gospel-of-loki[1]“All of us came from fire and ice.”

I’ve mentioned on the blog before that I’m a mythology nerd. I love the myths of old, and the idea that maybe the stories of our time will be myths for those distantly in the future. I even like to take concepts from them in my own writing, be they Greek, Egyptian, Celtic or Christian. The Norse myths are some of those that I’ve taken a passing interest in, but never settled down to study in any particular depth, so this was my chance. Another present from my editor friend and, by this time, I know that anything she selects for me will be a winner.

This is a retelling of the Norse myths from the point of view of Loki, the trickster god who caused more drama than delight in the days of old. As it turned out, I knew more about the Norse myths than I thought I did, but there were still amazingly wonderful surprises within.

Loki comes from Chaos. He’s been there for ages, but one day decides to escape and see what the other Worlds have to offer. He meets Odin, Allfather, who swears allegiance to him, an offer which means that Loki is now tainted and cannot return to Lord Surt in the Chaos. Not that he especially wants to, and if he tries, he won’t last an eyeblink.

Now he has to try and win the favour of the gods, phenomenal characters like dim-witted Thor, caring Sigyn, irritating Honir, and Freyja, who is unable to walk past a mirror without having a look at her own beauty. The book unfolds almost like a series of short stories, which I suppose myths generally are, so each time we see Loki struggling to deal with a new situation. They are all classic stories that we’ve come to expect from gods – someone is promised something insanely expensive or impossible, or a mortal is challenging the gods to a battle of some kind. Loki becomes known as a liar and a tricky customer, willing to trade the safety and well-being of his friends to achieve his own ends, and yet they keep him around simply because they know he can talk them out of anything. He’s a demon with an answer to everything. But then things go too far and he finds himself cast from Asgard as a prophecy begins to worry the others…

A superbly clever book, it isn’t the first to take a story and turn it on its head and show the events from the villain’s point of view (Gregory Maguire has done it on a number of occasions, and Maleficent is about to show the other side of Sleeping Beauty) but that hardly matters. It’s always interesting to see – especially when it’s done well – because, after all, every antagonist is the protagonist in his or her own story. The characters are all wonderfully interesting and as flawed as all the classical gods are – it’s the big thing the classic myths have going for them against Christianity and the like: the gods are all so human – you can’t help but feel a certain warmth for them, even, or rather especially, Loki.

Norse mythology appears to be undergoing a tiny resurgance at the moment, thanks mostly to the Marvel films and The Avengers in particular, which feature Thor and Loki in big parts, but that’s not a complaint because mythology is always welcome. Those films are so ubiquitous now, that it’s all but impossible to not imagine Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston reprising their roles in your mind for the novel. Again, not a complaint, as they’re perfect in those roles.

This is a stunning book and if you have even a passing interest in mythology, it’s definitely worth looking at. Hell, even if you don’t, it’s a hugely entertaining read with some of the most fascinating characters in history.