Science fiction and fantasy                                            

The Gospel Of Loki

by Joanne M. Harris


Of all of the Norse gods, Loki the Trickster is the one I've always found most appealing. The mixture of cleverness, unpredictability, and unrestrained badness has a certain glamour, glamours being another of Loki's specialities. The Gospel Of Loki tells the story of the Norse gods from his point of view, and he doesn't cast them in the heroic light they are usually portrayed in.

The early chapters are a bit abstract since they deal with the creation myth of the nine worlds, Chaos, the world tree, and so on. But the narrator's voice soon comes through, colouring the tale with his cynicism and humour. Loki talks like someone from the 21st century, even though the story is set in the mythic past. He's a creature of Chaos, and the embodiment of Wildfire. The tale covers how Odin tricked him into staying and working for him, as well as the history of how Asgard was built and the rivalries of gods, giants, and witches, all the way to Ragnarok. You may think you know how that goes, but this isn't the authorised version..

Loki shape-shifts, which he refers to as changing his Aspect. He can become Wildfire, or various animals, but doing so takes energy. He has left Surt, the Lord of Chaos, and because Surt is unreasonable Loki can't return to his side. So Loki is trapped in Asgard and weakened, and as his bad reputation spreads he becomes more trapped. He's an outsider amongst the gods, and he feels that they despise him.

The story is very light in tone, even when what happens is very dark. It's told in the language of jocks and nerds, but it's much more serious than high school. Loki puts it about a bit, fathering various strange children, but he's very much not the fatherly type, or the romantic type. He's never happier than when he's crafting some cunning revenge and getting the last laugh. However, towards the end of the book I got the feeling that the master player was too often getting well and truly played. I was hoping that Loki would have more cunning ways of defying his fate, but instead he seems fairly human.

The Gospel Of Loki is fairly faithful to the established Norse myths, and I didn't pick up on much overt metaphorical spin. When all of the characters stand for things like fire, thunder, or wisdom, I expected a bit more on that front. Nevertheless, this is a hugely enjoyable tale. Loki doesn't care for anyone except himself, and he never does anything without expecting a reward. Yet he often casts himself as the hero, even when it's obvious he's anything but. He may be an unreliable narrator, but this version of Loki is reliably entertaining.

31st March 2014

Book Details

Year: 2014

Categories: Books

    Male Protagonist  

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4 star rating

Review ©

Source: library copy

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