Before we get into this, I need to explain something: I am not one of those creepy people who is obsessed with Loki. It’s not like I own a Loki t-shirt, or keychain, or bobble-head, or book, or pin, or spend my time looking up Loki memes. I’m just a normal person who….
I take that back:
Okay, maybe I am a little overboard with my love for Loki. He’s a great, layered character that I look at and think, “Man. I wish I’d written him.” A perfect example of both an unreliable narrator and (at some points) an anti-hero, sometime I just can’t help myself. I’m going to make this review as objective as possible, but I’ll probably end up getting a bit excited at points. So, before we get started, does anyone want to get out? No? Okay, good.
The Gospel of Loki by Joanne Harris is Loki’s version of the events leading up to Ragnarok. It is completely unconnected to the MCU and much closer to Norse mythology, though there are some splits at certain points. Loki is probably one of the most debated gods in Norse mythology, as people are never sure whether he was supposed to be demonic, a liar, a coward, or an anti-hero.
Well, according to The Gospel of Loki, he was none of these, all of these, and much, much more:
You’ve heard the stories. The stories of Loki Wildfire, Loki Light-Bringer, the Trickster, the God of Mischief, the Traitor. But there’s a problem with those stories. They aren’t true. They aren’t mine.
Those are the stories told to you by the Old Man, the God whose corruption rivals my own. Those are history. Those are lies.
I am a child of Chaos. Odin, a child of Order. I betrayed Chaos, left my Wildfire form, to cross over to him and join the Nine Realms. Odin bound me with an oath. We were to be brothers. He swore to welcome me into Asgard, to always treat me well. In exchange, I would do what he, a child of Order, could not: I would break the rules, twist them to his advantage, bring about Chaos when it would further the Aesir’s cause.
But I was not welcome in Asgard. A demon of Chaos, Odin’s people shunned me. Heimdall dealt me with open hatred, the big-muscled oaf Thor spurned me, and Frigg forced me into marriage with the foolish Sigyn. All the while, Odin stood by and did nothing, sitting in his throne, speaking to the Oracle.
So what could I do? I turned on them. Slowly, quietly, I worked to bring about their demise. They brought it upon themselves. Besides, I am Chaos. It is in my nature. The events that followed my betrayal weren’t my fault. Nobody can blame me for what my nature and Asgard’s coldness drove me to do.
The Gospel of Loki is an amazing work. Told in first person from Loki’s point of view, we get a glimpse of Asgard that we’ve never seen before. We see the corruption of the gods, their betrayals and weaknesses. We see that Loki was mishandled.
But, the problem is, we don’t know whether that’s actually true. Because Loki, the god of lies, is not only lying to us during his narration, but he’s lying to himself as well. It’s quite brilliant, actually.
What is not so brilliant, however, was Joanne Harris’s writing style. For some reason, she chose to use modern language to convey this story. 21st century slang doesn’t really fit the mood of Norse mythology, so it can be a bit off-putting. You do get used to it after a while, it’s just a shame that she didn’t try to be a bit more traditional.
If you know anything about Norse mythology, you’ll know that it’s very, very strange and that the Gods are less than charming people. Because of this, very few of the characters come across as likeable. In fact, the few characters that I’m pretty sure were nice people in the “real” events were purposely painted black by Loki: Sigyn and Balder and possibly Frigg. While it’s fun to draw your own conclusions from his narrative, it also makes it a bit difficult to find a character to root for. Except, you know, Loki. I’ll root for Loki till the day I die.
The last third of the book, for some strange reason, was much better that the first two thirds, which felt glib and off-hand. So, if you read this book, just suck up the first part and push through to the last bit.
By the final third, Loki is in all-out battle with Asgard (and almost everyone else in the Nine Realms). His character also goes from the flippant God of Mischief to the more serious Trickster to the regretful Traitor, which is interesting, if not heartrending, to read. Of course he’s very adamant that he is not regretful, that the Aesir drove him to it, that his very nature drove him to it, but, by the end of the story, we realize that he’s just grasping at his old lies.
Joanne Harris did a really good job of exploring the idea of predestination in this story. Loki tries his hardest to convince himself (and us), that it was his destiny to bring about Ragnarok. He thought that he couldn’t change it, even if he’d wanted to (which he says he didn’t), because the Oracle said that this was his path. Odin, on the other hand, believed that he and Loki could defy destiny. But, in the end, everything ends as the Oracle said it would: with Ragnarok. And Loki has to live with the fact that he, and he alone, might have been able to stop it.
While the writing may be a bit off, and while most of the characters are less than likeable, Joanne Harris’s novel brings about some intense Loki feels…Especially the last page. My heart still hurts from reading that last page.
If you like the weirdness of Norse mythology and are a fan of Loki or unreliable narrations, then The Gospel of Loki is for you. Have you read this book or any other “Loki POV” stories? What were your thoughts?
Hannah Heath – Bookworm and author