If this book is any indication of the quality of this new series, readers are in for a treat.
Thor, the Norse god of storms and thunder, looms large, particularly among the Vikings and along the whole sweep of North Atlantic islands west to Iceland. He is mentioned in numerous accounts, from pagan religions and the early Icelandic sagas known as the Eddas and onward to superhero stardom. What makes Davis’ retelling of the Thor story so gratifying and edifying is his willingness to delve into this vast literature and exhume the prize nuggets. He squares them to history—on Odin as the father of Thor: “this may be a later addition intended to bring Norse mythology into line with the classical Greek and Roman model”—as well as other literature. Thor emerges as an enthralling figure, brought out of the pagan world and stripped of his everyday importance as Christianity spread through Scandinavia. This is not to say that Davis avoids the great battles Thor has been said to have engaged in, from one with a woman who was revealed as the personification of old age to those against monsters of every ilk, and these make for rousing, intelligent reading. Illustrations include copious material from archives as well as dramatic, full-color paintings.
As a vest-pocket history, this one likely won’t be beat anytime soon. (Mythology. 12 & up)