Neil Gaiman wrote Odd and the Frost Giants for World Book Day 2008. The cover on the left is the original cover. The book has since been reissued twice, illustrated by different people, one of which is Odd and the Frost Giants illustrated by Chris Riddell. That’s the cover on the right. The one in the middle was illustrated by someone called Adam. My version is the World Book Day version. It’s also illustrated but the illustrations are not very typical for a Neil Gaiman book as they aren’t anything special.
Odd and the Frost Giants is inspired by Norse Mythology and because I want to read Gaiman’s book on Norse Myths, I thought it would be fun to read this first. Besides, I haven’t read any of Gaiman’s children’s books so far, with the exception of Coraline, and The Graveyard Book, which appeal to kids and grown-ups alike.
Odd, a half-Viking, half Scottish boy with a disability from an accident, leaves his home. After his dad’s death, his mother married again, and the stepdad doesn’t like Odd. Because Odd is a little odd. He has the habit of smiling an infuriating smile.
Odd doesn’t only leave because he’s mistreated by his stepdad but because, for the first time, this year, spring isn’t coming. On his way to his dad’s old hut, he meets a bear, a fox, and an eagle who accompany him. Together they sleep in his dad’s hut. At night, Odd finds out that the three animals can talk. They are not really animals but the Gods Odin, Thor, and Loki. Usually they live in Asgard, not in Midgard, where they meet Odd. But because of a mistake, they were booted out by the Frost Giants. And this is why winter won’t stop.
Odd, who may be strange and disabled, is also courageous and so they travel to Asgard together to defeat the Frost Giants.
What can I say about this book? It’s OK. The beginning is very nice, typical Gaiman, but then it sort of fizzles out. Neil Gaiman writes a lot of stories for events and anthologies and I’ve often noticed in the past that they aren’t as good as the other stories. I might be one of the only ones to think like this about Odd and the Frost Giants. Many, especially adult readers seem to love it. That said, I’m not the only one who noticed discrepancies. I came across an interesting website called Disability in KidLit and there was a blog post about the disability in Odd. You can find it here. The author noticed that while Odd’s disability is described as making it hard for him to walk, it’s never mentioned that he’s in pain. But suddenly, towards the end, the pain is important. I noticed this too but thought I’d been inattentive while reading. Seems like I wasn’t. Maybe you’ll think that’s no big deal and, in a way, for the story, it isn’t, but it just shows that it was possibly written quite quickly and not thoroughly edited. If however, you look at disability in kid’s lit, then it becomes a big deal as the portrayal is sloppy.
If you want to read everything he’s ever written, you’ll have to read this. If not, well, it’s a quick read but don’t expect anything too spectacular. I tried to find out what children think of it but didn’t find anything. Possibly, this tale of a boy who – against all odds – (Gaiman likes to play with words it seems) – defeats the big Frost Giants, is a winner with kids.
13 thoughts on “Odd and the Frost Giants by Neil Gaiman – A Tale Inspired by Norse Mythology – A Post a Day in May”
I confess *whispers* that I’ve never read any of Gaiman’s books. I’ll make sure not to start with this one!
No, don’t. That could be a turn off. His short stories are a good place to start. Or The Ocean at the End of the Lane.
Wonderful review, Caroline! Glad to know that you liked the first part of the book, but sorry to know that it wasn’t as good, after that. I haven’t read this one. I love Neil Gaiman and I have read some of his books. I think ‘The Graveyard Book’ was the last one I read. It has been a while since I read that. Need to read my next Gaiman soon. I also want to read his Norse Mythology. Hope you enjoy your next Gaiman more. Happy reading!
Thank you, Vishy. It wasn’t as good as I had hope but still had very good parts. Maybe he had to rush it a bit. Normally there’s always a foreword by him where he explains how he got the idea. Not so here. I liked The Graveyard Book very much. I still haven’t read American Gods and Anansi Boys. I also hope I will read him again soon. Even if one of his books or stories aren’t amazing they still have the very special Neil Gaiman flavor.
The only Gaiman novels I’ve read are The Ocean at the End of the Lane and Coraline. It’s not my genre, but I actually liked them. Not sure I’ll read any more.
Sorry, I’ve gotten really behind on commenting.
Don’t worry. I’m still catching up on visiting too. He writes genre but in an accessible way, I’d say so I’m not surprised you liked the books.
Oh no! I saw Gaiman in the title, and I was excited. This sounds tepid. And I agree with you, Caroline. Sometimes, he seems to write for events, and they end up being rushed. No foreword by him is also a dampened for me. I am a fan of his forewords. I love ‘The Ocean At The End of The Lane’, and quite strangely, I love ‘Neverwhere’ too. Thank you, again, for this post. I will think twice before I read this book.
Tepid is the right word. I’m glad I’m not the only one who noticed this of his contract work.
I always like his story notes so much.
I like Neverwhere as well. It was the first I read. The Stardust whcih I liked less. The Ocean at the End of the Lane is wonderful.
I’ve only read one Gaiman which I liked a lot and I do mean to read more – but I’ll perhaps not prioritise this one!
Better not. He’s quite prolific and unless you turn into a completist, you can skip this.
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Great review! I am OBSESSED with Coraline, but couldn’t finish The Graveyard Book…I felt that it fizzled like you mentioned this one did. I am eager to read more Gaiman, though. 😀
Thank you. 🙂Coraline is terrific and so is The Ocean at the end of the Lane. Also Neverwhere. I can’t remember The Graveyard Book but liked it better than you did. I think it was more episodic that with one tight plot line.