Title: The Gospel of Loki
Author: Joanne Harris
Date Read: 28/01/2016 – 02/02/2016
Heh. For a long while I’ve wanted to read some novels based on Norse Mythology. While I enjoy Thor and the other Marvel movies, I knew they took a lot of liberties with the mythology to make their comics entertaining. I really wanted to read something that harked back to the original stories. This was… not the best choice to start with?
This book draws on the Prose Edda and Poetic Edda, but tells the stories from the point-of-view of Loki, the Trickster God. I recognised several of the stories, which begin with the birth of Loki and go right through to Ragnarok. While there were times when it was easy to sympathise with Loki and think, “Yeah, he’s getting a really bad rap here,” so much of the book was taken up with Loki being snarky and immature, so I never felt like I was really on his side.
For a book describing events that took place many centuries ago, the language was incredibly modern, and that was what threw me the most as I was reading. I understand that this is supposed to be Loki looking back on events, rather than describing them as they happen, but it made the whole thing feel very detached. I could have dealt with that when he was giving commentary on events, but when there are lines like “I flipped Odin the bird,” I can’t help but think “Did you actually? Did that gesture exist 1200 years ago? Are you being metaphorical? I don’t understand.” I was thinking similar things about a lot of the dialogue.
There were some good moments, like when Loki offered his head as the prize if he lost a bet. He did lose the bet, but as the man he lost to was about to cut off his head, he pointed out that the bet had said nothing about his neck. Since the head could not be cut off without also damaging the neck, Loki got to keep his head. However, I’m not sure how much credit Joanne Harris gets for these ideas, given how much of the book drew on traditional stories. I also gather that she changed up some parts of the myth to better suit the narrative she wants to tell.
All in all, this was fairly underwhelming. If you have any suggestions for novels based on Norse mythology that I might enjoy more, please recommend them!