Title: The Gospel of Loki (Goodreads)
Author: Joanne Harris
Narrator: Allan Corduner
Published: Hachette, 2014
My Copy: Audiobook
Buy: Amazon, Book Depository (or visit your local Indie bookstore)
If you’ve been on the internet (especially Tumblr) in the last few years, chances are that you would know who Loki is. Popularised by Marvel Comics and the recent Thor movies Loki is originally found in Norse mythology. Joanne Harris, best known for novels like Chocolat and Five Quarters of the Orange, tries her hand at fantasy under the name Joanne M. Harris. The Gospel of Loki follows the story of the trickster god, Loki, from his recruitment by Odin from the realm of Chaos to become a Norse god.
“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.”
Told from the perspective of Loki, The Gospel of Loki starts off in a playful tone as you can see by the above text. This tone continues throughout the novel, keeping a light and entertaining look at the ultimate trickster. Joanne Harris picked a challenging topic to tackle for her first attempt in Fantasy. Trying to get the balance between the Norse mythology and the popular conceptions as told by Marvel would be problematic. I don’t pretend to know much about the mythology and possibly less about the Marvel comics but I think Harris captured the character really well. We can debate whether Marvel follows the mythology or not but what I got in this novel was the mischievous, unreliable, jokester that I expect from Loki.
To play devil’s advocate, I must point to the title of this novel, The Gospel of Loki. The word gospel suggests that this is the unquestionable truth of Loki’s life, a first-hand account of what happened. Loki is an unreliable character and since he is often known as a lying, manipulative, demon-born anti-hero, the only source of truth (or as close as allowed) can only come in first person. My problem would be the modern tone of the whole novel; the mythology was formed hundreds of years ago, so I expected the language to be different. I expected the writing to feel dated, something Fantasy does really well but this novel felt like it was set in current times.
Overall this is an entertaining novel that explores the mythology of Loki in an interesting way. While each chapter seems to be a little story that interconnects with the overall plot, it also gives glimpses into Loki’s character. You get an in-depth look into Loki, learning about his story and life lessons. With such detail into the primary character, it’s a little sad to see that all the other characters were so flat, especially his adoptive brother Thor. Then again, Loki is so narcissistic that going into details about everyone else would feel a fake.
I’m of two minds with this novel, on one hand I think Harris did a great job in giving me a brief (but unofficial) look into the life of Loki. Everything I’ve read of hers I’ve liked and for a fantasy novel, The Gospel of Loki worked really well. Then again, this was a fantasy novel and I often struggle with them, but I think this was far too modern which stopped the story from ringing true. I have to wonder what someone with a detailed knowledge of Loki, the Norse god or Marvel super villain thinks of this book.