Odd and the Frost Giants Review – Norse Myth for Kids
March 4, 2010 3 Comments
Odd and the Frost Giants
A children’s fantasy novel by Neil Gaiman
score: *** outta five
“We won’t die,” said the bear, “because we can’t die here. But we’ll get hungry. And we’ll get more wild. More animal. It’s something that happens when you have taken on animal form. Stay in it too long and you become what you pretend to be. When Loki was a horse-“
“We don’t talk about that,” said the fox.
Another entry into kid’s fiction for Neil Gaiman, and another playful foray into mythology, Odd and the Frost Giants is about Odd, your mandatory plucky young hero cleverer than his years, and, well, some Frost Giants (of course!). Throw some boastful yet dimwitted gods and you’ve got yourself an amusing little yarn on your hands, but, admittedly, not much more than that.
Odd and the Frost Giants is follows the classic myth formula (and pays tribute to them at the same time), but without the explicit, y’know, crazy murder-rape-incest-bestiality shenanigans. The Frost Giants have nabbed Asgaard and Odin and crew have been turned into animals (not that that’s never happened before, mind you!). Our hero, Odd, is an odd (hee), crippled little Norse boy with an infuriating smile and enough wits to save Asgaard, and through it, Midgaard: because as it always is with tales about quick-witted little boys, most characters our protagonist meet are stupid.
But the characters, though they don’t get much time to develop, are entertaining, especially our bumbling animal-gods Odin, Loki and Thor. We get to see glimpses of Odd and his family’s Viking history too, which gives some nice context, though I personally felt that Odd himself felt a little flat and underdeveloped. Someone familiar with Norse mythology will likely get a buzz out of the ‘continuity’ of this book, as it is full of references to tales in Norse mythology while itself extending the myth. I would not be surprised if we saw more books about Odd down the line, and I’m all for it.
The book is peppered with a few black-and-white line drawings by Brett Helquist. These are well-detailed and great to look at, and complement the book very nicely. I kinda wish there were more of them in there.
Written in the typical Gaiman style, simple but imbued with wit when necessary, Odd and the Frost Giants is a pleasant but short (very short, his shortest – though I’m not sure of the specific time, it took me roughly less than an hour to read) fairytale that nonetheless I felt wasn’t particularly inventive or memorable. Perhaps if it were just a little longer, I would have given it that extra star. You can’t really go wrong with Gaiman’s writing, and I’m sure kids will enjoy this as much as any classic fairytale; But besides that, it will mostly serve you as a decent diversion while you wait for his meatier works (which I’m hoping will happen – sticking to children’s books would be a bit of a shame, though I have yet to check out The Graveyard Book). Get it to fill out your Gaiman collection.
The Rating System:
* crap; in all likelihood, avoid
** meh; not quite worth your time
*** decent; nothing or not much new
**** good; polished, solid, give it a chance
***** great; among the best of its kind