The Gospel of Loki

By Joanne M. Harris

Rating: 4 stars

This book retells the fairly familiar story of Norse mythology, but from the point of view of the trickster god, Loki. As you may imagine, the Trickster isn’t the most reliable narrator, but Harris does a good job of getting inside his head and making him sympathetic, even when recounting some of his more unpleasant acts (such as arranging the killing of Baldor). As well as that tale, we have other familiar myths recounted here, including his involvement in acquiring mighty weapons for the Aesir, getting Thor to dress up as a bride and tricking Frey to give up his runesword.

This is all told in the first person, and we see Loki from the start, when he was tamed from the Chaos by Odin, to the early desire to belong and fit in at Asgard to the disillusionment and anger that leads to his turning his back on the gods and eventually to Ragnarok.

Loki is an engaging narrator, with a wry wit and humorous turn of phrase. The reader finds themselves being drawn into his point of view and wanting him to succeed, even as we follow him to the final betrayal at the end of the world.

Harris has done a great job here of finding a fresh retelling of the Norse myths and this is a very enjoyable way to rediscover them.

Book details

ISBN: 9781473202368
Publisher: Hachette Australia
Year of publication: 2014

Myths from Mesopotamia: Creation, the Flood, Gilgamesh, and Others

By Anonymous

Rating: 3 stars

This is an interesting series of myths from ancient Mesopotamia, which were probably the origins of the tropes and archetypes that appear again and again in western mythology and narrative. The introduction to each one is interesting, but the actual myths themselves can be difficult, as they have been reconstructed from fragments of recovered clay tablets, and many fragments are still missing. This can be a single missing word, or entire sections of the text.

Also, to modern sensibilities the tales are awfully bare, with little embellishment. The introduction suggests that this is because these were only notes that would be mnemonics to the storytellers of the time who would fill in the details and make the stories come to life. This is interesting, but it does make reading these sometimes a bit of a chore.

Book details

ISBN: 9780199538362
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Year of publication: -1750


By Roberto Calasso, Tim Parks

Rating: 3 stars

This book is going to be difficult for me to review because it’s not what I was expecting or wanting. I was hoping for a book that would take me through some of the stories of Hindu mythology, an area in which my knowledge is woefully inadequate, being limited to hazy childhood memories. However, it turned out to be more a setting out of some of the principles of Hindu philosophy, using some of the stories to hang that on to. This is a noble aim in itself, but it’s not what I was looking for.

Taking the book in its own right then, there’s a lot of dense material here. Often you’ll find a short story or parable from one of the ancient texts, and then a large amount of philosophy hung off the back of that. I must confess that I did struggle a lot with that, and a lot went sailing over my head. Difficult, dense, but probably rewarding, if you were willing to put more effort into it than I was.

Book details

ISBN: 9780099750710
Publisher: Random House
Year of publication: 1996

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