Great excitement always sweeps the book community when a Gaiman book is due out, and this was no exception. I was less interested, as I prefer rewrites and reinterpretations — like Gaiman’s American Gods — of mythology I know well rather than simple retellings in modern language, which is what this seemed to be. That’s more or less true: the stories stick very close to the Eddas, and are entirely familiar to me. The fun part is really Gaiman’s own touches; his sense of humour, and his fine sense of timing. “Shut up, Thor,” is a refrain that becomes surprisingly comical in one or two of the stories, for example.
It’s not, however, a groundbreaking reinterpretation. It’s just like sitting with Gaiman and being told the stories, more or less true to their sources, with a sense of humour that sometimes illuminates their inconsistencies and the things which startle or amuse a modern audience. It’s not a bad book, by any means, but as I expected it’s not the kind of retelling I really enjoy. For something more complex which really uses the Norse mythology and creates a new story, American Gods is a great choice — it’s not that Gaiman doesn’t handle the material well.
I am glad I’ve got a physical copy, though; it’s a gorgeous looking book, both with and without the dust cover. I don’t think it’s going to fit on my shelf next to my other Gaiman books, but that’s beside the point. It’s pretty.
In any case, my rating isn’t a criticism as such — I read this because it’s Gaiman and my (former, I guess) field and it was bound to be amusing, and it was, but no more than that for me.