The Gospel of Loki by Joanne Harris
Published: February 20th 2014 by Gollancz
“The urge to destroy was all I had left. They tell you revenge isn’t worth it. I say there’s nothing finer.”
The first adult epic fantasy novel from multi-million copy bestselling author of Chocolat, Joanne Harris.
The novel is a brilliant first-person narrative of the rise and fall of the Norse gods – retold from the point of view of the world’s ultimate trickster, Loki. It tells the story of Loki’s recruitment from the underworld of Chaos, his many exploits on behalf of his one-eyed master, Odin, through to his eventual betrayal of the gods and the fall of Asgard itself. Using her life-long passion for the Norse myths, Joanne Harris has created a vibrant and powerful fantasy novel.
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.
I was a bit late to the party with The Gospel of Loki and it wasn’t until I had heard about its sequel “The Testament of Loki” that I realised it existed. I had seen Runemarks about and have been interested but mention Loki and I’m in so here we are. I have an advanced copy of the sequel as well which is out in less than a week now so figured it would be a good time to get this one read.
This is a strange book in a way that the ending is really no surprise and there weren’t any shock twists or turns really and that makes sense when you’re retelling Norse Mythology because it’s been told over and over before. The difference with The Gospel of Loki however is that not only is it told from Loki’s point of view and thus subject to some differences of opinion from the more well-known version but it also has an injection of humour and a kind of nostalgia that was both a good,different way of telling the story but also at times made it feel like a prequel (which technically it is!) It’s still interesting and funny and it probably helped that I don’t know a great deal about Norse mythology as some of the differences seem to have annoyed other readers but I’ve also always been good at separating fictional worlds. I can enjoy (mostly) book to film adaptations even if they aren’t perfect because I can easily separate them in my mind. I think once you distance yourself from a rigid comparison between the “lore” and this fantasy retelling this book can be enjoyed a lot more.
Loki is such a fun narrator and perhaps one of my favourite unreliable narrators. I always enjoy reminding myself that this is Loki’s telling of the lore and may not in fact be entirely honest because he would absolutely make himself the centre of drama and play the victim whenever he could conceivably manage it. I still totally fall for it and end up feeling sorry for him anyway. The other characters do all feel a bit shallow and 2D in comparison a fair bit of the time but I think that’s all a part of having an unreliable narrator such as The Trickster himself and lends to the theory that he isn’t being entirely truthful in his retelling.
Overall I really enjoyed The Gospel of Loki, at just over 300 pages it’s not an incredible long read and the length suits the type of story and the way it’s told, I think anything more would have possibly been too much. Although I don’t find anything essentially wrong with it (and like I said it is a great book) I’ve given Gospel a XXXX rating just because it didn’t make me feel too majorly invested other than feeling sorry for Loki occasionally. I still highly recommend checking it out if you can.
This book has made me want to try out the other Runemarks books for sure ,you don’t need to have read any of the others to understand this book either and it works well as a standalone. That being said, Loki himself in this book says “My story needed a sequel. Preferably a sequel in which I rose from the dead, regained my glam, saved the worlds, rebuilt Asgard and was generally welcomed by all as a hero and a conqueror” and a years later he finally has his wish. The Testament of Loki is out May 17th and let me tell you it was worth the wait and my review for it will be up soon!