BOOK REVIEW: The Gospel of Loki by Joanne M. Harris

The Gospel of LokiTHE GOSPEL OF LOKI
By Joanne M. Harris
Publisher: Gollanz
Publication Date: 24th March 2015
Format: Hardback (302 pages)
Source: Own Copy

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. (Goodreads)

DividerPrior to reading this book, I was familiar with the author as Joanne M. Harris is the pen name of Joanne Harris who wrote Chocolat. This was enough to encourage me to pick up the book. As for the subject matter, I had very limited knowledge of Norse mythology and most of that is from the Marvel comics and films. So how closely the book is to the myths, I can’t say.

Regardless, The Gospel of Loki is one the best fantasy books I have read in a while. It is a very complex tale and though we know from the outset that Loki is the catalyst or at least plays an important part in the downfall of Odin and Asgard as a whole.

Though Loki is known to be the trickster God, you begin to see that Odin is has a bit of a manipulator in him too. Odin uses Loki’s desire to be free from Chaos to his advantage in order to cement his hold over the other worlds and people. This is apparent from Odin and Loki’s first meeting for Odin manages to manipulate Loki to do his bidding. He needs someone to do his dirty work and words it in such a way that it appeals to the Chaos side of Loki. He backs Loki into a corner so that there is no way back to where he came and he really has no choice but to go with Odin.

At first, Loki seems to be living the highlife in Asgard. He is seen in a favourable light by Odin and though he does rub people up the wrong way, it comes across as “Oh, Loki! That scallywag!” by Odin, even if this is behind closed doors. Loki knows how to twist any situation to his advantage.

When I was lucky enough to see Harris at the Edinburgh International Book Festival this year, Harris made it clear that she was not influenced by the popularity of the Marvel films or comics when writing her book. This is made clear by her description of Loki in the book as a red-head, I still found myself thinking about Tom Hiddlestone’s take on Loki in the films. In my mind, I think he may have read her book to get her take on the character as it just seemed to work.

The book is very much one sided, just because it is from Loki’s point of view. It does make you think about how true the descriptions and actions of the other characters are. Thor is one character that comes across as a bit of a big old doofus who is more brawn than brains. This could be Loki’s prejudice to Thor being seen as sort of the God all the ladies want to sleep with and all the guys want to be. There are hints of jealousy within the text and I did like this questioning of how truthful the account is.

I think this is where the book really works because it is written in such a way that Loki is trying to justify why he did what he did. While reading the book, I had the image of Loki sitting in a very posh bar or restaurant, telling his tale to Harris or a biographer, very much in the same way as Louis does in Interview with the Vampire. The book really does just suck you in and I bought into this completely. It is such a great book

VERDICT:
The Gospel of Loki is a book that is beautifully written and a joy to read. It is so different from her Chocolat series and demonstrates how she can turn her hand to different genres with such ease. By the final page I wanted to see what happens next because there seems to be so much more to the story to tell.

If your only knowledge of the Norse Mythology is through the Marvel universe, I can’t recommend this book highly for being so accessibly because I found myself seeing how the Mythology heavily influenced the comics, yet now I want to know more about this world.
4 star

BUY LINKS
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