The Gospel of Loki by Joanne Harris
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.