Published: February 25th 2014 by Gollancz
Format: Paperback, 302 pages
Genres: Fantasy, Mythology
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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.
This will be one of the best fantasy novels you will read all year. If you don’t pick it up, there aren’t enough words to describe what you’ll miss.
However, I’ll try to sum it up!
This is the story of the Norse Gods told from Loki’s point of view. The Gospel of Loki is narrated in first person in an easy, conversational style using contemporary language. It is entertaining, humourous and brilliantly conceptualised, and readers will be hard pressed not to fall in love with every page, with every word.
The story begins with Loki’s meeting with Odin and how he was brought to Asgard from the world of Chaos, and then follows him through his rise as the Trickster God and his eventual fall and betrayal, culminating with the fall of Asgard and the Norse pantheon. The narrative is easy to follow, although I did find the beginning a little daunting – I had no real sense to Norse mythology and found myself suddenly confronted with hard to pronounce names and vaguely familiar concepts from watching Marvel’s Thor. I muddled through, and to her credit the author did make the process of acclimatisation as smooth as possible. It only took a few chapters for me to get into the spirit of the novel and begin thoroughly enjoying myself.
The highlight of the novel for me is Loki’s narration. His sarcasm and snark are hilarious and his words drip with self assurance bordering on arrogance. Loki makes no pretence of being better than he actually is but he is also quick to point out when he had been unfairly judged or vilified. The author’s choice to write the story in contemporary language will surprise (and perhaps upset) some readers, but I loved it. I think this story is difficult enough to follow without unfamiliar vocabularies or syntax distracting readers.
Retellings are often hit-or-miss entities: how does one tell a story most are familiar with (even in passing, like me) and imbue it with something new or different? I think telling the legends from Loki’s point of view opens up many opportunities to explore issues like racism, elitism, revenge and vengeance, and general close-mindedness. Loki is basically disliked from the moment he sets foot in Asgard. All the gods think he’s not trustworthy and want him gone. When Odin forces his company on them, they ignore and belittle him every chance they get and blame him for everything that goes wrong in their lives. It’s uncomfortable to witness through his eyes, and his later misbehaviour almost seems reasonable in this light.
The Gospel of Loki comes at a time when Loki-fever is at a high (thanks Tom Hiddleston!), and everyone who enjoys his character in those movies will fall in love with this book. The contemporary narration style of the book, combined with the snark and intelligence that Harris has imbued into Loki will have many readers to hearing Hiddleston’s voice as they read this, which isn’t a bad thing, but I would have liked The Gospel of Loki to stand alone from the modern adaptations of the mythology and I don’t think it will.
This book is an absolute must-read for fans of fantasy and retellings, and those who harbour a soft spot for our favourite Trickster. I’ve really enjoyed The Gospel of Loki and am now looking for other books by Harris to read! I might try the Runemarks books next.