The Gospel Of Loki by Joanne M. Harris (book review).

The profile of Loki, the Trickster God, agent of Chaos has never been higher. Thanks to the ‘Thor’ and ‘Avengers’ movies from Disney/Marvel and a wickedly enjoyable performance by Tom Hiddleston in those films, we have more awareness of Loki than ever before. It is therefore the perfect time for Gollancz to release what is described as Joanne M Harris’s first fantasy epic ‘The Gospel Of Loki’, essentially a retelling of the Norse myths from the perspective of Loki himself, ‘Yours truly’ as he refers to himself in the book.


The book is divided into lessons as Loki, conjured into the world of the Aesir and Vanir from Chaos by Odin, learns about gods, morality, trying to fit-in and revenge. His slyness and quick wit manage to alienate him from many of the gods and as he struggles to find his niche within Asgard’s society, engages first in mischief and then in a campaign of upsetting the peace permanently. As the reader, you are complicit in his conspiracies and tricks. Harris writes the book from Loki’s point-of-view and, despite his perceived wrong-doing, is charming and complex. His relationships with his children are not idealised, but feel realistic. His own daughter, Hel is guardian of the dead, Loki commends her for at least having a job. In short, you understand why Loki does what he does.

In Harris’ characterisation of Loki, it’s hard to not think of Hiddleston or maybe David Tennant’s Tenth Doctor, clever, camp, amusing, sexually potent, often misguided and loveable. He admits his mistakes, but carries on regardless and you wonder that despite the book being divided into ‘lessons’ how much Loki actually learns. He is flawed and, despite being born from Chaos, makes him more human than the brawny super-hero Gods around him.

Sometimes this characterisation did make me wince. At one point, Loki uses the word ‘chillax’ while the witch Angrboda later informs him ‘way to raise our son’. The contemporary dialogue employed sometimes seems a little distracting, but compared to the overly serious personalities of the other Gods, does make for a nice contrast.

The book reminded me a lot reading Neil Gaiman or Terry Pratchett (specifically ‘Good Omens’) and has the wit to match both. Loki should make you laugh and I chuckled at his retorts and put-downs. The weaving of the myths together is expertly done by Harris, no stranger to Norse folklore, as found in her other books, ‘Runemarks’ and ‘Runelight’. There is also an excellent twist saved for the very end. I was reading the book in public (a pub to be exact) and laughed out loud. Loki plays tricks until the final page.

In some of my past reviews, I’ve talked about the accessibility of where to start with Norse myths. ‘The Gospel Of Loki’ is an excellent place to begin. I enjoyed reading it, as the stories are told in a breezy and compelling fashion and it will make you laugh, leaving you both entertained and educated. Now, that is a Hel of a trick.

John Rivers

April 2014

(pub: Gollancz. 320 page hardback. Price: £14.99 (UK only). ISBN: 978-1-47320-235-1)

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