Spoiler free | Rating: 5 out of 5 stars | Read: 1 May – 2 May, 2018
‘Before the beginning there was nothing – no earth, no heavens, no stars, no sky: only the mist world, formless and shapeless, and the fire world, always burning’
I must admit, I was rather sceptical going into this. Back in February, I read (and didn’t enjoy) Kevin Crossley-Holland’s collection of Norse re-tellings titled The Penguin Book of Norse Myths: Gods of the Vikings. This collection had potential, but unfortunately did not deliver. CH didn’t make the stories engaging, meaning they weren’t fun to read. Instead, they were monotonous and dull. I was worried this might be a running thing with Norse re-tellings (were they all like this?). I was wrong, though. So very wrong. Gaiman, once again, managed to surprise me with his writing.
My main issue with the other collection was the lack of a linear narrative. I know the original texts have sections missing, and so the stories don’t necessarily follow on from each other, but I need an overarching narrative. If not, then the stories seem fragmented and jumpy. CH’s stories were just thrown at me, and I couldn’t make the connections between them. Gaiman, however, managed to weave a narrative that linked all the stories. He did this through frequent references. Myths echoed other myths, reminding me that this is where Mjollnir came from, and this is who’s Hel’s father is, and so on. I could connect the dots, basically.
Additionally, Gaiman added life to the myths. The other collection was quite dull; it was obvious that Crossley-Holland wanted to stay true to the original texts, but this made the stories boring. He didn’t give life or development to any character. Gaiman, however, cut out half the myths (there are 32 in CH’s version and 16 in Gaiman’s), and spent time fleshing these out. He added in extra imagery, fully developed his characters, and just spent more time on his re-tellings. I specifically liked his characters. Loki didn’t annoy me; he was both sweet and troublesome. I saw both sides of his character. Thor actually had a personality; he was witty and stupid. He resembled the Marvel’s depiction of Thor (which I appreciated).
Gaiman’s re-tellings also lacked the ridiculous nature that Crossley-Holland’s had. Granted, the stories are utterly bizarre, but Gaiman brought them down to earth. He tamed them. With the last collection, I questioned how anyone could possibly believe in this sort of stuff, but I was utterly convinced with Gaiman’s account. They were magical and totally unrealistic, but they were also funny and described so vividly. As always, I loved the creation and Ragnörak myths. It was interesting to learn how the Vikings (and other believers) imagined the world being created. It was an intricate story, and was described so beautifully. The latter myth is brilliant. It’s intense and dark. Chaotic yet mesmerising. I would definitely recommend starting here for a taster, but, then again, I would recommend this book as a whole!
‘That is how the world will end, in ash and flood, in darkness and in ice. That is the final destiny of the gods’
Honestly, I just loved this book so much. It was fun, easy and brilliant. The best re-telling of the original text (Poetic Edda) I’ve come across so far, and definitely a new favourite of the year!
Have you read it? What did you think of it? I’d love to discuss it with you!
Thanks for reading, Lauren X