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Book review: Neil Gaiman brings the Norse myths to life in new novel

Posted March 31

"NORSE MYTHOLOGY," by Neil Gaiman, W.W. Norton and Company, $25.95, 304 pages (f)

The stories of Norse mythology are some of the most fascinating tales of ancient gods and monsters that have ever been told, and they have captivated people’s imaginations for centuries.

Neil Gaiman, best-selling author and winner of multiple literary awards — including the Hugo, Nebula and Newberry Awards — is one of those people, and he has incorporated various aspects of Norse mythology into some of his most popular work.

“I will never forget the first time I encountered the Norse myths,” Gaiman said in a news release for his new book “Norse Mythology.” “I was a small boy with a borrowed paperback in a friend’s bedroom, but I was also walking with Thor and Loki through a pine forest. … Those Norse tales have accompanied me through pretty much everything I’ve done. They ran like a vein of silver through 'Sandman.' They were the bedrock of 'American Gods.'"

With “Norse Myths,” Gaiman masterfully weaves the tales of the Asgardians in a novel format that perfectly balances informing and educating readers about Norse mythology while still providing the immersive writing that his previous readers have come to expect.

Through Gaiman’s unique writing skills, readers will experience the Norse tales of creation and learn how Thor acquired Mjollnir (his lightning-making hammer that has become popular with the Marvel Avengers comic books and movies) and travel to lands of ogres and ice giants. The book closes where the myths end — Ragnarok, where gods and humans perish together in an apocalypse of fire, ice, giants and monsters.

Gaiman successfully brings the original sources and characters of Norse myths to life by navigating the stories into the imagination of his readers and then helping them experience those stories in a way that has never been done before.

“To get the opportunity to retell the myths and poems we have inherited from the Norse was almost too good to be true,” Gaiman said in the news release. “I hope that I have retold stories that read like the real thing: sometimes profound, sometimes funny, sometimes heroic, sometimes dark and always inevitable.”

Most ancient tales of mythology include instances of violence and sexual content. While those aspects are included in "Norse Mythology," Gaiman does not go into explicit detail but merely includes them in the tale as a matter of fact.

Email: btullis@deseretnews.com

Twitter: btullis

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