The Gospel of Loki by Joanne Harris
Loki’s had a hard time for the past few thousand years. It’s a shame that the other Norse gods simply won’t accept him – after all, he’s just trying to help, and have a little fun while he’s at it. Tormented by the gods, banished from Chaos and immortalised as the “bad guy” in all the myths and ancient prophecies – well, enough’s enough: he’s finally going to share his side of the story.
As Loki plots his revenge against all those who have wronged him, there are other forces at work, and Ragnarok (The End of Worlds) draws uncomfortably close. Thus begins a whirlwind ride through the ancient myths – the unofficial version, of course.
Despite the energy and wit of this retelling, I’m unsure whether The Gospel of Loki, by Joanne Harris, will appeal to anyone with no interest in Norse myths. That said, after the success of blockbuster films like Thor and The Avengers, Loki is, once again, a very popular character. Although in these films (and the original myths) he is the likeable but deadly antagonist, Harris’s tale paints him in a more ambiguous light, as his wrongs are balanced by the circumstances he finds himself in. Yes, he may be plotting the downfall of entire worlds to take revenge on those he once considered family, but, from Loki’s perspective, this is entirely fair – and it’s rather hard not to agree with him.
Loki makes an entertaining if unreliable narrator. In a running motif throughout the book, he warns us of various people we should never trust – a wise man, a relative, a friend – and inevitably we discover that no one can be trusted, including Loki himself.
The tone of The Gospel of Loki is quite light, at odds with some of the darker and more twisted events straight from the myths. It feels as though it were written from the point-of-view of a modern Loki, reminiscing about the distant past, possibly while relaxing at a café with a coffee in one hand and a pen in the other. At times this can be a little jarring, but mainly the casual style adds to the experience, emphasising the cheery-trickster aspect of our narrator. Harris clearly knows and is fascinated by the Norse myths – she is currently studying Old Norse – and, luckily for us, that fascination translates into a charming book.
REVIEWER: Arielle Walker
TITLE: The Gospel of Loki
AUTHOR(S): Joanne Harris