10 Books Inspired By Norse Mythology That Make For Perfect Winter Reading
The weather is getting colder, the days are getting darker, and sinister ravens are wheeling through the sky to warn us of coming doom (or it feels that way, at least). The time has never been better to read some excellent fiction based on the myths and legends of the frozen north. Norse Mythology is a bit more mainstream these days, what with Thor and Loki palling around with all the other good Marvel boys up on the big Disney screen, but there's a lot more to viking lore than what you've seen in the movies. Here are a few books that incorporate the legends of the Norsemen, from thunder gods to forest trolls, for a magically charged winter read.
Some of these books are straight up retellings of the most interesting Norse myths. Others use just a few minor elements of Nordic folklore, or some viking-inspired magical elements to add to their own original world. The more you read, the more you'll recognize echoes of Norse mythology in pretty much every fantasy novel in existence—and echoes of various other folkloric traditions in Norse mythology. It makes sense: the vikings got around, with trade routes from Canada to Afghanistan, their crews were diverse, and their myths are still fascinating fodder for modern day storytellers:
'Norse Mythology' by Neil Gaiman
If you're looking for a good place to start, then Neil Gaiman's aptly titled Norse Mythology is the book for you. It is, as advertised, a book of Norse Myths, retold with Gaiman's signature dark magic. Start here for a pitch perfect introduction to Thor, Loki, Odin, Freya, et al. (minus some of the old school gender roles).
'Runemarks' by Joanne M. Harris
Maddy Smith was born with a "ruinmark" on her palm, and that means that she's the target for all sorts of nonsense. Goblins, old gods, fairies, and the like are supposed to be long gone by now... but Maddy knows that's not quite true. The other villagers fear Maddy, sure that her mark makes her a dangerous witch. But when Maddy meets a stranger called One-Eye, she starts to understand that she might be marked for a higher calling...
'Hilda and the Troll' by Luke Pearson
This adorable graphic novel follows Hilda, a bold little girl who excels at befriending trolls, elves, and other various creatures of Scandinavian folklore. After all, Norse myths aren't all gods and Ragnarok: there are plenty of lower stakes magical forces at play. Hilda and the Troll is a lovely story for all ages, with some truly gorgeous artwork and a whole slew of Norse-inspired characters.
'The Lost Sun' by Tessa Gratton
Soren Bearskin lives in the United States of Asgard, an inventive fusion of modern day America and the ancient kingdom of the old viking gods. Soren just wants to escape the legacy of his berserker father, go to school, and lead a regular life... but when he meets the young prophetess Astrid, he'll have to weigh his "regular life" against the chance to find a lost god and quite possibly save the world.
'All the Windwracked Stars' by Elizabeth Bear
SPACE. VALKYRIES. Need I say more? If you like the vague space-y vibe of Marvel's Asgard, but you kind of wish that it was just about Valkyrie, then this is the sci-fi/fantasy epic for you. All the Windwracked Stars follows a Norse-inspired future where humanity is barely clinging to existence on a dying planets, years after Ragnarok has come and gone.
'Ice Land' by Betsy Tobin
If you're less into high octane fantasy/sci-fi adventures, and more into vaguely mythical historical romances, then I would like to direct you to the beautifully written story of Freya, a woman living in Iceland in the year 1000. Her entire world is changing as Christianity drives out the old myths and customs, but Freya is determined to find one supposedly magical necklace that may hold the key to changing her fate.
'Secrets of Valhalla' by Jasmine Richards
New friends Buzz and Mary are surprised to discover that a famous weatherwoman just so happens to be bound by magic to a tree — but that's just the start of their bizarre journey into the depths of viking magic, by way of the days of the week. The seven day guardians have been disrupted, you see, and so humanity will be forced to eternally repeat the same Saturday unless the kids can untangle this runic mess in a delightful adventure for most ages.
'Witches of East End' by Melissa de la Cruz
Joanna, Freya, and Ingrid live on Long Island, a far cry from ancient Scandinavia. But these three beautiful women are hiding a dangerous secret: they are witches, forbidden from their magic. Joanna can resurrect the dead, Ingrid can see the future and weave problem-solving knots, and Freya can cure the most devastating heartache. And the time is coming when they might be forced to use their magic, whatever the cost may be...
'Giants of the Frost' by Kim Wilkins
Victoria Scott is actually excited to be taking a job on an isolated island in the frigid Sea of Norway. Finally, she'll have a quiet place to work on her thesis... except that, as it turns out, this particular island seems to be infested with shadows, hags, and monsters that lurk in the forest. And even worse, these strange happenings aren't new to Victoria: somehow, they're all too familiar...
'The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul' by Douglas Adams
When the Norse god Thor blows a hole through Heathrow Airport (in a frustrated attempt to catch the 3:37 to Oslo), detective Dirk Gently finds himself in the midst of a very strange case indeed. Fans of the Hitchhiker's Guide books (or just fans of excruciating British humor) must immediately drop everything and read this truly delightful Douglas Adams mystery, starring some very confused viking deities.