My first Gaiman book was American Gods, which I loved without reservation. Every book since has confirmed what I knew then – this is a master storyteller at work.
In the year that his fabulous best-seller American Gods is coming as a TV mini-series (HBO, April), Norse Mythology is a timely exploration of what has been one of his enduring interests.
We already know a lot of the basics of Norse mythology – mainly through the Thor movies and the TV series Vikings and even Game of Thrones, but also through such high-culture explorations as Wagner’s The Ring Cycle.
In this carefully researched collection, the charismatic (if not very bright) Thor and trickster god Loki are centre stage as the story traces the gods from their beginning to Ragnarok – the total destruction of the gods and their home, Asgard.
Along the way, we meet Odin, chief among the gods, the great beauty Freya, frost giants, dwarves, the terrifying wolf Fenrir, the world serpent, the Valkyries, demons, elves and the ruler of the dead, Hel.
It’s almost a given that almost everyone behaves very badly if given the opportunity and lots of creatures die horribly.
As gods, they may be magnificent in their powers, but they are often remarkably petty and childish. As expected, Loki can be guaranteed to cause maximum trouble, just because he wants to – which is, of course, the point.
While the stories themselves are fascinating, what Gaiman brings to the party are his peerless story-telling skills.
He hasn’t “updated” the original tales or turned them into a novel – what he has done is turn dusty myth into page-turning fun.
This book was published in February 2017.