The Gospel of Loki by Joanne Harris
By Sally Partridge
Posted on April 22, 2014 in Books with tags Book review, Lego
Author and Lego-wrangler extraordinare SA Partrige visits Joanne Harris’ novel The Gospel of Loki… with Lego!
Myths are awesome. They’re the world’s first stories. Most people are familiar with the big Greek myths, like the heroic tale of Perseus, who chopped off Medusa’s head, or Hercules’ incredible twelve tasks, or even Jason’s search for the Golden Fleece. Works like The Iliad and The Odyssey ensured that these stories have lived on for centuries. Hollywood has been dipping its pen into the ancient myth pool for years. Thanks to Disney, most kids grow up knowing all about Hercules and his satyr side-kick, Phil. (Are you turning in your grave yet, Homer?)
Norse mythology is equally riveting, although a lot less accessible. Yes, yes. Stan Lee can take a lot of credit for introducing The Mighty Thor to the world, and authors like Douglas Adams, AS Byatt and Neil Gaiman have all touched on Norse mythology in their fiction. And of course Tom Hiddleston made us all fall in love with the God of Mischief in The Avengers. But while most libraries will have ready stock of The Odyssey, very few will be able to help you with a collection of Norse Poetic Eddas, and if they can, it makes for heavy reading.
This is why we should all be thankful to Joanne Harris. She’s taken the Norse saga and woven it neatly together into one highly readable work. In The Gospel of Loki, we rediscover these powerful stories from a new perspective – in the charismatic voice of Loki himself.
Loki is the archetypal villain. He is the darkness that works against the light; the fallen angel. But here we encounter someone different. Our misunderstood narrator tells his version of the events and describes how he was a victim of other people’s ambition. In a sense we always knew he was.
The legend is familiar. The Norse Gods live high above the clouds in the glittering stronghold of Asgard, beneath the watchful eye of Odin, his two ravens and his temperamental son Thor. The God of Mischief is an endless annoyance (they don’t call him the Trickster for nothing) and eventually the Gods lose their sense of humour and imprison him deep underground. Loki’s subsequent escape to seek revenge leads to Ragnarok – the end of the world. It is an ancient prophecy that plays out like the coils of Jörmungand, the snake that grasps its own tail. The outcome will always be the same.
Its a tragic story. Loki abandoned his home in Chaos to follow Odin to Asgard, only to be ridiculed, despised and ultimately ousted by the Gods he tried so hard to impress.
You see Loki is all of us. He’s the new girl at school who can’t believe her luck when she’s taken in by the popular crowd. He’s the guy at the office who gets invited to join the sales team golf day when they’re a man down. He’s the would-be socialite who thinks that if she keeps popping next door to chat that her neighbour will eventually invite her to one of her exclusive parties. We’re all suckers when it comes to other people. We want to fit in, even though we know that eventually we’re going to get burnt.
The Gospel of Loki is arranged as a series of life lessons that reveal how Loki was betrayed by Odin as well as by every other player in this saga, including the very prophecy that led to his downfall. He was the fall-guy that got painted in villain colours. It’s a new perspective that reads like truth. And it is the truth. Call someone a villain for long enough and they eventually become one. Loki’s almost nonchalant narration reveals a fragility that makes him seem very human. And that’s where the magic of this book lies. Walk in a God’s shoes and you will see that they’re a lot more like us than we thought. They’re far from perfect. They’re just as vain, just as proud and even more paranoid. And boy, can they make bad decisions.
The Gospel of Loki is a marvellous read, whether you’re a Loki fangirl, someone wanting a quick refresher in Norse mythology, or if you simply want to lose yourself in a cracker work of fiction.