gospel of loki book coverReviewed by Marcus Hammond

If you’re not a fan of mythology, fantasy, or comic books, you may not know who Loki and the gods of Asgard are. The mythology of Nordic cultures is a rich tapestry of bloody battles, furious vengeance, vanity, and heroism. The pantheon of characters calls upon the best and worst attributes of human culture. In The Gospel of Loki by Joanne M. Harris, all of these concepts are brought together in an entertaining romp through many of the ancient Norse tales.

The story revolves around the narration of Loki, the Norse god of tricks and lies. He sets out to tell his own and Asgard’s history to set his reputation straight. The gods of Asgard make him sound like a villain, but Loki finds that an unfair characterization. Each chapter reads like an episode in the victimization of Loki, and is told with dry humor and clarity.

Harris’s characterization of Loki is excellent. He’s devious and manipulative and has fun at it. Most of Loki’s stories revolve around his manipulations of the Asgardians. From the beginning it is clear that Loki feels like a victim of Odin (the “king” of the Norse gods) and his brethren. Loki takes their abuse in stride and watches each character closely to learn their weaknesses. He plays on their vanity, lack of intelligence and/or greed to exact his revenge for never being fully accepted as an Asgardian. In one scenario, Loki tricks Freyja, the goddess of desire, into selling her body to dwarves for a piece of jewelry. By working his manipulations, Loki completely humiliates Freyja and angers Odin (who secretly lusts after the goddess). There are many examples of plots like this that Loki sets against the gods, yet he always seems to end up the victim of his own scheming.

By establishing the central point of the narration as Loki’s victimization and developing that through his schemes and adventures, Harris presents an interesting duality to the story. The god of lies and tricks acts as is his nature and seeks vengeance for being treated as an outcast. As with all mythology this lesson reveals a deeper meaning about human nature—if we are condemned for our actions, it is our nature to blame those that condemn us.

There’s a lot of humor sprinkled throughout Loki’s story as well. While many of his schemes are directly tied to his distaste for his fellow gods, there are moments of camaraderie, as well. Loki shares many adventures with Thor, the God of Thunder. During one situation, Loki dresses Thor up as a bride to trick an enemy of Asgard. Harris expertly crafts the banter and attitudes of the two gods to portray the distrust and tension between Loki and Thor, but also the humor in enacting such a ridiculous scheme.

Overall, the story may not be accessible to everyone due to its strong roots in Norse mythology and fantasy. As an avid comic book reader and fan of myth and fantasy, I found the story to be a quick, enjoyable read.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

After obtaining a Masters in Liberal Arts and Literature Marcus has dedicated most of his time to teaching English Composition for a community college in the Midwest. In his down time, he spends time avidly reading an eclectic selection of books and doing freelance writing whenever he gets the chance. He lives in Kansas with his wife.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Saga Press. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.