Book Review: The Gospel of Loki

The Gospel of Loki by Joanne Harris

Loki, that’s me.

Loki, the Light-Bringer, the misunderstood, the elusive, the handsome and modest hero of this particular tissue of lies. Take it with a pinch of salt, but it’s at least as true as the official version, and, dare I say it, more entertaining.

So far, history, such as it is, has cast me in a rather unflattering role.

Now it’s my turn to take the stage.

With his notorious reputation for trickery and deception, and an ability to cause as many problems as he solves, Loki is a Norse god like no other. Demon-born, he is viewed with deepest suspicion by his fellow gods who will never accept him as one of their own and for this he vows to take his revenge.

From his recruitment by Odin from the realm of Chaos, through his years as the go-to man of Asgard, to his fall from grace in the build-up to Ragnarok, this is the unofficial history of the world’s ultimate trickster.

 Joan Harris is well known for her bestseller book Chocolat, I know her best for her young adult series Runemarks. Which by the way also features a heavy dose of Norse mythology. Last year when The Gospel of Loki came I out I wasn't able to read it but with the paperback release Gollancz kindly shipped over a review copy. Gospels are a tricky thing, I read one before by Christopher Moore, Lamb, where Biff Christs childhood pall narrates certain events. I am a big fan of Norse mythology most people perhaps only know Loki as the evil dude in the Avengers, well he is much, much more than just that evil dude with a staff who battle the Hulk, Iron Man and Thor. Of course The Gospel of Loki is the interpretation of Joanne Harris herself. It does come much closer to relating the actual events. 

It's quite hard to really say the story starts with and ends with. When you take it in the broadest sense it is from the first day that Odin introduces Loki to Asgard and continuing to the eventual downfall with Ragnarok. The story is told from Loki's perspective though and this offered a very interesting view. In the beginning you learn the numerous nicknames that Loki has: trickster, wildfire, chaos, Dogstar, father of lies and many more. Believe me when I say that there is definitely a humorist twist to the story. Anyway here are some glimpses of stories that Loki narrates to you. How Loki first got extracted from the essence of Chaos and was bonded to be Odin's brother. The first interaction with Heimdall and Loki isn't an easy one. This directly set the mark for their relation between them, one of scorn and hate. But Heimdall isn´t the only one who shows scorn and mistrust to Loki, the other gods say and think the same and most of the actions that Loki carries out in this book are to be won over to the good side of the different gods. One day he sets out to visit some blacksmithing friends to craft weapons and accessories for different gods the get on that side. Of course with some consequences... But to be honest some events like the wall construction around Asgard couldn´t have been done without Loki, he doesn´t only trick the other gods but also the general populace to work in his favor. The story moves at a rapid pace towards the one unavoidable disaster Ragnarok, but until this happens there are a lot more highly eventful events that take place and more than once Loki has to count himself really, really lucky to get out the deep situation he got himself into. 

Wat makes this book a winner for me is the way that you get the full detail of Norse Mythology. Choosing Loki as a character isn´t enough, you have to give him a unique voice, in spirit of the infernal trickster and this is precisely what Joanna Harris does. It has to be spot on, it comes very precise you cannot have Loki just making fun, it has to have a purpose you also cannot make him plain boring because he is the trickster. Joanne Harris struck a great balance in between the two and everything that Loki does is with a bigger plan in mind and contrast to popular believe not that for his own gains but to get acknowledgement. 

Loki character is a lot of fun to read about and as I say with many first person narrated books, when done in the proper way the voice of the protagonist resonates only stronger. And as you can make out from above, this is proper storytelling. And actually when you read these personal accounts it is unavoidable not to feel sorry for the guy. He has been trough a lot, and a lot just to please other people. You will warm up to this guy guaranteed.  Next to Loki there are plenty other gods from the Norse pantheon that you see. I already mentioned Odin and Heimdall, there are also: Thor, Freyja and Frey, Balder, Frigga, Hel, Fenrir, Jormungand and many more. Loki has something to tell about everyone of these gods, both positive point and negative points and they in turn also about look, most of the time outspoken opinions. Loki was in the midst of it very dynamic and the other gods showed some more static appearances. There are a few secondary characters that have more impact: Odin and Thor to name just two. Odin's and Loki's personalities do clash in different ways and this produces a very nice interplay between them. In the popular marvel adaptation Loki and Thor are also opposites but here you see that they also rely and need eachother, also to survive! A funny side is shown by Loki's children, the World Serpent Jormungand, his daughter Hel and the wold Fenrir, how they interacted with their father and how Loki reacted back was done nice and in a banterous humurous way.

Taken everything together Joanne Harris has written a highly entertaining story, showing Loki in a way he hasn't shown before. If you read this book and compare it to the popular franchise in which he featured you will definitely see two different Loki's. Who is the most realistic one? I don't know but I sure favour Joanne Harris' embodiement of Loki much much more. As I said before the Loki that is shown in this book will grow on you and your view as that devious criminal will readily change. There is much more to be told. As with the Runemarks series, Joanne Harris once again shows that she is highly knowledgeable in the field of Norse Mythology. This is the good stuff! I hope we will see more of these books in the near future. A blast to read!


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