Book Review: Norse Mythology

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4-star

Title: Norse Mythology

Author: Neil Gaiman

Series? No

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Goodreads

Book Depository // Amazon // Dymocks // Booktopia


Disclaimer: I received a physical copy of this book from Bloomsbury Australia in exchange for an honest review. 

When I think of Neil Gaiman’s writing, I think of the reinvention of myths, of age-old tales rewritten in timeless prose, of new surprises found in half-forgotten stories. From American Gods to Anansi Boys, from Sandman to Odd & The Frost Giant, it’s obvious that Gaiman’s relationship with myths is intimate and dynamic. Norse Mythology is no simple collection of outworn tales, it’s a reminder of the enduring power of stories – especially ones that can be retold.

norse-mythology

To be perfectly honest, my interest in Norse mythology have always felt like an afterthought to my passion for the Greek pantheon, or the many deities of East Asia. It’s a collection of myths that seemed to value valour in battle and warriors above all – things my bookish self could not relate to. In this book, Neil Gaiman managed to capture the humanity in the gods of Asgard, while letting them retain their infuriating yet remarkable character and habits. Although it’s a slim volume, it was packed with enough content to whet my appetite to go exploring for more.

The volume retells some of the most famous Norse mythologies in Neil Gaiman’s inimitable prose. The writing is at times breathtaking, and at others humorous. We are treated to tales of how Odin lost his eye to the fate of Loki’s children. We witness the god’s capacity for pride and love, but also their avarice and envy. The readers are reminded that the Norse gods are far from infallible, in fact – they’re not even immortal – the coming of Ragnarok and the promise of the end weighs heavily on their consciousness. The final chapters of the book highlighted this, and it was here that Neil Gaiman’s characteristic narrative voice shined brightest within the volume.

In recent years, Hollywood and Marvel have shaped the public’s impression of the Norse gods, especially of Thor and Loki. Norse Mythology recalls the tradition and roots of these myths, where the gods are neither heroes or villains. The book especially excelled in its portrayal of Loki, the complicated trickster god who in Gaiman’s words ‘was of the gods but not of them’. His motivations was an endless source of intrigue within these stories, and his battle of wit against the rest of the gods was a constant highlight.

Alongside with Loki, Odin and Thor were also heavily feature within this volume. Unfortunately, the stories associated with lesser known gods and goddesses such as Tyr, Frigg, and Sif has become lost with time. As such, Norse Mythology lacked a certain dimension due to the scarcity of the source materials. It emphasised the crucial need to retell what’s left of this tale before it’s forgotten by future generations.

With Norse Mythology, Neil Gaiman not only retells the stories of an age long past. He seeks to engage a modern audience in the act of seizing these myths and making them our own. Stories all have power, but only if there’s a willing storyteller determined to ensure these tales  will stand the test of time. With this book, Gaiman reminds us that our favourite stories will live on, but only if we are willing to share them on that fateful winter night.


Are you familiar with Norse mythologies? Which other myth or folklore would you like to see Gaiman retell? I would love to see a non-fictional account of American Gods and how immigrants and their stories have helped shaped the culture of America.

36 thoughts on “Book Review: Norse Mythology

  1. I’m really excited to read this! Like you, Norse mythology hasn’t always had a place for me, but combined with Gaiman’s writing means I think it could be a great way of knowing more! Your review has just made me more excited! Lovely review.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think I still prefer Gaiman’s fiction but this was a quick and easy intro into Norse mythologies! I recommend the audiobook because Neil Gaiman narrates it and his voice is perfectly suited for this 😍

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    • I’m glad I could change your mind but now I desperately hope you’ll like it!! Norse myths are certainly interesting, but sad that so many of their stories have become lost with time.

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    • If you’re familiar with Norse myths I’m not sure if you’ll learn anything new with this book- but I did like the narrative voice. Thank you!!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Welcome back!! ❤
    I enjoyed Norse Mythology, and your review was excellent! But I think if I'd read Gaiman's fiction first I would've liked NM more than I did. I only gave it 3 stars, which isn't bad I suppose!
    And I'd love to see more Egyptian mythology!!! And Roman, even.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you!! I am glad to be back and hopefully I can join in on all the future Melbourne meet ups now haha. You NEED to read Neil Gaiman’s other works, I liked this one but his fiction are so much better.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I absolutely adore Norse mythology – I’ve written a few bits and pieces with Norse myths myself, and they’ve always fascinated me much more than the Greek heroes for some reason. Neil Gaiman is pretty incredible at reimagining fairytales so I really have to grab this one!

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    • Oooo I hope we get a chance to read your writing one day!! Be warned this one isn’t really a reimagining and more just a collection of story in their original form, just written with his narrative voice. You might be a bit bored if you’re already familiar with the myths?

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    • I really need to read some of Rick Riordan’s stuff. People keep referencing them when they talk about Mythology and I feel like I’m missing out haha.

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  4. Great review, Aentee – have just added this to my Goodreads list to have a peruse of. Listened to Gaiman the other night on a podcast reading some of this – and it was lovely to hear how passionate he is about the Norse myths, how much of a driving force they’ve been in his life. Like you – I’m more drawn to Greek mythology, but will definitely be giving these a read after hearing him and your review. Thanks for sharing!

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  5. Neil Gaiman always makes me wish I hadn’t skewed so much towards Greek mythology as a kid — I think it made me miss out on a lot of other amazing myths and stories, including definitely the Norse ones. If I’d just had the D’Aulaire’s book of Norse myths as well as their Greek, things could have been different. I have this book out from the library right now and I can’t wait to read it!

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    • Greek myths have the advantage of being very well preserved though, there’s so many more sources available for it! Hope you enjoy this one.

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  6. For some reason I’ve always enjoyed Greek mythology more than Norse mythology (I blame Percy Jackson), but I’m going to give this a try because it sounds absolutely fantastic. Thanks for sharing and, as always, fabulous review! ❤

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  7. You’ve reminded me why I want to read this book. I was intrigued by it as soon as I saw Neil Gaiman’s name to it and I have always had an interest in mythology of all kinds even if I am not known to fully read into everything. I’ve read many a book which has been influenced by Norse mythology yet have never fully read into all the stories so this book sounds perfect. Gaiman is skilled at retelling and I know his voice in writing will come through and keep me interested. I’ll have to keep my eyes peeled to get ahold of a copy.

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    • I hope you enjoy it Becky! Neil Gaiman certainly lends his magic to all the folktales and myths he touches /fangirl moment.

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  8. Even the cover of this book is simple, beautiful, and brilliant. I really can’t wait to get ahold of a copy of this! I can’t even count how many times I’ve read some of Gaiman’s other novels. I guess I don’t really know as much about Norse mythology as I should, despite being incredibly interested! Fabulous review!

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  9. I’m like you Aentee: usually my interest in mythology isn’t directed towards Norse stories, but Egyptian and South Asian (as well as Indigenous myths from North American tribes). That said, you’ve made this one sound absolutely fantastic, especially with the nod to Gaiman’s trademark style and humour. Despite the relative absence of lesser known gods and goddesses, I’m definitely interested in reading this one now! 🙂

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    • I think you should try the audiobook for this one, it has an edge over the book thanks to Neil Gaiman’s narration 💙

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