Odd And The Frost Giants was my first “real” book by Neil Gaiman; the only other work I’ve read by him was the novella How The Marquis Got His Coat Back. I haven’t read Neverwhere (which this novella is based on) but I wanted to try it out in order to see if Neil Gaiman’s fantasy was for me or not, and, well… The novella made zero sense to me obviously, because I didn’t know any of the characters and neither the setting, but I loved the writing. It was odd, and different to everything I’ve read before, but it was also spectacularly fantastic – in the most literal sense of the word. So now I’ve picked up Odd And The Frost Giants – I had to! Look at this beautiful cover in metallic silvers, it’s just too pretty to pass. The timing for this read may seem odd (pun intended) to some, as I’ve read this wintry, Nordic epic in the middle of one of the worst heatwaves ever. Maybe that’s why I finished it in a matter of hours? It’s perfect for all year-round – let me tell you why!
First, what’s it about?
The story revolves around Odd, a young Norseman whose father drowned during a Viking raid. Odd’s Scottish mother married a widower who neglects Odd in favour of his own children. This year winter drags on unnaturally long, and since Odd feels so lonely, he leaves the village for the forest and soon ends up in the little hut he grew up in with his parents. Soon, Odd finds himself surrounded by a, again – odd, animal trio – a bear, a fox and an eagle. Not only can they speak, but they actually turn out to be the Nordic gods Odin, Thor, and Loki, tricked, transformed and cast out of Asgard by the frost giants. Odd, despite being infinitely inferior, decides to help the gods and travels to Asgard with them. Will he succeed in getting the Nordic gods their home – and their bodies – back?
What did I think?
Odd is a – well, somewhat odd character. It’s not that you don’t like him, but… you are also a bit indifferent to him in the beginning. He is described as smiling strangely all the time and we never really learn the reason for that, only that it basically saves his life at one point in the book.
Odin, Thor and Loki are pretty much as you expect them to be. Odin is wise and powerful, Thor is strong and nice, and Loki is mischievous yet also loveable. The story is adventurous and interesting, and it never gets boring – at all. Furthermore, it’s also framed nicely around this story about a young boy losing his father and dealing with a disability (he has an injured foot), yet still always remains positive and is very determined – no matter what hurdles are placed in front of him, which I truly enjoyed.
I cannot close this review without giving credit to the absolutely amazing illustrations by Chris Riddell. The gorgeous black and white illustrations, sometimes accentuated with silver, never disappointed me. They are adding to the story, never take the focus completely away from the writing, and yet I also couldn’t imagine the book without them now. This myth story reminded me a lot of a fable / fairytale retelling. It has many of the things you often find in myths: death, hardship, temptation, and rewards if hurdles are overcome. It’s a book I’d recommend to every reader who is even the slightest bit interested in adventure and / or mythology. It’s perfectly suitable for both children as well as adult readers.
This beautifully detailed and rich tale of courage is a wonderful mixture of two amazingly talented artists. Chris Riddell and Neil Gaiman have put their gifts together and created this spectacularly powerful Nordic epic, weaving together a tale of legend, myth and adventure which will surely enchant you from the first to the final page. I rate it 4.5 stars, simply because Odd wasn’t as loveable a hero as I am used to, and even though I absolutely loved the book, I’m not feeling like rereading it immediately – other than maybe to look at the illustrations again! Still, a very solid read that I truly enjoyed.