The Norse Gods have always been something of the red-headed step-child of mythology. While their Greek and Roman counterparts have seen retellings across too many mediums to mention, the All-Father and crew are often neglected or forgotten entirely.
Right now, much of our pop culture understanding of Odin and Loki is down to their portrayal in the Marvel franchise. Although a lot of fun, the comics are hardly a reliable retelling.
Joanne Harris is working on changing that. Her new novel The Testament of Loki comes out this month and to get myself in the right mind-set, I reread its predecessor The Gospel of Loki.
The Gospel of Loki is a retelling of the story of Ragnarok, with Loki as the impish protagonist. A master of writing the unreliable narrator, Harris tell the story of Loki with style and humour.
In some ways, it is a bit of a strange hybrid. Although it is in no way a modern re-telling, it is written with modern quips and references, quite deliberately throwing readers off balance within that very fantastical setting.
Although not original, obviously, it is easy to see that Harris cares about her subject matter and her enjoyment of the theme came through her writing. A lot of the Norse myths are unfortunately missing and Harris knits together what is left into a cohesive narrative. It does not paint the Trickster as the hero but it does help readers see it from his point of view.
It is not Harris’ first foray into Norse Myth. In 2007 and 2011 respectively, Harris released Runemarks and Runelight, hugely enjoyable teen fantasy stories set against the backdrop of Norse mythology.
The Gospel of Loki is quite different. It lacks the development and complexity of the Rune books and for that reason I would not call it my favourite of Harris’ work. It is, however, the only version of the rise and fall of the Norse Gods that I would recommend to everyone. It is an unique, pacy, humorous take on the story from a master storyteller.