This is a good retelling of some of the basic elements of Norse mythology, but it felt a little light and incomplete to me. I was hoping for a fuller presentation of the whole saga, which granted would make this book twice or thrice as long as it is. For example, there is very little about the lady goddesses, some of whom do have their own stories. There’s a note in the introduction about how many Norse stories have been lost, which is true of a lot of stories including Loki’s origins, but more is preserved than is presented here. I just wanted a little more.
Even though Gaiman stays pretty true to the plots, he does his usual thing with creating good interesting characters. The nature of the divinities (good, bad, sneaky, benevolent, etc) are complex here and variable. Thor is dumb in one story, but highly intuitive and right in the next. Odin is all knowing in one story, but keeps self-fulfilling bad prophecies. Loki’s a jerk pretty consistently. The women though get little of this same attention, and that bothers me. Some of the female characters, goddesses and giants alike, have character and interesting stories of their own, but none of them are included here.
I also kind wish there were some more stories here about groups other than just the gods. Some Norse stories do feature elves or human heroes or other beings. A little more of that might have given a more rounded picture of the world of Norse myth.
I know something about Norse mythology already, but these stories are told reminded me of some smaller things I’d forgotten, like how bad poetry came into the world, and that Fenris Wolf could have been a good guy if he hadn’t been mistreated by the gods because they were afraid he’d get too strong. Small descriptive details or little turns of phrase are what makes this retelling special. It’s also a little truer to the original Norse sources than the Marvel comics or Rick Riordan (not an insult to the Magnus Chase series which I love- it’s just not terribly faithful to the original mythology).
Overall, this is still Neil Gaiman, written well and worth the read. Just don’t expect a complete picture of the world described.