It's time for another book review, since I finally managed to get yet another off the ever-growing pile and man, was it a much needed distraction during the current phase of my life! This book, Neil Gaiman' s "Odd and the Frost Giants" (Bloomsburry) was not part of my oft-described book raids, nor the prize of some literary quest: sometimes, good things just lie in front of you and I noticed the single copy of it on a shelf at the Solaris book store, where I often buy comics.
To begin with, the book is nothing fancy, nor does it need to be: it is a small, almost pocket-size hardbound, the way libraries tend to do old (but not very old) books, when their original paperback covers breathe their last due to wear and tear. The cover and back-cover are essentially stickers. There is however, one major bonus: Brett Helquists's illustrations (of "A Series of Unfortunate Events" fame), which are really top grade and give a great feel to the reading.
The story is rather simple: Odd, a boy who accidentally crushed his leg and remained lame, has to contend both with the fact that his constant smiling face irritates his countrymen, as well as the heavy winter which doesn't seem eager to give way to Spring. The days at the Great Hall draw long, the men get restless and aggressive and Odd has had enough of being a burden to his mother after she remarried when her husband died, enough of being invisible in a village where nothing changes.
Therefore, he takes to the woods and stays at his father's old wood cabin, until a strange fox comes calling: the fox will initially lead him to an eagle and a bear, which meeting will in turn take him to Asgard, home of the Gods, in order to lift the Frost Giant occupation and end the long winter of Midgard. His only weapons: an irritating, unflinching smile, an unfinished wood carving his father left behind and the icy waters of a strange lake...
The book is written much like a traditional fable, where things happen because they are bound to, with a sense of inevitability towards resolution, but also with the unmistakable Gaiman-touch.
It is light reading, pleasant and comforting to the eye, a thing that smells of fireplace and old carpets, where children squat to listen to grandfather's near-hypnotic voice.
On some other interesting notes, Gaiman wrote it for UK's World Comic Book Day (you can read Gaiman's explanation about all that here) and it seems to have sparked a number of artistic interpretations all over the net, such as Hethe Srodawa's designs and Finnish illustrator Jouni Koponen's gradual transfer to comic book form (you MUST check it out: it begins here and she posts updates every now and then, so keep clicking that "Uudempi teksti").