Apr 20, 2010

[Books] Odd and the Frost Giants

Odd and the Frost GiantsThere's something innately beautiful about classical mythology, especially for geeks. I mean seriously, as much as I'll forever be obsessed with robots and high technology, the stories of the gods and their exploits in the world of men will always be something that I'll hold dear.

While like most people, I'm best acquainted with the Greek myths, I've always had a curiosity about Norse mythology beyond the highly limited view we get through the likes of comic books and cartoons. However Norse mythology was shaped by a pretty harsh culture and the stories are rarely friendly to those of younger age and thus we don't always get introduced to them early on.

One can imagine that it must take a pretty skilled writer to shape the Norse myths into something fit for teens, even children, and of course one such writer stepped up to the plate.

Neil GaimanImage via Wikipedia

Odd and the Frost Giants is a lovely adventure based around some of the Norse myths written by none other than Neil Gaiman himself. As much as playing around with mythological figures is sort of a staple when it comes to many of his stories, it doesn't mean it'll ever ever get old or we'll stop reading his books. Plus this is actually a children's book and even that shouldn't turn adult readers away from this brilliant little story.

Odd is a young Viking child who lost his father drowned during a raid and thus was left to live alone with his mother. He is also a cripple because of a woodcutting accident and thus hobbles around on a crutch. His life has become pretty miserable ever since his mother took on a new husband who seems to care little about him and thus he spends long days alone in the woods exploring.

One day he is greeted by the unusual sight of a fox seemingly encouraging him to follow. He does and soon discovers a bear whose paw is trapped in a tree and an eagle circling overhead. This odd event is just one of the eccentricities of the day that he discovers and eventually it leads him to Asgard, land of the gods and the challenge of defeating the Frost Giants of lore. How a boy his size and with a bad leg could possible stand against such fearsome creatures as the Frost Giants is a bit hard to imagine, but what is a classic story without impossible odds?

Gaiman did an amazing job of weaving a new fairy tale or sorts using the classical style. It didn't feel cheap or shallow or underdeveloped like many young adult books tend to. It's a simple story but a very good one and a reminder to all writers that you don't need complex storylines to tell a good tale. The book becomes doubly good with its austerity plus it doesn't at all hurt that the characters are amazingly well-crafted.

Odd is a good hero for children of the modern age since he's still the kind of boy that many of us can imagine becoming. Plus he's a very strong individual despite his disability, his size and of course his age, and he doesn't let any of that stand in his way. It makes him all the more endearing and not from an "against all odds" kind of inspiring way but more along the lines of a kid doing what he does best to succeed - being a kid.

This is a very easy read for adult readers and a healthy one for younger audiences. I can't imagine anyone not enjoying this book for what it is.

Odd and the Frost Giants gets 4.5 wooden sculptures hiding in trees out of a possible 5.

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