that list shortly after.
Gaiman has the incredibly ability to blend the fantastical with the mundane. All three novels involve protagonists that encounter magic that, although was previously unknown to them, has always been there. Whether it’s an ex-con discovering that his mysterious benefactor has a divine origin or a lovesick boy venturing into the Faerie realm to retrieve a fallen star, Gaiman manages to imbue a sense of enchantment into his works.
When I learned he was writing a book of Norse mythology, I could hardly contain my excitement. Here was a story that would live strictly in the supernatural realm, and I was thrilled to see what Gaiman would do with it. It also doesn’t hurt that I love Norse myth. I think I might be one of the only people in America who watched History Channel’s Vikings (well, at least through season 4…), but I was totally enthralled by the culture it depicted. The way they balanced their day-to-day farming with the flashes of brutality during their raiding endeavors was stunning, but even in the moments of quiet, Vikings is quick to remind us that the Norse gods had a penchant for bloodshed. Episode 8, Sacrifice, rocked me to my core.
Gaiman takes these gods and makes them his main characters. All of the expected suspects are there–Odin, Thor, Freya, and of course, Loki. Most of the stories Gaiman retells center around him, the trickster god, and he is easily one of the most compelling characters, mostly because his motives are so hard to pin down.
The tone is a little lighthearted, and there are moments where I wondered who the intended audience was. At times it can feel like it’s written for children, but then the subject matter will veer into an area that suggests otherwise. Either way, Norse Mythology is a quick and enjoyable read, and the perfect way to dip your toes into the complex stories of the Aesir.