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The Gospel of Loki


The Gospel of Loki

The Norse god Loki has gotten fairly short shrift in mythology. He’s often a malevolent force aiming to thwart the good guys like Odin. Even the Marvel comics feature Loki as a villain, giving him no chance for reinvention on the big screen.

But Joanne Harris’ THE GOSPEL OF LOKI manages what no one has done before. This beautifully written novel, crafted in modern prose, finally gives the trickster his own slot alongside Thor and company in the mythological canon. If the typical Norse myth is told from Odin’s point of view, this is definitively Loki’s story, complete with elaborated details and flecks of Chaos adorning each word.

"Harris manages to sweep centuries of Norse lore into a condensed novel that reads both like a compendium of myths and a piece of contemporary fiction."

Fresh out of the gate, Loki admits that he’s biased. After all, he’s not exactly known for being Mr. Nice Guy when it comes to the other deities of Asgard (the Norse Mount Olympus). But he tells us that we only know one side of the story, the one that survived to modern-day readers. History is dictated by the victors, we know, and Loki came out as the loser in the battle of good versus evil. So no one bothered to tell his tale...until now. If, as Loki tells us, we can’t trust anyone, not even him --- or the gods we’re about to meet --- then this is hard-earned knowledge scraped from the ice of the Northlands. In that way, the trickster is perhaps the most forthright narrator we could hope for.

Loki starts out as a part of the formless mass known as Chaos, but he soon individuates himself from that realm. Big things are beginning to happen in other parts of the world --- namely, the Aesir and Vanir, two categories of gods, take power. The lord of Asgard, Odin, invites Loki to join his team, and the trickster is rightfully skeptical: after all, what could a creature who’s part of Chaos add to Odin’s realm of Order? There are more shades of gray to right and wrong than Odin would publicly acknowledge as the one-eyed god becomes our hero’s new blood brother.

While much of the novel features Loki and Odin in the reversed roles of protagonist and antagonist, neither lingers in the one-dimensional realm of medieval vellum scrolls. Loki openly confesses his own shortcomings, but, despite his whitewashed deeds, we can’t help but feel sympathy for the Asgardian outcast. After all, he represents everything the gods hate --- Chaos and threats to their power. As Loki strives to find his own place in the world, the more he realizes that it can only come at the expense of another: Odin. But is it worth the price of Ragnarok...and the end of the world?

Harris manages to sweep centuries of Norse lore into a condensed novel that reads both like a compendium of myths and a piece of contemporary fiction. Her style is astoundingly nimble, skipping from one tale to another with the deftness of Loki’s light step. Rarely does THE GOSPEL OF LOKI lose its skipping pace; when it does, it picks itself up, flashes a trickster’s smile, and is back on its feet before you can say “Mimir’s Well.” In allowing Loki to finally take his rightful place in the spotlight, Harris has birthed a masterpiece that shines as brightly as any recent star in the fantasy firmament.

Reviewed by Carly Silver on May 8, 2015

The Gospel of Loki
by Joanne Harris

  • Publication Date: May 5, 2015
  • Genres: Fantasy, Fiction
  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Saga Press
  • ISBN-10: 148144946X
  • ISBN-13: 9781481449465