It seems fitting that my first, and admittedly belated, blog post of 2015 is a book review. Especially as its on a book I ended up waiting a year to get, having got really excited about it when I first heard about it: The Gospel of Loki by Joanne M. Harris. Having not read her other Rune books I wasn’t sure what to expect, but once I started I was hooked.
Loki, our humble narrator and the famed trickster of Norse mythology, is one of those characters who are a joy to follow; the first person viewpoint here is a triumph. As you read you can see him in your mind, a mischievous twinkle in his eyes as the tale unfolds, a smirk etched upon his face.
You know deep down that you should take everything with a pinch of salt, but you don’t want to. The narration is obviously biased, perhaps dramatically so; at times it is dark yet full of wit and sarcasm and little asides; in all honesty, you want Loki to come out on top. He is one side of the mirror, Odin the reverse, and you root for him despite any preconceived notions or knowledge of the figures. Loki and Odin could almost have been cut from the same cloth. He’s brought into Asgard by Odin as a brother, although recruited seems a better word, and tries to play the game according to the rules. But he is not welcomed as promised, and so he starts to play the game in his own way, a struggle between Loki and Odin, each playing the other, culminating with Ragnarök.
Rather than twist and turn through the poems, the Edda, Harris has created a linear sequence of adventures (misadventures?) for us to follow with ease, recounted gleefully by Loki while remaining true to the poems. For instance, I was familiar with the episode regarding Thor and Loki dressing as a bride and handmaiden to recover Mjölnir, already amusing I hasten to add, but this was an absolute hoot of a passage, vividly brought to life. In fact, the whole story was.
Though Loki and Odin are the most fleshed out of the characters, none want for depth. We know who each is and what they’re like, through both their actions and their speech, and as such each individual sticks with you. Yes, there are a number to remember, but not once did I have to go back to the list of characters provided to double check who they were. Not once. Even with the warning not to trust any of them. Like I said, they stick with you.
As does the grinning, sly, compellingly roguish narrator.