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SA Partridge

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

Review – The Gospel of Loki

Gospel-of-Loki-LEGO1

gospel-of-loki

Myths are awesome. They’re the world’s first stories. Most people are familiar with the big Greek myths, like the heroic tale of Perseus, who chopped off Medusa’s head, or Hercules’ incredible twelve tasks, or even Jason’s search for the Golden Fleece. Works like The Iliad and The Odyssey ensured that these stories have lived on for centuries. Hollywood has been dipping its pen into the ancient myth pool for years. Thanks to Disney, most kids grow up knowing all about Hercules and his satyr side-kick, Phil. (Are you turning in your grave yet, Homer?)

Norse mythology is equally riveting, although a lot less accessible. Yes, yes. Stan Lee can take a lot of credit for introducing The Mighty Thor to the world, and authors like Douglas Adams, AS Byatt and Neil Gaiman have all touched on Norse mythology in their fiction. And of course Tom Hiddleston made us all fall in love with the God of Mischief in The Avengers. But while most libraries will have ready stock of The Odyssey, very few will be able to help you with a collection of Norse Poetic Eddas, and if they can, it makes for heavy reading.

This is why we should all be thankful to Joanne Harris. She’s taken the Norse saga and woven it neatly together into one highly readable work. In The Gospel of Loki, we rediscover these powerful stories from a new perspective – in the charismatic voice of Loki himself.

Loki is the archetypal villain. He is the darkness that works against the light; the fallen angel. But here we encounter someone different. Our misunderstood narrator tells his version of the events and describes how he was a victim of other people’s ambition. In a sense we always knew he was.

The legend is familiar. The Norse Gods live high above the clouds in the glittering stronghold of Asgard, beneath the watchful eye of Odin, his two ravens and his temperamental son Thor. The God of Mischief is an endless annoyance (they don’t call him the Trickster for nothing) and eventually the Gods lose their sense of humour and imprison him deep underground. Loki’s subsequent escape to seek revenge leads to Ragnarok – the end of the world. It is an ancient prophecy that plays out like the coils of Jörmungand, the snake that grasps its own tail. The outcome will always be the same.

It’s a tragic story. Loki abandoned his home in Chaos to follow Odin to Asgard, only to be ridiculed, despised and ultimately ousted by the Gods he tried so hard to impress.

See my full review over at Hodderscape.

 

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