Whenever Neil Gaiman releases a new book, my heart skips a beat. Ever since I picked up Neverwhere whilst travelling from London to home, I fell in love with his writing. Needless to say, when I heard that Neil was releasing another book of short stories called Norse Mythology, I was super excited to read it. I have recently finished reading it and of course I wanted to share my thoughts with you.
What is Norse Mythology about?
Well, the title leaves little to the imagination. The book tells the story of the Norse Gods, the creation of the legendary nine worlds and eventually, the end of the world as we know it. The stories involve dwarfs and giants, but also magic, love and betrayal. It shows how Gods con each other, and how their arrogance eventually becomes their downfall.
The stories include many Gods that we know from popular culture, such as Odin, Thor and Loki. But there are also many Gods that might not sound too familiar. In any case, it is a great introduction into these myths, albeit a little short.
Writing style and prose
While reading it, I had a hard time not imagining Thor and Loki as Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston. But then again, that is not really a problem. If you are not familiar with Norse mythology (not the book but the actual mythology) then reading this book is an interesting way to get in touch with it. Gaiman’s writing style is accessible, which makes the book a pleasure to read. I often find that when I read mythological stories, the writing puts me off even when the story interests me. That was not the case when reading this book. It was not an information dump, as most myths are, but it were truly stories that sucked you in and made you curious to read more. I think that is one of Gaiman’s strengths. While he writes beautiful prose, it is not as pretentious as some writers think they have to be. You do not need complicated words and phrases in order to be a good writer. Sometimes simple is better.
What I find great about these stories is that there are not really good guys and bad guys. Of course, Loki is a con artist and does more harm than good, but at times he is the hero of a story. Same with Thor, after the Marvel depiction of the character, he is seen as a hero. However, in this book, he has his good moments and his bad moments. The fact that he is not the brightest God walking the face of the Earth certainly adds to that. In any case, the Gods can be good but the Gods can be evil as well. They mostly have their own best interest in mind, which makes for good stories.
I also enjoyed the diversity of the stories. Although many contained giants or dwarfs and basically no normal people, the stories differed which made it interesting to keep reading. What I also enjoyed was that the stories were all connected and all built-up to the final story about the Ragnarok. You will find that something that happens in one story is referred to in another, which certainly makes it feel like a whole.
What could have been better?
If you are familiar with Norse mythology, you won’t find many new things in this book. From what I can tell, not much has changed from the original stories, apart from the way it has been told. Also, the book should be much longer. It barely touches the 300-page mark, and thus the price tag of 20 euros (in my case) is quite steep. Besides, it is Neil Gaiman, so there is no reason why the book should not be longer.
+ Nice writing style which makes it easy to read.
+ Interesting stories which stay faithful to the source material.
+ It’s Neil fucking Gaiman
– Might not be interesting for those familiar with Norse mythology.
– Book is way too short, which makes it a quite expensive read.