I spent three hours a week during my junior spring of college learning about Norse mythology, the ins and outs of gods and goddesses and the crazy antics they get up to up in Asgard. In the middle of that semester was when Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman came out, and we even discussed his previous work, American Gods, as part of the syllabus. Here are some great works of fiction that draw on Norse Mythology.
Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman
In Norse Mythology, Gaiman stays true to the myths in envisioning the major Norse pantheon: Odin, the highest of the high, wise, daring, and cunning; Thor, Odin’s son, incredibly strong yet not the wisest of gods; and Loki—son of a giant—blood brother to Odin and a trickster and unsurpassable manipulator. Gaiman fashions these primeval stories into a novelistic arc that begins with the genesis of the legendary nine worlds and delves into the exploits of deities, dwarfs, and giants. Once, when Thor’s hammer is stolen, Thor must disguise himself as a woman—difficult with his beard and huge appetite—to steal it back. More poignant is the tale in which the blood of Kvasir—the most sagacious of gods—is turned into a mead that infuses drinkers with poetry. The work culminates in Ragnarok, the twilight of the gods and rebirth of a new time and people.
American Gods by Neil Gaiman
Locked behind bars for three years, Shadow did his time, quietly waiting for the magic day when he could return to Eagle Point, Indiana. A man no longer scared of what tomorrow might bring, all he wanted was to be with Laura, the wife he deeply loved, and start a new life. But just days before his release, Laura and Shadow’s best friend are killed in an accident. With his life in pieces and nothing to keep him tethered, Shadow accepts a job from a beguiling stranger he meets on the way home, an enigmatic man who calls himself Mr. Wednesday. A trickster and rogue, Wednesday seems to know more about Shadow than Shadow does himself. Life as Wednesday’s bodyguard, driver, and errand boy is far more interesting and dangerous than Shadow ever imagined—it is a job that takes him on a dark and strange road trip and introduces him to a host of eccentric characters whose fates are mysteriously intertwined with his own. Along the way Shadow will learn that the past never dies; that everyone, including his beloved Laura, harbors secrets; and that dreams, totems, legends, and myths are more real than we know. Ultimately, he will discover that beneath the placid surface of everyday life a storm is brewing—an epic war for the very soul of America—and that he is standing squarely in its path.
The Gospel of Loki by Joanne Harris
This novel is a brilliant first-person narrative of the rise and fall of the Norse gods—retold from the point of view of the world’s ultimate trickster, Loki. A #1 bestseller in the UK, The Gospel of Loki tells the story of Loki’s recruitment from the underworld of Chaos, his many exploits on behalf of his one-eyed master, Odin, through to his eventual betrayal of the gods and the fall of Asgard itself. Using her lifelong passion for the Norse myths, New York Times bestseller Joanne M. Harris has created a vibrant and powerful fantasy novel that the Sunday Sun recommends “to her long-standing audience with wit, style and obvious enjoyment;” The Sunday Times claims it “lively and fun;” and The Metro adds that “Harris has enormous fun with her antihero…this mythical bad boy should beguile fans of Neil Gaiman.”
Witches of East End by Melissa de la Cruz
The three Beauchamp women-Joanna and her daughters Freya and Ingrid-live in North Hampton, out on the tip of Long Island. Their beautiful, mist-shrouded town seems almost stuck in time, and all three women lead seemingly quiet, uneventful existences. But they are harboring a mighty secret-they are powerful witches banned from using their magic. Joanna can resurrect people from the dead and heal the most serious of injuries. Ingrid, her bookish daughter, has the ability to predict the future and weave knots that can solve anything from infertility to infidelity. And finally, there’s Freya, the wild child, who has a charm or a potion that can cure most any heartache. For centuries, all three women have been forced to suppress their abilities. But then Freya, who is about to get married to the wealthy and mysterious Bran Gardiner, finds that her increasingly complicated romantic life makes it more difficult than ever to hide her secret. Soon Ingrid and Joanna confront similar dilemmas, and the Beauchamp women realize they can no longer conceal their true selves. They unearth their wands from the attic, dust off their broomsticks, and begin casting spells on the townspeople. It all seems like a bit of good-natured, innocent magic, but then mysterious, violent attacks begin to plague the town. When a young girl disappears over the Fourth of July weekend, they realize it’s time to uncover who and what dark forces are working against them.
Freya by Matthew Laurence
Freya is the myth. Freya is the legend. And she’s about to make one hell of a comeback. There’s far more to Sara Vanadi than meets the eye. In her prime, she was Freya, the Norse goddess of love, beauty, war, and death – though that past hardly seems to matter now. For an ancient goddess in the 21st century, true believers – and the strength they bring – are painfully hard to find. But when a new, rising power threatens to remake the world by bending the divine to its will, Sara realizes her days of hiding have ended, and a chance to claw her way out of the history books has arrived. She’ll just need new clothes and a manicure before she gets started. Blending elements of fantasy and scifi in a modern-world setting, the first novel in this new young adult series by Matthew Laurence is perfect for fans of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
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