Thursday, December 3, 2009

Review of Odd and the Frost Giants by Neil Gaiman

Gaiman, Neil. Odd and Frost Giants. Illustrated by Brett Helquist. Harper, 2009.

When one winter stretches long into the months usually reserved for spring, crippled 12-year-old Odd leaves his stir-crazy Viking village and hikes through the snow to his dead father's old woodcutting hut - having stolen some supplies, he figures he has at least a week's respite from all the folks who bully him. Almost immediately he has a strange encounter with a bear, a fox, and an eagle, who turn out to be Thor, Loki, and Odin. Thanks to the Loki's weakness for pretty women, a frost giant managed to trick Loki into giving him Thor's hammer, allowing the frost giant to steal Freya and kick the gods out of Asgard. Odd, being a resourceful lad, manages not only to get the gods back to Asgard but uses his awesome powers of persuasion to talk the frost giant into leaving.

At 117 pages, this is a tidy and completely satisfying little story. Despite Odd's dismal situation, it is impossible to feel sorry for him - his abrupt decision to go off on his own and his brave rescue of the ensorcelled bear from a honey tree mark him as an independent soul who knows how to take his own fate by the horns. Balancing Odd's rather enigmatic and steadfast persona are the three gods, who provide both comic relief and a patina of powerful otherworldliness to the proceedings. Odd's dealings with them and the pathetic frost giant are not so much clever as commonsensical, and so his reward for helping four great gods (for remember, he helps Freya, too) is not grand but is just right for him.

Highly recommended for all sorts of readers, especially fans of Norse mythology, and as a read-aloud, too. Ages 8 to 12.

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