Trickster. Father of Lies. Wildfire. Lucky. He goes by many names, but we probably best know him as Loki. Before he was an Avengers fan favorite, Loki was playing tricks on the Norse gods of Asgard, sometimes as a tenuous ally, other times as the villain, but if Joanne Harris’s The Gospel of Loki is to be believed, always a bit misunderstood.
The tricky part about novelizations of mythology is that readers know, more or less, how the story is going to end; the journey there must be an entertaining one, and The Gospel of Loki certainly is. Everyone loves a trickster, and Loki is in fine form, whether it’s manipulating bets to his favor or narrowly saving his own skin (or, frequently, both at the same time). The snark accompanying the exploits frequently had me chuckling aloud. I was delighted to see the inclusion of the birth of Sleipnir, the eight-legged colt borne of Loki’s stint as a mare; when criticized by others, he smirks that the maneuver was “[taking] one for the team.”
As a narrator, Loki paints himself as a silver-tongued nerd never quite accepted at the Asgard table of jocks. Thor may have his brawn and big hammer but isn’t that bright, while Loki, by contrast, flatters and manipulates and provides witty conversation, a welcome breath of fresh air for the ladies. Odin is more wily and paranoid than all-knowing and all-powerful. Other gods and goddesses are painted in similarly unflattering aspects as Loki justifies away his behavior and role in bringing about Ragnarok.
However, between those witty lines, readers see a character whose locus of control is decidedly external, the fictional equivalent of the friend who can never keep a job for reasons that are always someone else’s fault. In Loki’s case, he often blames his chaotic nature, Odin, the gods of Asgard for not accepting him, or some combination of all of the above as justification. As a person, he would quickly get annoying, but as a narrator, he is glib enough to pull it off and keep readers rooting for him and chuckling all the while.
Norse mythology doesn’t frequently receive the literary treatment, so The Gospel of Loki offers something new to the retold-mythology trend. It makes for a fast-paced, entertaining read, but I also recommend it in audiobook or e-audiobook format since reader Allan Corduner brings to life the charming voice of Loki, perpetually too delighted in his own cleverness for his own good. Father of Lies he may be, but they are fun lies.