Title: The Gospel of Loki
Author: Joanne M. Harris
Publisher: Gollancz
Genre: Fantasy, Mythology – Norse
Book format: Paperback
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Description: With his notorious reputation for trickery and deception, and an ability to cause as many problems as he solves, Loki is a Norse god like no other. Demon-born, he is viewed with deepest suspicion by his fellow gods who will never accept him as one of their own and for this he vows to take his revenge.
But while Loki is planning the downfall of Asgard and the humiliation of his tormentors, greater powers are conspiring against the gods and a battle is brewing that will change the fate of the Worlds.
From his recruitment by Odin from the realm of Chaos, through his years as the go-to man of Asgard, to his fall from grace in the build-up to Ragnarok, this is the unofficial history of the world’s ultimate trickster.

Review:  I picked up this book in a local library without looking at who the author is. In fact I didn’t realise who had written this novel, and who Joanne Harris was (I know, I wasn’t thinking, lol) until half way through reading this book! The cover and title are what drew me in at first and I’m so glad I did. This book is so great, easy to read, funny, dark and really pulls you in right away.

The whole book is written in the first person narrative, from the perspective of Loki himself, the trickster god of Norse mythology. The story recounts how the norse gods came to power, how Asgard came to be; how Loki came to be a god of the norse mythology and ultimately the downfall of the gods and of Asgard. The whole story told from Loki’s perspective immediately draws you in and I found myself engrossed after just a few pages.

The start of the story has a list of all the main characters and brief description of each of them (again from Loki’s perspective) but it’s not necessary to remember any of this, you’ll soon meet them all in the story. The story is surprisingly easy to get into. Despite set in a world that’s unknown to most readers it’s really not hard to get into the novel. You have to accept that things are different than in our world, gods can shift aspect (the way they appear) and magic and magical weird worlds exist but as long as you go with it then I think you’ll enjoy reading this every bit as I did.

The book’s language is very colloquial, characters speak as they do today, but this actually makes it all a lot easier to understand their conversations, their insults and Loki’s constant ranting about what happened. I actually enjoyed this use of the language. Loki is speaking to us the reader and just because the events he talks about happened a long time ago it doesn’t mean that language more akin to that time has to be used to describe conversations and events. In fact such older/ more proper language might make the book less interesting to read.  Although there is the use of the word ‘chillax’ which did feel a little too colloquial, lol.

The whole story is made up of 4 books (4 parts) and rather than chapters there are lessons. Loki’s narration throughout isn’t just the straight forward first person perspective of an unfolding story, instead it is spoken from the hindsight perspective, Loki has clearly been through everything, had time to reflect (even though he talks more like someone with a grudge that someone humbled by his experience) and the whole story is firmly from his perspective.

I really like this book which surprised me when I learnt who wrote it. I’ve never read a Joanne Harris novel before and this was a pleasant surprise. The story is a re-telling of Norse mythology but having things told form a particular perspective made learning the whole story more fun and who’s to say this isn’t how things happened?🙂

The book is funny in parts but ultimately leads to a dark place. Dark things happen (I won’t give away details) and even though it is just a story at the end of the day it still made me think about consequences, how characters reacted and made me question whether Loki could really be to blame for everything, given all that happened to him – or maybe I think too deeply about things? Either way I really enjoyed reading it and can’t wait to read a sequel which I sort of hope there is. 🙂

There’s nothing really offensive in the book although there is use of both the B and S swear words but it’s infrequent and seems to fit and was in keeping with the characters narraitve and didn’t offend the way that some novels do with out of place swearing.

I’d recommend this book to anyone into fantasy or Norse mythology in general.  I’m a big fan of both so it was easy to like this story right away.  It’s a fun read and in the end I found myself sympathising with Loki, which is strange given what a character he really is.

-Review first appeared online November 2016 – now republished here.

Have you read this book?  Do you like Norse mythology or other mythology?  What about fantasy books or books that show a different perspective on known events?  Let me know what you think in the comments below 🙂