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BOOK REVIEW: Odd and the Frost Giants by Neil Gaiman, illustrated by Chris Riddell

| 12 October 2016 | Reply

BOOK REVIEW: Odd and the Frost Giants by Neil Gaiman, illustrated by Chris Riddell

October 2016
Hardback, $29.99
Reviewed by Steph O’Connell

Children’s Fiction



Odd loses his father and, in stepping up to take over his father’s duties, is injured.

Unable to walk properly with his crushed foot, and certainly unable to step into a proper viking role, Odd is ridiculed by the people of the town, and by his new step-father.
He flees to the woods, to his father’s old cabin, and soon comes across a fox that seems to be trying to tell him something.

Its muzzle was narrow, its ears were pricked and sharp, and its expression was calculating and sly. When it saw that Odd was watching, it jumped into the air, as if it were trying to show off, and retreated a little way, and then stopped. It was red-orange, like flame, and it took a dancing step or two towards Odd, and turned away, then looked back at Odd as if it were inviting him to follow.
It was, Odd concluded, an animal with a plan. He had no plans, other than a general determination never to return to the village. And it was not every day that you got to follow a fox.
So he did.

Odd follows the fox to a bear, which he helps free from under a fallen tree, and he soon discovers that this bear and fox, plus the eagle that has been watching from the skies, are actually gods, forced from their kingdom by frost giants.

‘You were talking,’ said Odd.
The animals looked at Odd and at each other. If they did not actually say ‘Who? Us?’, it was there in their expressions, in the way they held themselves.
‘Somebody was talking,’ said Odd. ‘And it wasn’t me. There isn’t anyone else in here. That means it was you lot. And there’s no point in arguing.’
‘We weren’t arguing,’ said the bear. ‘Because we can’t talk.’ Then it said, ‘Oops.’

Odd sets out to win back Thor’s hammer, return the gods to their kingdom and their humanoid forms, end the winter that has gone on far longer than normal thanks to the frost giants, and prove that strength doesn’t trump brains.



It finally happened; I came across a Neil Gaiman short work that I felt more than “meh” about!

He’s a brilliant man, there’s no denying that, and I have always thought that I was bound to love his work. But, due to a time crunch brought on by release dates, I have never found the time to go back and delve into his novels. So new-release, illustrated short stories are the only form of Neil Gaiman text that I have had justification to read.

And thus far I haven’t been driven to much in the way of feeling by any of them.

But Odd and the Frost Giants has broken the ice, so to speak!

Here we have a story that would be at home in the original Norse myths, which is full of humour, hope, and trickery, with the bad guys getting what they deserve, and the scrawny, injured protagonist saving the day with brains and imagination rather than muscles.

The whole book is gorgeous, with Riddell’s signature illustrations, enhanced with metallic ink, and it would make a perfect gift or addition to the collection of Gaiman fans.

The only qualm I had with this one was the fact that the text describes Odd’s mother as such:

Odd’s mother, who was as dark as Odd’s father had been fair, had been brought to the fjord on a longship from Scotland.

But the illustrations don’t really show this very well. It could be that Gaiman meant that her hair was dark, in which case there are a few more lines in her hair than that of his father, but in this reader’s opinion it doesn’t even reflect that particularly well.

All in all this was a fun read that reflected its intended genre/time period rather well, and it reassures this reader that Neil Gaiman is for me, and that my gathering of his works should continue.


When, in the years that followed, the Gods told this tale, late at night, in their great hall, they always hesitated at this point, because in a moment Odd will reach into his jerkin, and pull out something carved of wood, and none of them was certain what it was.
Some of the Gods claimed that it was a wooden key, and some said it was a wooden heart. There was a school of thought that maintained that what Odd had presented the giant was a realistic carving of Thor’s hammer, and that the Giant had been unable to tell the real from the false, and had fled, in terror.
They were wrong.
It was none of these things.

Category: Book Reviews, Other Reviews

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