I learned the spells of
The Elf-wand, Grey Wanderer,
Good old Odin; best of the gods because he took it on himself to get those 20 levels of wizard on top of everything. Between Odin & Athena you'd be hard pressed to find any better Western deities. Anyhow! This books is divided into two parts-- well, really three, if you ask me. The first is a elaboration on the myths, in their respective myth cycles & sagas, & an understanding of the threads moving between. She dances along with a little microhistory, trying to figure out what things might have meant, understanding their were interpreted through the Christian lens of people like Snorri Sturluson. I found this most engaging; she speculates while letting you know she's musing, sources when she isn't. I might not agree with all her characterizations (like bumbling Thor) but she's got reasons to go the way she goes, you know? The second part (or second & third) is the myths in historical context. I say second & third because, well-- the canny reader has knowledge of the modern, from Nazis to Kirby, but the Romantics et al are a little less known to-- well, to for instance, me. I wish the book was a little fatter with myth, but I was engaged on the ride, & O'Donoghue punches up the aiding misconceptions (drinking from skulls, helms with horns) while acknowledging why someone would want to keep those evocative details even knowing they were false. Oh, & the discussion on how runes go back & forth from spells to alphabet to spells again was nice & pleasing. The talk about Norse myths on Tolkien's Middle-earth didn't really dig deep into Gandalf as Odin-- that surprised me. Still, cover by Alan Lee, which is as fitting a full circle as you might expect it to be.