Hello humans! Remember just yesterday when we looked at the year of ALL THE RETELLINGS? Well, I have one to add to the pile. Joanne Harris’ The Gospel of Loki is a retelling of Norse mythology from the perspective of everyone’s favourite god of Chaos, Loki. I was lucky enough to be approved to read the ‘sequel’ The Testament of Loki on NetGalley so I thought I probably ought to read this one first so I grabbed myself a Kindle edition and got to reading!
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 love a retelling, but it can get a little stagnant reading fairy tale retellings all the time so it was very refreshing to read a retelling of Norse mythology. I thought that Loki as a narrator was exceptionally voiced, you got such a strong sense of his outsider nature and it made him feel like more than just a god revelling in mischief, you get a better sense of his nature, of his motivations and his complexities.
I should say, I’m going to use ‘he’ as a pronoun for Loki because I think this fits this book best, however, I am aware that a lot of people choose to see Loki as more of a gender-neutral character. In this book, Loki spends most of the story in a ‘male aspect’ so I hope I’m not incorrect in using this pronoun for this particular retelling.
I’m quite familiar with a lot of Norse mythology, largely because I absorbed mythology like a sponge when I was younger, but also because I recently read Neil Gaiman’s Norse Mythology which was a good top up. I was familiar with all of the different stories in this volume, there weren’t any surprises. What I thought was really exceptional was the way in which Harris weaves these usually disparate stories into a full narrative, connecting events that would normally be divided into set stories in other compilations. This is a novel, one with a clear beginning, middle and end, and yet it somehow also manages to be a collection of Norse myths. Impressive to say the least.
I should say, if you have any particular affection for any Norse gods other than Loki, don’t expect to see them get a glowing recommendation in this book. The side effect of this ‘outsider’ perspective is that pretty much all of the gods seem fairly terrible. This does lead to some amusing observations, and it is nice to see all-powerful deities being ridiculed every once in a while, we all like to see people being taken down a peg or two.
As I say, Loki’s voice is incredibly well placed, he could easily have come off as a petulant child or as a totally unrelatable pain in the butt, but Harris manages to strike a happy balance where you know he’s being horrible but you also can’t help but think that he’s right.
If you know Norse mythology well or if you’re brand new I think you will enjoy this retelling. Harris manages to create a cohesive story of the Norse myths and gives a new spin on pretty much every character. I would highly recommend grabbing a copy!
My rating: 4/5 stars
All opinions are my own.
What say you? Which characters from Norse mythology are your favourites? Let me know in the comments below!