Sunday 4 September 2016

Book Review: The Gospel Of Loki; Joanne M. Harris.

I was very excited when Netgalley approved this title for me because I'm a pretty big fan of Loki's character (thanks of course to Hiddleston's portrayal in the Marvel Universe). The thing is, I think the Norse Myths are so rarely revisited by authors, and it's Gods have so much potential for a good retelling. My friend actually later bought be a copy of this book so I was pleased that she did because the cover is beautiful on my bookshelf! I will also enter this into the Monthly Motif challenge!

SOURCE: Gift (Also Netgalley)
TYPE: Paperback

TITLE: The Gospel Of Loki
AUTHOR: Joanne M. Harris
SERIES: Runemarks (#0.5?)
PAGES: 302
GENRE: Fantasy, Retelling, Adult

RATING: 3.5/5 Stars

Loki, that’s me. 

Loki, the Light-Bringer, the misunderstood, the elusive, the handsome and modest hero of this particular tissue of lies. Take it with a pinch of salt, but it’s at least as true as the official version, and, dare I say it, more entertaining. So far, history, such as it is, has cast me in a rather unflattering role. Now it’s my turn to take the stage. 

With his notorious reputation for trickery and deception, and an ability to cause as many problems as he solves, Loki is a Norse god like no other. Demon-born, he is viewed with deepest suspicion by his fellow gods who will never accept him as one of their own and for this he vows to take his revenge. From his recruitment by Odin from the realm of Chaos, through his years as the go-to man of Asgard, to his fall from grace in the build-up to Ragnarok, this is the unofficial history of the world’s ultimate trickster.

What I Liked:
  • There was actually a lot to like about this book generally. Firstly, our narrator Loki was predictably hilarious, and I'm really glad that Harris went down the comic route with him because a mopey, boring Loki would have irritated me a lot. While I was a little disappointed with some aspects of Loki and other characters (more on that later) Harris did pull out all the stops when it came to his sense of humour and turning him into a trickster, and she was consistent in her portrayal of his character.
  • A lot of research went into this book. I wasn't blown away by Harris' writing, but she span a whole new light on a lot of Norse Myths, most of which I've heard of. This made this books a refreshing enough retelling, and considering there isn't a whole lot to work with when it comes to Norse legends, I think she did a pretty decent job!
What I Disliked:
  • I'll start with the characters because they were probably my biggest disappointment. I came into this book wanting to feel depth in characterisation, but ended up not loving any of them (despite Loki's best comedic efforts). Most of the Gods/Goddesses were stupid, ill-tempered and very mean, Odin sat on the fence too much, and sadly Loki too missed the mark because I could pretty much see why everyone was so mad at him all the time. Sentences such as 'I never claimed to be father/husband/brother of the year' came up too frequently, providing no justification for Loki's actions and I got the vague sense that Loki himself didn't have a clue what he was doing or why other than base feelings of bitterness or jealousy. Not exactly endearing characteristics.
  • Another reason why I never fully formed an attachment to the book's events or characters? The whole thing is just one long recap. Yes, they are interesting retellings of some rarely rewritten myths, but (a) I knew what was coming and didn't find myself caring a whole lot, and (b) the story, right up until the end, never finds itself in present tense. What happens to Loki after Ragnarok? Perhaps those questions are answered in book one of the 'Runemarks' series as this book is identified as being part of it. But the constant reminders that nothing will end well in the book sort of spoiled the sense of excitement and curiousity.
  • I didn't enjoy the book's modern references and language. This book is of course a retelling and in a way it felt fresh because of the references to pop culture and a more modern lifestyle (though to be clear, it is still set in Ancient History). It was also funnier because of this, but in the end, the mixed time periods just didn't wash with me. This is probably more of a personal preference but it just felt a little confusing and maybe ever so slightly lazy.
Overall Conclusion:
This was a bold, humorous retelling of tales that are deeply ingrained into our understanding of history, and yet rarely retold at all. I remember learning about Greek Myths at school, but not so much about Norse Myths so it's nice to see a new take on such old stories. I liked the comedy and I did like Loki, though I really wanted to love him. Sadly the depth of character, plot and world-building I was after simply wasn't there and it left me feeling detached from beginning to predictable end. I hope to read more of the 'Runemarks' series in the future because I feel like a new story with some of these characters could be an interesting direction to take things.

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