It was gloriously awesome. How much of the merit goes to Gaiman and how much always belonged to the myth compendium has little bearing in my enjoyment.
The stories are tall tales indeed: huge, fun, magical, gruesome. The characters are as great as flawed: Odin lies, cheats, seduces and steals; Thor is a block-head to which every problem is a nail (hah); and Loki is the charming psychopath. All this is more or less merit of the Edda.
The book is a fast read, very approachable, very engaging, and the order of presentation and building makes it easy to follow the names and elements. The text is cheeky, and has many little asides that had me in stitches, turning wistful and lyrical as we come to the bittersweet end. All this, plus some nuances to the dialogues that made them hilarious (or creepy, or bittersweet), was Gaiman I reckon.
It is a book I want to buy. I want to re-read it, whole and by pieces. Have it as a reference. Read from to my children. Also, as an object, it is a beauty. Full stars.
"Loki examined the berries, the stems, and the leaves. He thought about poisoning Balder with mistletoe berries, but that seemed too simple and straightforward.
If he was going to do harm to Balder, he was going to hurt as many people as possible."
He's been an unmitigated bastard (though a fun and charming one) so far, but his malice in this one is so starkly revealed, so cruel. It truly is of epic, godly, proportions. Not to mention ambitious, lol.
“How terrible. How sad. You have killed your brother,” said Loki. But he did not sound sad. He did not sound sad at all.
Calls me back to the story on his children (which is neat, given the general direction), and this description
"Loki was handsome, and he knew it. People wanted to like him, they wanted to believe him, but he was undependable and self-centered at best, mischievous or evil at worst."
Lol, resorting to drastic measures there, Loki. I love how he is his own worst enemy. Again, the warning and summary of the previous story applies.
It was Loki’s fault. Even Thor’s hammer was Loki’s fault. That was the thing about Loki. You resented him even when you were at your most grateful, and you were grateful to him even when you hated him the most.