Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Shelf Life [adult]

The Gospel of Loki: The Epic Story of the Trickster God by Joanne M. Harris
@SPL: FIC Harri

Rogue. The word could have been invented for the Norse trickster demon-god, Loki. A rogue demon before he joins Odin’s forces, a rogue demi-god before his antics get him kicked out of Asgard, a rogue, full-blown god before he helps bring an end to the entire world. His two favourite catch-phrases are “So shoot me” (usually followed by ‘I did it anyway’), and “It wasn’t my fault” (although generally it is.)

It is a very unusual departure from Joanne M. Harris’ usual novels which feature quietly strong female protagonists with a touch of natural magic – her most famous being Vienne, the confection-maker in Chocolat.  Written instead in a male voice, this protagonist is a lord of Magical Chaos (capital M, capital C), a demon-god who does what he wants when he wants to whom he wants, damn the consequences. The consequences are usually pretty dire, of course – these are gods we’re talking about after all. Harris invokes the entire canon of them, but this is not a Marvel Comic version of events (although you can be forgiven for hearing Tom Hiddleston’s voice as you read – hopefully he will be tapped to narrate the audiobook), so do not expect a Thor-Loki match-up. In this version Odin and Loki are the brothers (in a sense) and Thor is just another god whom Loki does not trust (the feeling is mutual). Harris’ Loki experiences a few twinges of conscience (he’d say he doesn’t have “feelings”), and while they are not enough to completely redeem him, they do give him one more layer of complexity than a lord of Chaos might wish to have.

Loki’s adventures are entertaining, his perspective a bit warped and his description of the other gods hilariously contemporary (for example “Honin – the Silent. Never shuts up.”) The story is indeed epic, and the setting is deliberately vague – it could be at the beginning of time, it could be some decades ago, it could be in the not-too-distant future. The tone is quite current although the time-span covered is apparently several ages – gods live a long time it seems, but time passes quickly for them. That is a lot of ground to cover in a normal-sized novel but the pace is almost dizzyingly fast – perfect then, for a trickster god who loves to keep his fans guessing.  Find The Gospel of Loki under the tag “shelf-life reviewed” at

This review was published in the Stratford Gazette on May 1. Written by Robyn Godfrey, Librarian.

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