The Gospel of Loki by Joanne Harris

Posted On 25 March 2014

Filed under Book Reviews

Comments Dropped 21 responses

Just finished reading the Gospel of Loki by Joanne Harris which I absolutely loved!  Now, I do like JH and have read quite a few of her novels so you could be forgiven for thinking that I went into this ready to be swayed into easy delight, but, I would have to disagree!  In fact I would say quite the opposite.  I went into this as someone with only the most basic knowledge of norse mythology and expecting to be a little overpowered by it all.  On the contrary I found this to be a fun, easy to read retelling of norse mythology with a difference.

The difference of course is that Loki is the narrator and as we all know – he’s a little bit tricky.  Just a teeny bit.  The fact that he’s known as The Trickster probably gives this away a little.

Excellent writing and first person narrative make this story just flow.  The plot, basically watching how Loki was persuaded by Odin to leave Chaos and join him and the other Gods on Asgard and thereafter watching him bring a little bit of chaos to their world.  He was never really part of the in-crowd, though how he tried (or not)!  The story follows him on his journey to notoriety.  Starting off with fairly small time pranks – albeit usually ending with his impending death – that he then wriggles out of in one way or another and ultimately culminating in his betrayal of Odin and Asgard. The driver for the story is Mimir’s prophecy ending in Ragnarok and concluding with a huge battle that sees the death of so many favourites.

Okay, how reliable is Loki as a narrator.  Well, lets just say he’s putting his stamp on these stories and it shows but it’s such good fun to read in this way.  JH clearly not only knows a little of Norse mythology but has enjoyed herself in these retellings and it shows.  Basically Loki isn’t really the nicest of guys and yet reading his gospel he’s a bit of a charmer and you just can’t help finding yourself in his corner!  And why not?  If Odin brought chaos into the heart of his home what did he really expect (that is of course if you believe that Odin seduced Loki to join in the first place).

Now, what I know about norse mythology could probably be written onto the top of a pinhead.  So, an in-depth knowledge is definitely not needed to read this book.  In fact it’s a very accessible way of reading about this mythology, told not only in an entertaining way but also with a modern voice. It’s easy to picture and not only that but reading stories about the mythology that are so entertaining somehow makes them that much easier to remember.  It’s probably just my tiny brain but even though I enjoy mythology I usually find that my mind becomes too tangled up with all the names, worlds, powers, wives, sons, mistresses, etc, etc.  I don’t know why but the Gospel of Loki just unravelled that mystery a little for me.  I’m probably not quite ready to embark on a career in lecturing but I definitely feel like I’ve got a bit of a grip on this now!

There are the characters you expect to see and are no doubt already familiar with such as one eyed Odin and hammer wielding Thor, Freyja and Freya and then others that I wasn’t familiar with such as Idun and Baldr.  And, obviously, as you’re reading from Loki’s point of view none of these characters come across in the best light.  Squabbling, petty, vain, air headed, easily led and fickle!

I was probably a little uneasy going into this.  It felt as though it would be a series of short stories contained in one volume and I expected to be constantly referring back and forwards but I was very pleasantly surprised.  Yes, you could say this is based on a series of short escapades but they all follow on and read together they tell a linear tale and they do this in a winning style that is fun and fast paced.

I’m submitting this book as part of Stainless Steel Droppings Once Upon a Time event under the heading of ‘Myth’

It also counts towards my 100 books in a year count.

21 Responses to “The Gospel of Loki by Joanne Harris”

  1. jenclair

    I’ve enjoyed many of Harris’ novels. Adding this one to my list.

    • lynnsbooks

      I really liked it. It’s not in a serious vein but it’s really easy to read, quick and fun.
      Lynn 😀

  2. jessicabookworm

    I enjoy Norse mythology but like you were saying I don’t really know that much about it yet. This sounds like a great read to enjoy and to find out more at the same time.

    • lynnsbooks

      Yeah, I’m pretty much rubbish about remembering all the names and things but this just felt much easier to grasp. Plus good fun, entertaining and written in Joanne Harris’ lovely style.
      Lynn 😀

  3. cherylmahoney

    I don’t know much about Norse mythology either, but it sounds appealing…and I’d rather not have my main source for the Norse myths be Marvel! 😉

    • lynnsbooks

      Yeah, I’m a total beginner when it comes to Norse mythology and yet it’s really quite interesting – at least I enjoyed reading about it in this form – it was very easy to pick up.
      Lynn 😀

  4. Delia (Postcards from Asia)

    Nice review! I had no idea Joanne Harris wrote novels based on mythology. I have a book by her, Blueeyedboy, waiting on my shelves. Have you read it?

