Neil Gaiman has long been inspired by ancient mythology in creating the fantastical realms of his fiction. Now he turns his attention back to the source, presenting a rendition of the great northern tales of Thor, Odin, Freya and Loki.
Gaiman brings all of that awe to Norse Mythology, and you’ll be hard-pressed to finish it and not feel just as inspired ... While the stories are ancient, Gaiman makes them fresh and lively, as if the antics of the gods and giants only just happened. He revives the myths not as stories to be read but as tales to be told, read aloud to rapt listeners just as they would’ve been done long ago ... Those familiar with the storytelling techniques of traditional folklore and myths will immediately get where Gaiman is coming from. Norse Mythology deftly blends ancient and contemporary literature styles, paying homage to the former with the flair of the latter ... When I first picked up Norse Mythology, I only planned to read a few chapters, but the deeper I got the more I felt like as if I was sitting in a Viking longhouse by a roaring fire and a cup of mead listening Gaiman recite mythic poetry ... quite simply breathtaking.
Gaiman’s sentences appear so simple and plain that one wonders if the book is actually intended for 9-year-olds. At the same time, the author’s penchant for short paragraphs, some of only a single sentence, adds an air of portentousness. This combination of the faux-naif and the melodramatic is then further complicated by the diction of the gods. They speak a bit like comic-book superheroes ... In fact, despite the mishmash of its styles and the sometimes irritating egregiousness of Gaiman’s celebrity, Norse Mythology turns out to be a gripping, suspenseful and quite wonderful reworking of these famous tales. Once you fall into the rhythm of its glinting prose, you will happily read on and on, in thrall to Gaiman’s skillful storytelling.
As always, Gaiman’s a charming raconteur. The project itself, though, seems oddly superfluous ... Unsurprisingly, Gaiman recognizes a ripping yarn when he sees one. The bits of the 'Edda' material he’s plucked and fleshed out here are pretty entertaining on their own, and Gaiman's takes on them play up the characterization that the extant sources only hint at ... Gaiman can be very funny, sometimes so much so that his own voice's commentary upstages the story he's telling ... For the most part, though, the diction of Norse Mythology is that of someone telling a story to children while entertaining the adults sitting with them ... As charming as Norse Mythology is, it's still a little perplexing that it exists. Why would the world need Gaiman's particular, straightforward take on this material.