I’m a big fan of Neil Gaiman’s young adult books, but I’ve never read much of his adult books. I remember this book being released to much fanfare last year, but never got round to reading it until lately (mainly because I spotted it in my tiny local branch library). I’ve always loved Greek mythology, but knew very little about Norse mythology, despite growing up in a county that still bears the mark of its Viking past. I’ve also managed to avoid all the Marvel superhero films, so I came to this book with zero expectations or background info.
Gaiman does a good job in piecing together stories which feel like fragments compared to their Mediterranean counterparts. These are stories which feel like they’re being told in the depths of winter around a fire and, even though written, they have a rhythm to them that makes sense when you realise that so few were written down.
This fragmentation can be a little frustrating though (and that’s hardly the writer’s fault; he’s worked from various sources to put them together, like a fragile literary jigsaw.) I would have loved to have heard more from the goddesses; their near-absence makes Asgard feel like an even more masculine place than Olympus. At least the Greek goddesses were badasses. I do appreciate that I now know that Frigg and Freya are two separate goddesses, not one with two names. So, y’know, you learn summat new everyday.
I did enjoy the book though. It felt like the perfect thing to be reading as the nights draw in and winter solstice approached (happy solstice today, by the way!) After all, it’s the closest we’ll get to being near a master storyteller whispering stories of how the world was made- and will end- as we sit around a midwinter fire.