The Testament of Loki by Joanne M Harris
Joanne Harris is probably best known for her novel ‘Chocolat’, but more recently she has been writing about the Norse gods and their adventures. This is the second book narrated by Loki, the trickster god. If you are looking for something with the original tales of Asgard and Ragnarok (the End of Worlds), then try the previous volume called ‘The Gospel of Loki’.
In this new book we follow Loki as he tried to find his place in a post-Ragnarok world. Having been imprisoned for centuries, the ever devious Loki decides the time has come to find a way out. Hitching a ride on the back of the World Serpent, Loki finds himself catapulted into modern times and eventually into the body of a teenage girl called Jumps. The storyline is all about travelling between worlds in order to get back to where you came from. The only problem is that the world that Loki came from no longer exists.
Nothing is really what it seems, especially when all the old gods are forced to inhabit the bodies of modern day teens. The only thing that we can be sure about is that Loki will always be the trickster; a liar and a trouble maker. He has changed shape before, but when he discovers that he has become a girl the most difficult aspect is that he is forced to share this body with the previous inhabitant. This leads to lots of fun and plenty of conflict as the hungry god, with a strange obsession for jam tarts, battles with a skinny teen who is determined to remain skinny.
This is not an easy journey, there are plenty of double crosses and travels through worlds both real and imaginary on the back of Sleipnir, the eight-legged horse. We will be challenged by riddles, such as how a boatman ferrys a goat, a wolf and a cabbage across a river if he can only carry one item at a time. You can’t leave the cabbage with the goat (it will get eaten) or the goat with the wolf (ditto).
The Testament of Loki is lots of fun, old rivalries are reborn in the modern world and reinvigorated by having modern hosts. Thor and Loki, as always, are massive rivals, and here Thor is forced to exist as a small white fluffy dog for much of the story. But the focus is on Loki and how he can trick his way out of any situation. Sometimes his tricks are so wildly complex that even he doesn’t know what is happening. As the narrator of the story we are always seeing everything from his point of view and so witness plenty of quick thinking when things start to change faster than anyone can imagine.
‘The Gospel of Loki’ was an adult story, while this volume is probably closer to young adult. The good news is that there is no need to have read what went before to really enjoy this tale. I think it will work for young and old.
Reviewer: Marcus Hobson
Hachette New Zealand, $34.99