Author: Neil Gaiman
Illustrator: Chris Riddell
Rating: 4 Stars
Dates read: 31 Mar 19
Publication date: 03 Mar 2008
Genre(s): Childrens, Fantasy
A thrilling, wintry Nordic epic from the truly magical combination of author Neil Gaiman and illustrator Chris Riddell, weaving a tale of legend, magic and adventure which will grip and enchant readers from beginning to end.
Odd, a young Viking boy, is left fatherless following a raid and in his icy, ancient world there is no mercy for an unlucky soul with a crushed foot and no one to protect him. Fleeing to the woods, Odd stumbles upon and releases a trapped bear . and then Odd’s destiny begins to change. The eagle, bear and fox Odd encounters are Norse gods, trapped in animal form by the evil frost giants who have conquered Asgard, the city of the gods. Now our hero must reclaim Thor’s hammer, outwit the frost giants and release the gods .
I absolutely adore Neil Gaiman’s mind and writing, but have never actually physically read any of his books. My friend Emma borrowed a copy of Odd and the Frost Giants from the library and I couldn’t resist having a peak, and ultimately reading all about the boy’s adventure.
First things first, I don’t read many illustrated books that aren’t graphic novels, so this was a pleasantly new experience. Chris Riddell is a very gifted illustrator and brought the story to life with his black and white pen style drawings. He manages to convey so much into the character’s expressions and into the surrounding world and it lifted Gaiman’s already gifted storytelling to another level. The artwork in the book is paired with wonderful colouring and texture that has been added to create a sensory experience when reading the story.
I haven’t read much Norse Mythology, ore retellings/imaginings of the time, so it was enjoyable to read about the Norse Gods I have watched on screen in the MCU come alive in print. They retained the traits that they have on screen, and it was pretty awesome to read. I really enjoyed how the animal representations were pretty close to their personalities, Loki is cunning and was therefore a fox, Thor is big and slightly dopey and is therefore a bear, Odin is all seeing and all knowing and it therefore an eagle. I thought it was a really clever nod to the Gods in mythology and added an extra layer to the reimagining.
I also loved that this story addressed physical disability in a really positive light. Yes, Odd is treated differently at the beginning of the story. He has a permanently damaged less, and in a world/time where physical impediment prevents hunting and building and scavenging, he is of less tangible use. After an adventure with the Gods to Asgard, and experiencing a battle with the Frost Giants where his help was invaluable, he comes back as a mental and physical embodiment for overcoming his physical deficits.
The book contains the natural wit and fantastical ability that Gaiman has to tell a story. He is an expert in telling the reader enough to infer what they want in a book, and teamed with Riddell’s art, the story came to life as you read. It showcased Gaiman’s ability to write fantasy for any age, and even though I knew this was a children’s book, the language and style used was consistent with that in all his books and therefore spans generations wonderfully.
Would I have enjoyed it more if I was reading it as an actual child? Undoubtedly! This showcased the might that is the Gaiman/Riddell duo and was a perfect example of using existing mythology to tell a new tale in a refreshing way, and making a children’s book readable and enjoyable for adults to!