Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Odd and the Frost Giants by Neil Gaiman

Just before bed last night, I finally settled down to read Odd and the Frost Giants, a smallish book by Neil Gaiman, illustrated by Brett Helquist.

There was a boy called Odd, and there was nothing strange or unusual about that, not in that time or place. Odd meant the tip of a blade, and it was a lucky name.

He was odd, though. At least, the other villagers thought so. But if there was one thing that he wasn't, it was lucky.

Thus begins our story, which is set in the land and time of the Vikings, in a world known as the Midgard. Odd's father was a Viking who obtained his wife on a raiding trip to Scotland, along with a herd of sheep. Odd's father died, however, after rescuing one of the valuable ponies, and Odd managed to cripple his right leg in a tree-felling accident, so life for Odd is a bit hard - and harder still after his mother remarries, to a guy named Fat Elfred.

One year, when spring failed to come when it ought, Odd takes off into the woods on his own and meets three unlikely companions: a fox, a huge bear, and a one-eyed eagle, who turn out to be gods under an enchantment. Specifically, Loki, Thor, and the All-Father, Odin. (Are you listening ?) Turns out a Frost Giant has come from Jotunheim, invaded the Alsgard, tricked Loki, put a curse on Loki, Thor, and Odin, and intends to marry Freya. Odd does what any crippled, orphaned hero would do and sets off to put things right.

The book is full of charm and whimsy and forms a wonderful introduction to the personalities of the four Norse gods in question. It is quite fun to read and, judging from the free clip available at Barnes and Noble's website, wonderful to listen to if you're an audiobook afficionado, since Gaiman reads the book himself and, as anyone who has listened to his other books can tell you, he's a marvelous reader.

Here's the book trailer, so you can get an idea of what some of the illustrations look like (although there are only a few throughout the book, and they don't, y'know, move at all on the pages, Hogwarts-like):

This title is on the list of CYBILS finalists in middle-grade fantasy and science fiction. The story was originally penned for World Book Day 2008 in the U.K., where it sold to school children in exchange for £1 book tokens. The HarperCollins edition will run you $14.99 at full price, although it's widely available for less than that. Definitely one for the re-reading pile, in my opinion. And should you be inclined to order it, I hope you'll consider going through the CYBILS site as a portal - no additional cost to you if you do so, but it will get a few pennies for the CYBILS coffers, to help pay for the pens that they give to winning authors as an award, and to pay for the lovely bookmarks they create to be handed to libraries, etc.

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Anonymous said...

Odd and the Frost Giants was a deeply dreary and underwhelming story. Gaiman's characters are passive and this was just hard to get through.

Kelly Fineman said...

I'm sorry to hear you felt that way. I wish you'd indicated who you are, however.