Title: Norse Myths: Tales of Odin, Thor and Loki
Author: Kevin Crossley-Holland
Illustrator: Jeffrey Alan Love
Publisher: Walker Books
Genre: Older children/middle grade, Fantasy – mythology
Book format: Hardback
Description: Fast-moving and ice-bright, these myths of the Vikings tell how the world was created and how it will be destroyed – only to begin again.
The gods, led by all-powerful Odin, and mighty Thor, are caught, in a terrifying struggle for power with the fearsome giants. They must battle them using all their cunning and strength. But the god’s greatest enemy lurks among them: the trickster Loki. Twisted by spite, his scheming will ultimately bring about the final great battle of Ragnarok.
These ancient stories of dazzling magic and thrilling journeys are dramatically retold by Kevin Crossley-Holland, the master of Norse mythology and the winner of the Carnagie Medal, and lavishly illustrated by Jeffrey Alan Love.
*Free copy provided by publisher for review…
Review: This is a truly stunning book and one which will be enjoyed by not only kids but adults too. ‘Norse Myths: Tales of Odin, Thor and Loki’ is a large hardback book about A4 in height but a bit wider and is filled with thick matt pages. The paper is the heavy kind making this a weighty book to hold and I’d advice putting it down while reading it. There are stunning illustrations just like the ones on the cover that give this book and the tales told within an interesting and dark atmosphere.
The book begins with a forward by the author explaining where the myths come from, after that there are a couple of double page spreads showing relevant characters, one has the names of all the relevant gods and goddesses, the next dwarfs and giants, and this is followed by a picture of the Norse World and the ash tree Yggdrasill. All these are accompanied with some great illustrations and I especially like the picture of Yggdrasill as this is a key part to the Norse stories and how they all connect and even though I’ve heard of the myths before I couldn’t piece them in my mind so well until I’d seen this picture.
The rest of the book is the various myths which should be read in order to get the most out of the stories. Each myth is like a short story, it has its own title and a brief sentence about it before the text of the tale. Although the Norse myths are different and some of them very strange compared to stories of today they are surprisingly compelling to read and I love the way this book tells them. I had some knowledge of the myths before I started reading this but having them in this book, arranged the way they are with the stunning illustrations has made it really easy to remember and I keep wanting to read them again and again.
Every story is interesting to read with some of them having morals to them, in a lot of them though you will read some pretty dark things such as characters being killed or hurt in the most gruesome of ways, every story however is interesting to read and has its conclusion. In some of the stories there’s mentions of things such as the killing and skinning of animals for food but none of these stories are done in a too gruesome way, it’s nothing that wouldn’t be appropriate for kids although the Norse myths themselves are dark in their very nature, especially towards the end of the book such as what happens to Loki.
The illustrations are just amazing and I think it’s really made this book all the more fun and powerful to read! Every illustration is like a shadow illustration, you rarely see any kind of faces, unless it is the silhouette of someone sideways or one or two eyes visible against the black shadows. Given how different and interesting the Norse myths are, these illustrations really do fit the atmosphere of the stories and how the whole book feels. The majority of the images are all black but there are other colours mixed into some pictures too such as blue for the sea, yellow for golden hair and red for Loki’s eyes. There is an illustration on each page or double page spread and many times there is so much black that you get white text on black as the whole images seems to swallow the text. You can only get a sense for the pictures by seeing them, they really are brilliant, and I’m amazed how easy it is to see what is happening when a lot of the time all you see is shadows.
There is a glossary at the back of the book with not only the names of characters but also some words used which some kids may not understand which is good as it saves going backwards in the book to find out who someone is or understand what something is. There is also a contents at the start of the book with all the myths labelled so you can dip in and out of reading a certain tale, although if it’s the first time you really should read them in order to feel the full impact of the stories.
Although this is a book I’d recommend for kids and adults there may be some kids who might find the tales a little scary or gory. The Norse myths are strange and different but there’s also something so compelling about them, they really do make for interesting reading and although some of the stories might be a bit weird or dark, I don’t think it’s anything an older child would find too difficult or unappealing. I really have enjoyed this book and would invite anyone of any age to read this if you are keen to learn the Norse myths as it’s a really exciting read and a great source of learning these tales. Some kids might find some of the stories a little strange to read, given what happens in the tales themselves but overall I would really recommend this book – I can’t stop myself re-reading it!
-Review first appeared online December 2017 – now republished here.
What do you think of the illustrations in this book? Are you interested in norse mythology, or mythology from anywhere else? Let me know what you think in the comments below 🙂