The Gospel of Loki

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The Gospel of Loki by Joanne M. Harris is an incredibly fun read. Told from the first person perspective of the norse god Loki, it follows him from creation outside of Chaos until Ragnarok, the world’s end.

The novel serves as a good introduction to norse mythology, or a fun retelling for those with some prior knowledge of it. It includes most of its main events, such as the cutting off Sif’s hair, the theft of Thor’s hammer and the death of Balder. Each chapter gives a new “lessons” from the Lokabrenna, Loki’s gospel from the novel’s title, and it includes such fun sayings as: ‘A bird in the hand will leave you with birdshit on your fingers’ and ‘Killing the fans. Never the most efficient way to build on your public image’.

With the popularity of Marvel’s Loki (Tom Hiddleston) the novel could not be more aptly timed. Through his eyes we see the antihero sympathetically, and he often breaks the fourth wall by addressing his readers directly as ‘Yours Truly’. Loki is lonely, universally disliked and he invites us to join him in making the world pay for his mistreatment.

Whether the novel is original is debatable. Apart from making the norse myths more accessible, it does not add any new character dimensions or interpretations. Most of the characters are strikingly one dimensional, and only Thor and Odin feature prominently enough to be noticed. Neither does it expand on any world building beyond that which is strictly necessary. Due to the nature of the narrative, these things may not be necessary, but for those interested in a more expansive fantasy world, this is slightly disappointing.

The novel is fast paced and entertaining, yet Loki will always be known as the trickster god, the liesmith.  Can he be trusted in his own version of history?

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