fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsfantasy book reviews Neil Gaiman Odd and the Frost GiantsOdd and the Frost Giants by Neil Gaiman

Odd’s childhood has not been easy. His father has died, his leg is crippled, his new stepfather is unpleasant, and the winter just won’t end. So, Odd decides to go off to stay in his father’s old hut in the woods. Soon he’s befriended by a bear, a fox, and an eagle. But these aren’t your normal bear, fox, and eagle — these animals can talk, and they tell Odd that they are the gods Loki, Thor, and Odin. They’ve temporarily lost their powers and their home to the Frost Giants. Bravely, young Odd sets out across a beautifully enchanting winter landscape to help the gods get home.

Odd and the Frost Giants is a short and sweet adventure fantasy for boys and girls which is based on Norse mythology. I listened to the audio version (2 hours long) which was produced by Harper Children’s Audio and read by Neil Gaiman himself. Gaiman’s reading is charming — it sounds just as if he’s telling the story to his own children at bedtime.

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsExcept for the initial sadness and isolation that Odd feels, there’s not much tension in Odd and the Frost Giants. All conflicts are quickly and easily resolved, and the ending is happy. It won’t appeal much to most adults, but it’s just the sort of sweet story that will appeal to their imaginative children.

~Kat Hooper

Odd and the Frost Giants by Neil Gaiman fantasy book reviewsThere was a boy called Odd, and there was nothing strange or unusual about that, not in that time or place. Odd meant tip of a blade, and it was a lucky name.

Neil Gaiman’s charming children’s story, Odd and the Frost Giants, opens with that bit of information. In spite of his name, Odd has not been very lucky lately. His father, a woodcutter, died during one of the village’s sea-raids. Later, Odd, trying to cut wood himself, badly injured his leg. Now he walks with a limp. His mother is remarried to a village man with many other children who does not care for Odd, and winter shows no signs of abating this year. One night, Odd slips out of the great hall, takes a side of salmon and one of his father’s axes, and runs away to his father’s woodcutting cottage in the wintery forest — and here, his adventure begins.

Gaiman introduces Norse mythology when Odd meets a fox, a bear and an eagle that are more than they seem. Soon, Odd is on a quest to free the stronghold of the gods, Asgard, from the frost giants. Odd must use his courage and his wits to help the three (it is quite obvious who they are from very early on). Odd is observant, and his awareness of the natural world allows him to, for instance, figure out a way to open the rainbow bridge that links Asgard to Midgard, our world. Odd’s most powerful weapon, though, is his smile. He has used it to baffle and confuse the village bullies, and that technique works just as well on gods and frost giants.

Without being preachy or too sugary, Gaiman gives us a young hero who uses his awareness, his wits and his ability to listen to overcome obstacles and defeat a dangerous adversary. Even though the story is short and simple, there are faint threads of trademark Gaiman darkness in it — like at the Asgard feast at the end.

Loki, who had to sit down at the far end of the table, was pleasant enough to everyone until he got drunk, and then, like a candle suddenly blowing out, he became unpleasant, and he said mean, foolish, unrepeatable things, and he leered at the Goddesses, and soon enough Thor and a large man with one hand, who Odd thought might have been called Tyr, were carrying Loki from the hall.

Another of Gaiman’s trademarks is his humor, and there is plenty of that here, also, whether it’s a casual sentence like, “There were no full-time Vikings back then. Everyone had another job,” and Odd’s observation later in the story, when he is riding on the back of the bear, that “I am just like one of the brave lords in my mother’s ballads. Only without the horse, the dog and the falcon.”

Odd is a very familiar Gaiman character, and the three bickering gods are familiar too, and none of that limited my enjoyment. I read a British edition of this book (Bloomsbury), enlivened with lovely pen and ink illustrations by Adam Stower. They added a dimension to the story. This is a book that wants to be read out loud, although an advanced young reader would certainly enjoy it. Kat’s review above is of the audiobook. I struggle with audiobooks but I might give this one a shot, just to hear Neil Gaiman read it to me.

~Marion Deeds

Odd and the Frost Giants — (2008) Ages 9-12. Publisher: Odd’s luck has been bad so far. He lost his father on a Viking expedition, his foot was crushed beneath a tree, and the winter seems to be going on forever. But when Odd flees to the woods and releases a trapped bear, his luck begins to change. The eagle, bear and fox he encounters reveal they’re actually Nordic gods, trapped in animal form by the evil Frost Giants who have conquered Asgard, the city of the gods. Can a twelve-year-old boy reclaim Thor’s hammer, outwit the Frost Giants and release the gods?


  • Kat Hooper

    KAT HOOPER, who started this site in June 2007, earned a Ph.D. in neuroscience and psychology at Indiana University (Bloomington) and now teaches and conducts brain research at the University of North Florida. When she reads fiction, she wants to encounter new ideas and lots of imagination. She wants to view the world in a different way. She wants to have her mind blown. She loves beautiful language and has no patience for dull prose, vapid romance, or cheesy dialogue. She prefers complex characterization, intriguing plots, and plenty of action. Favorite authors are Jack Vance, Robin Hobb, Kage Baker, William Gibson, Gene Wolfe, Richard Matheson, and C.S. Lewis.

    View all posts
  • Marion Deeds

    Marion Deeds, with us since March, 2011, is the author of the fantasy novella ALUMINUM LEAVES. Her short fiction has appeared in the anthologies BEYOND THE STARS, THE WAND THAT ROCKS THE CRADLE, STRANGE CALIFORNIA, and in Podcastle, The Noyo River Review, Daily Science Fiction and Flash Fiction Online. She’s retired from 35 years in county government, and spends some of her free time volunteering at a second-hand bookstore in her home town.

    View all posts