BOOK REVIEW: THE GOSPEL OF LOKI / AUTHOR: JOANNE M. HARRIS / PUBLISHER: GOLLANCZ / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW (HARDBACK), JUNE 4TH (PAPERBACK)
Purporting to be a memoir which even the blurb specifies should be taken with a pinch of salt, this book presents the history of Asgard through the eyes of Loki, the trickster god. From his initial meeting with Odin to Ragnarok itself, The Gospel of Loki delves into the “truth” behind Norse mythology.
Much of the fun comes from Loki's irreverent first person perspective. With his side remarks, cocksure attitude and brashness, he's an undeniably entertaining narrator. Even when he is spawning monsters and working to undermine his fellow Asgardians, Harris always finds a way to make the reader root for him.
Running through a vast number of legends, The Gospel of Loki serves up a great number of events for the protagonist to work with. Some directly involve Loki, others do not, but each time there is a unique spin put on the tale. The results are often comical, and while this is not a bad thing in itself, there are moments which would have served the story better had they been played relatively straight-faced. In particular, you feel the lack of a convincing throughline towards Loki’s eventual betrayal of Aesir and Vanir.
Speaking of the Norse gods, don’t expect too much from them. As everything is filtered through Loki’s extremely biased point of view, many characters lack complexity. While there are exceptions such as Odin, the likes of Heimdall, Thor and Baldr are presented as relatively one dimensional brutes/pretty boys. Also, don’t expect to ever get used to Loki using modern language as opposed to pseudo-Shakespearian lingo, especially when he resorts to “chillax”.
Ultimately, The Gospel of Loki is worth it for a good many laughs and an ingeniously skewed retelling of Norse mythology. It’s fun and you’ll keep going to the end, but you can’t help but feel it could have used a few less winks at the audience.