Review: THE GOSPEL OF LOKI by Joanne M. Harris (Gollancz)

HarrisJ-GospelOfLokiUKAn excellent, modern take on the beloved Trickster

“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.

I’ve mentioned before how Loki seems to be everywhere, these days. From comic books to blockbusters, the Trickster is just growing in popularity. Now we have The Gospel Of Loki, Joanne Harris’s first fantasy novel for adults. Unsurprisingly, given Harris’s well-established gifts as a writer, this is a well-written, engaging novel. It’s quirky, amusing throughout, with an undercurrent of darkness and menace. This is a lot of fun. Continue reading

Loki is Everywhere…

Loki seems to be popping up in ever-more places. This is no doubt thanks, in part, to the huge success of Marvel’s Avengers and two Thor movies, and the popularity of Tom Hiddleston’s excellent portrayal of the Norse trickster god. (And Hiddleston did a fantastic job.)

Loki-AgentOfAsgard-01A

Cover by Jenny Frison

Marvel is capitalising on the character’s popularity by releasing a new comic series with the character at centre-stage: LOKI: AGENT OF ASGARD. The series will be written by Al Ewing, with art duties handled by Lee Garbett. Here’s what Marvel has said (thus far) about the series:

“LOKI is back and craftier than ever as the All-Mother’s secret weapon against Asgardia’s strangest threats. With his serpent’s tongue, debonair charm, and taste for the uncanny, there’s no assignment Loki won’t take — including the untimely stabbing of THOR! The surprises only start here for the Prince of Lies, as the most conniving corners of the Marvel Universe are blown open…”

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Variant Cover by Frank Cho; Animal Variant by Mike Del Mundo

Meanwhile, Boom Studios has recently announced LOKI: RAGNAROK AND ROLL, their own comic book starring the trickster deity. According to the press release, the series is “a heavy metal twist on Norse mythology” and shows “what happens when you take the classic Norse god Loki and throw him into a rock and roll band in the underground goth clubs of Los Angeles”. This, to me, sounds pretty fun… The series is written by Eric Esquivel and art will be provided by Jerry Gaylord (who has also worked on the rather fun Fanboys vs. Zombies). Here are the two covers for Loki: Ragnarok and Roll #1:

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Loki: Ragnarok and Roll #1 Alexis Ziritt and Jerry Gaylord Variants

Here’s a little more information about the series:

Loki steps out of the shadow cast by his thunderous brother as Norse mythology crosses over with the only thing on Earth as wild and crazy — rock and roll!

What happens when Odin banishes Loki to Earth? He finds a world of outcasts that appreciate his style! While his kin sharpen their weapons, he picks up an electric guitar.

Keeping with the Norse mythology theme, Esquivel also penned Thor: The Unkillable Thunder Christ, which I may now have to hunt down…

And, last but by no means least, we have the highly-anticipated THE GOSPEL OF LOKI novel written by Joanne M. Harris. True, this novel is removed from the Marvel Comics universe, but Gollancz/Orion still couldn’t resist adding the following text to the book’s page on their website:

“For fans of THE AVENGERS, this is the first adult epic fantasy novel from the multi-million-copy bestselling author of CHOCOLAT, Joanne Harris.”

Hmm… A little shameless, methinks. Here is the novel’s synopsis:

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.

But while Loki is planning the downfall of Asgard and the humiliation of his tormentors, greater powers are conspiring against the gods and a battle is brewing that will change the fate of the Worlds.

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.

And here’s that beautiful cover again…

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Upcoming in 2014 from Gollancz

I kind of dropped the ball with my Gift Guides at the end of 2013. I would apologise, but that’s the beauty of running your own blog: you don’t answer to anyone. Nevertheless, there are still plenty of novels coming up in the first few months of 2014 that deserve some advance warning/notice, and I intend to share with you cover art and synopses (and anything else that might be of interest) as and when I can. Today, I highlight just a few of the novels coming up from Gollancz, that bastion of SFF quality and excellence.

HarrisJM-GospelOfLokiJoanne M. Harris, The Gospel of Loki

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.

But while Loki is planning the downfall of Asgard and the humiliation of his tormentors, greater powers are conspiring against the gods and a battle is brewing that will change the fate of the Worlds.

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.

I shared this on Tumblr earlier today, but damn I love that cover, and I love the premise. In fact, I love it so much, that I also have another post coming up later this month that includes the cover again. I love Norse Mythology, and I have a feeling that Harris is going to do the source material proud and do something wonderful with it. Easily one of my most highly-anticipated novels of 2014.

Can. Not. Wait. Due to be published in February 2014.

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JacobsJH-TheIncorruptiblesJohn Hornor Jacobs, The Incorruptibles

In the contested and unexplored territories at the edge of the Empire, a boat is making its laborious way upstream. Riding along the banks are the mercenaries hired to protect it – from raiders, bandits and, most of all, the stretchers, elf-like natives who kill any intruders into their territory. The mercenaries know this is dangerous, deadly work. But it is what they do.

In the boat the drunk governor of the territories and his sons and daughters make merry. They believe that their status makes them untouchable. They are wrong. And with them is a mysterious, beautiful young woman, who is the key to peace between warring nations and survival for the Empire. When a callow mercenary saves the life of the Governor on an ill-fated hunting party, the two groups are thrown together.

For Fisk and Shoe – two tough, honourable mercenaries surrounded by corruption, who know they can always and only rely on each other – their young companion appears to be playing with fire. The nobles have the power, and crossing them is always risky. And although love is a wonderful thing, sometimes the best decision is to walk away. Because no matter how untouchable or deadly you may be, the stretchers have other plans.

Heard about this a little while ago, and I believe Mark Lawrence (Prince of Thorns) mentioned that he really enjoyed it. This is due to be published in June 2014.

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PatrickD-BoyWithThePorcelainBladeDen Patrick, The Boy With the Porcelain Blade

A world of betrayals and deceit. A hero alone. A delicate sword. A thrilling new fantasy from an exciting new voice.

An ornate yet dark fantasy, with echoes of Mervyn Peake, Robin Hobb and Jon Courtenay Grimwood. An original and beautifully imagined world, populated by unforgettable characters.

Lucien de Fontein has grown up different. One of the mysterious and misshapen Orfano who appear around the Kingdom of Landfall, he is a talented fighter yet constantly lonely, tormented by his deformity, and well aware that he is a mere pawn in a political game. Ruled by an insane King and the venomous Majordomo, it is a world where corruption and decay are deeply rooted – but to a degree Lucien never dreams possible when he first discovers the plight of the ‘insane’ women kept in the haunting Sanatoria.

Told in a continuous narrative interspersed with flashbacks we see Lucien grow up under the care of his tutors. We watch him forced through rigorous Testings, and fall in love, set against his yearning to discover where he comes from, and how his fate is tied to that of every one of the deformed Orfano in the Kingdom, and of the eerie Sanatoria itself.

That’s a really nice cover. Aside from that, it also sounds like a really interesting novel. I’ve met Den, and he was a very nice fellow. His Elf/Orc/Dwarf war manuals were quite fun, and it’ll be interesting to see what his fiction is like. I have high hopes for this. Due to be published in March 2014.

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These are three of the novels I most want to have read and on my shelves by the end of the year. There are, of course, more titles coming from Gollancz that I have my eye on, but these are just the ones I chose to highlight today. More to come over the year.