    • lynnsbooks

      I think this is her first book into this style. Apparently JH really loves norse mythology though and apparently it made up a lot of early reading.
      I’ve not read Blueeyedboy – it’s one of those books that is a bit like Marmite – you’ll either love or hate it and it supposedly divided her fanbase as some people strongly disliked it. It’s a step out of character for her and part of me wants to read it just to see what all the ‘fuss’ was about.
      Lynn 😀

  5. TracyK

    Sounds very interesting, and I have been looking for something related to mythology to read for the Once Upon a Time challenge. Not this year though. I can’t add any books to my TBR piles right now. You have written a great review, too.

    • lynnsbooks

      Thanks. I did enjoy this but I do like Joanne Harris so could be biased! I like that she’s given us Loki’s, no doubt untrustworthy, version of affairs.
      I must admit that I find it more difficult finding books for the mythological aspects of this event but this one fits perfectly!
      Lynn 😀

  6. Priya

    I love Norse mythology, ended up reading a lot about it when I discovered that “Frejya” was derived from the Sanskrit word that is my name! I recently read A.S. Byatt’s Ragnarok, which was amazing and about the final battle in Norse mythology. Loki was one of the stars of the book, and though I haven’t read anything by JH, this sounds like something I’d love to read.

    • lynnsbooks

      Oh, that’s really interesting the connection with your name. I’ll have a look at the Byatt novel you mention so thanks.
      I like Joanne Harris’ books – this was a slight change for the ones I’ve read of hers previously but I really enjoyed it. It was entertaining, fast paced and I feel like I’ve come away remembering more than I’ve ever done before.
      Lynn 😀

  7. Wendleberry

    I can’t wait to read this book, i really can’t. It sounds like so much fun, and i have only heard positive things about it 🙂

    • lynnsbooks

      I really enjoyed it. I don’t know whether I went into it determined to do so but even so that doesn’t always work out! This was very entertaining and a really good different take on the Norse myths. Plus I loved Loki – I know you’re probably not supposed to, he’s unreliable after all, but I couldn’t help liking him in this – which is probably intentional as JH likes his character too.
      Lynn 😀

  8. Lauren

    I can’t wait for my copy to arrive! I haven’t read JH before, but this just sounds amazing 🙂 You might also enjoy Ragnarok by A.S. Byatt, the most recent in the Canongate Myths series. It has an unusual structure – Byatt writes herself as a child, reading and reflecting on the Norse myths. The book goes from the creation of the world to Ragnarok, and Loki is one of her favourite characters. It’s a bit more challenging – lots of names and events – but surprisingly short and so, so beautiful.

    • lynnsbooks

      Yes, I need to read Ragnarok. I’ve had another recommendation for that novel and so I’m really keen to pick it up. I enjoyed this one. I liked reading from Loki’s point of view. He’s sneaky but amusing. Also, it’s a very easy read and I know very little about Norse mythology.
      Thanks for the recommendation.
      Lynn 😀

  9. Slantedlight

    I like the sound of this very much – I’ve just read Runemarks by Joanne Harris, which now looks a bit as if it’s a sequel to The Gospel of Loki, and Loki was the only character that I ended up really liking (in the way I want to, when I read a story), despite the strong heroine. I’m really pleased you reviewed this for the challenge though, because now I’m hopeful that my faith in JH can be renewed – thanks!

    • lynnsbooks

      Yeah, I’ve not read a lot of JH’s more recent books. I think it’s simply because I’ve got so many others stacked up waiting to be read. I didn’t even know she’d written Runemarks! I did enjoy the Gospel of Loki though. I listened to JH give a talk and norse mythology is something she really loves – plus Loki! And, I think this shows in this book. It’s got a really good sense of humour and obviously because of who is narrating you’re not supposed to believe everything he says!
      Lynn 😀

  10. geraniumcat

    I haven’t read any JH, though I’ve got Runemarks on my “read soon” list. Loki is one of my favourite characters from Norse mythology (I named my first cat after him), so I am looking forward to this one too.

    • lynnsbooks

      Well, if you love Loki that book will be just for you – it’s all from Loki’s POV.
      I really enjoyed it and hope you do too.
      Lynn 😀

  11. ‘Wait till they get a load of me!’ | Books and travelling with Lynn

    […] I guess this is the most obvious choice but it’s also the first that sprung to mind.  The Gospel of Loki by Joanne […]

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