For the first time, I’m rather disappointed by a new Neil Gaiman book, especially when the subject seems to be so close to his heart and his skills.
We ought to be in sync on this one: it may not have been the same book, but I too encountered the Norse Myths in the mid-Sixties, though without the prior mediation of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby via The Mighty Thor, and I’ve always felt a greater affinity with them than the rather more famous, and studied, Greek Myths.
And, as far as my memory of the book I was bought (probably from Shudehill Bookstalls, like so many others of my childhood) is concerned, Gaiman has retold all the tales I remember.
So I ought to like this book, but the truth is that I found it disappointing for the most fundamental reason that if I hadn’t known Neil Gaiman had written this, I would never have guessed it.
All good writers have a ‘voice’. This has been true of all of Neil Gaiman’s work to date, however diverse the subject or medium. It’s a slightly formal tone, a slightly archaic tone, a way of expressing things, but it isn’t anywhere present in this book. It could be any author, except that it’s an author reading to children, and reading aloud. It lacks personality, it lacks individuality. The tales are left to fend for themselves, with no authorial input to characterise them.
Without Gaiman’s voice, this could be anyone writing this version of the myths, and that’s precisely why this book doesn’t work for me.