Neil Gaiman doesn't waste time - or words, more accurately - getting to the story of Odd and the Frost Giants, but readers won't miss the missing. Everything needed is there. Only the most talented authors are able to sift through the endless possibilities and present readers with no more than what's necessary. Gaiman fits the description.
In Chapter One readers learn of the boy, Odd. He is not unusual, as his name might suggest. Rather, it is a lucky name, Odd, meaning the tip of a blade. His life, however, has not been lucky. His Viking father had been killed in a sea raid. His mother, herself obtained in a Scottish sea raid, remarries a man named Fat Elfred. Odd permanently cripples his leg in a forest accident, and Fat Elfred has little use for a crippled stepson. That year, as winter hung on longer than usual and people’s dispositions changed for the worse, Odd left. He took his warmest clothes, food, and coals from the fire, and left for his father’s old woodcutting hut. Through it all and despite everything, Odd smiles.
I think that summary is nearly the length of the first chapter.
By the end of the next day, Odd has followed a fox, freed a trapped bear, realized he’s lost, feared his death by bear consumption, met an eagle, and returned to the woodcutter’s hut on the back of the bear. Oh, and he ends up with overnight guests.
It’s during the overnight stay when Odd learns there is more to his guests’ story. The bear, eagle, and fox are actually Thor, Lord Odin, and Loki, respectively. Gods. Inhabitants of Asgard who now find themselves exiles in Midgard, Odd’s world, thanks to the Frost Giants.
Thus the four begin a quest, traveling back to Asgard to free it from the hold of the Frost Giants. But Odd must travel alone to the Gates of Asgard, alone so the Frost Giants won’t learn of the gods’ return. Odd proves that a person’s circumstances in life are not just due to luck, and that gods returning to Asgard aren’t the only ones with a desire to return home.
Odd and the Frost Giants is a short book – the advanced reading copy is 117 pages – but what the story lacks in length is more than made up for in strength. Readers who enjoyed Coraline’s victory over her other mother and Bod’s survival against the man Jack will get similar satisfaction from Odd and his encounters with the Frost Giants.
Watch for Odd and the Frost Giants in September, 2009.