I enjoyed Joanne Harris’ first Norse mythology-themed young adult novel “Runemarks” a number of years ago, so, for the title alone, I couldn’t resist her latest “The Gospel of Loki” ($25.99, Saga Press).
The approach has become pretty common in recent years – take a classic tale and turn it around from the villain’s viewpoint. For this book, Harris turns some familiar tales from Norse mythology on their head, as we get the view through the eyes of the trickster god Loki.
From the very beginning of his relationship with Odin, Loki is an outcast in Asgard. He’s not a true god, and the others make sure he knows it. They are, however, eager to use his talents when he can help them. His perception of his treatment causes resentment that will eventually put the worlds on the path to Ragnarok.
While not exactly likeable, Harris’ Loki is charming in his own way as he spins his side of the story in a quite convincing fashion. Rather than allow her narrator to make himself the victim of the story, though, Harris allows us to see Loki’s flaws as well. We follow him through a series of bad decisions and missed opportunities that he has to improve his lot in life, that even he acknowledges at times.
“The Gospel of Loki” is a bit more adult in tone than “Runemarks,” but I think it might be interesting to revisit the former book and see if and how they work together. I also realize now that I’ve missed a sequel called “Runelight” that I definitely need to pick up.
While the book takes us to the final battle, it’s pretty clear that Loki’s story isn’t over. I mean, he’s telling it after the fact and all. I would definitely be interested in exploring a little more of Harris’ version of Norse mythology. It’s been a lot of fun so far.