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Saturday, March 16, 2013

Book Review: Odd and the Frost Giants by Neil Gaiman

Let me tell you how I met Neil.

No, I think I have to go back further. You have to understand how I met Cameron to understand how I met Neil. I was working in a book store at the time and happened upon a comic version of Robin Hood. I believe I found the comic in New York City. I wasn’t a comic geek, but I was an absolute nut for anything Arthurian or related to Robin Hood. I needed to complete my set of Robin Hood comics and one of the guys I worked with at the book store used to go to a little local comic store.

At the time, my brothers were 15 and 13. I doted on them. They were really into comics and although I didn’t have a lot of money, I had promised them each two comics a month. They just had to pick out the titles. Kenji picked Punisher and one other title and George picked Wolverine with one other title.  It was quite a topic of conversation at the book store as to why I was reading Punisher as it is not typically the type of title a girl would read.

As I didn’t have a car of my own at the time, my friend Matt would take me to the comic book store when he went. I opened up a reserve box so my brother’s titles would be set aside monthly. Cam worked at the shop. He was friendly, so I used to talk to him when I went in, but I found out he went to school with my boss at the book store and it made me want to back off. Everyone I met went to school with my boss and I was just starting to get sick of it.

The Renaissance Festival in Sterling came up in conversation and I found out he worked at the faire as a blacksmith. That alone gave me pause to reconsider and get to know him better. I stopped by to visit him at the faire one weekend and the rest is history. It wasn’t quite as smooth or immediate as that. There was first an episode with pizza with me picking off the pepperoni when I told him it was okay to order it that way. I brought him in a piece of apple pie at work one Saturday. There were some group outings with the crew from the comic book store and he helped me move some stuff when I was leaving my studio.

Our first real date was to see Last of the Mohicans. I used to go to the comic store and wait around for him to get off work. I would get dropped off or take the bus and then he would take me home. Anyway, he put a comic in my hand and told me I had to read it. I got my first glimpse of Morpheus.

Morpheus, also known as Dream, is one of the 7 immortals that rule aspects of the human race. There is Destiny, Despair, Destruction, Delirium, Desire and Death as well. When I was first introduced to Morpheus, he was having a tantrum about the loss of a lover. He was self- absorbed and melodramatic and was allowing the Dreaming to fall apart. He was angst-ridden, all dressed in black with his hair flying every which way. I had to go back and start from the beginning. I had never read anything like it and I was completely blown away.

And that is how my love affair with Neil Gaiman began. From there, I saw a VHS of his BBC miniseries, Neverwhere. I picked up Books of Magic and Black Orchid which were comics and Good Omens co-written with Terry Pratchett. Anything and everything I could get my hands on. To this day, introducing me to Neil was one of the greatest and longest lasting gifts Cam has ever given me.

So, I was searching for new Neil Gaiman titles some time back as I often do, just to see what’s coming out. I found a book listed on Amazon that was an import from the UK for World Book Day and not available as a US release as yet. But I ordered a copy for me and one for my brother George, who is also a huge Neil Gaiman fan. Since the version I ordered is a thin little paperback, it's kind of lost in he collection somwhere  I did, however, recently pick it up on Kindle as a Deal of the Day and finally got a chance to read it.     
Book Description (From Amazon):
Release date: September 22, 2009 | Age Range: 8 and up
In this inventive, short, yet perfectly formed novel inspired by traditional Norse mythology, Neil Gaiman takes readers on a wild and magical trip to the land of giants and gods and back.
In a village in ancient Norway lives a boy named Odd, and he's had some very bad luck: His father perished in a Viking expedition; a tree fell on and shattered his leg; the endless freezing winter is making villagers dangerously grumpy.
Out in the forest Odd encounters a bear, a fox, and an eagle—three creatures with a strange story to tell.
Now Odd is forced on a stranger journey than he had imagined—a journey to save Asgard, city of the gods, from the Frost Giants who have invaded it.
It's going to take a very special kind of twelve-year-old boy to outwit the Frost Giants, restore peace to the city of gods, and end the long winter.
Someone cheerful and infuriating and clever . . .
Someone just like Odd.

My Review:
I don’t think I’ve ever read anything by Neil Gaiman that I didn’t like. This book was no different. The book draws on Viking legend and mythology. While Norse legends were never something I read over much, I did see the movie Thor and I was amazed at how much I was familiar with.

Not feeling wanted in his village, Odd decides to leave his community and go to his father’s hunting lodge. There he meets a fox who takes him to a bear that is trapped by a tree and Odd works to free him all the while be watched over by an eagle. Once he frees the bear, the bear allows Odd to ride his back and takes him home, the two being closely followed by the fox and eagle. When they get to his lodge, none of the animals seem keen on leaving so he does the only thing left to do. He invites them in.

He soon discovers that they are ensorcelled Norse gods, Odin, Thor and Loki, and that a Frost Giant has stolen their home and destroyed the bifrost so they can’t take the rainbow bridge home.

Odd seems like a bit of a simpleton upon first encounter, but we find that he is actually very clever. He decides to help them take back their home and travels with them to Asgard, if only they can find a way back.

The story itself is very short, but it is melodic. It has sort of a sing song quality to it and while it is not an overly complex story, as it is written for a younger audience, it is an inspirational tale about how on ordinary boy can be a hero with a little optimism and cleverness.

From Wikipedia:
World Book Day or World Book and Copyright Day (also known as International Day of the Book or World Book Days) is a yearly event on 23 April, organized by UNESCO to promote reading, publishing and copyright. In the United Kingdom, the day is instead recognized on the first Thursday in March. World Book Day was celebrated for the first time on 23 April 1995.


  1. Though there are several of his books on our shelves (my husband is a fan) I have yet to read any of this authors works. Great post, thanks for enlightening us.

    1. I really hope you do get a chance to read something by Neil. He's even done tv scripts. He wrote an episode of Dr Who and will be writing another I believe. He also wrote one of the best episodes of Babylon 5. If you get a chance, I hope you enjoy!

  2. Really enjoyed this one! Odd was clever, and I was also surprised how familiar I was with Norse mythology. Have yet to be disappointed with any of Neil's books.

    Very sweet story of how Cam introduced you to Neil! Never knew that. Now back off, cause he's mine! *L*

    1. I really liked how every thought he was an idiot because he was lame, but he was actually smarter than all of them.
      A short read, but just the type of story I'd expect from Neil.
      BTW, you might have to fight off Amanda for him. They moved to Cambridge so he lives closer now, well, at least closer to North NJ.