ARC Review: LOKI by Melvin Burgess

I received an ARC from the publishers in exchange for an honest review. It has not affected my opinions.

Title in large black letters on red
Genre: Fantasy retelling
Age Range: Adult
Star Rating: 4 stars
Series: standalone

Blurb:

Book cover for LOKI:

Born within the heart of a fire in the hollow of a tree-trunk, Loki arrives in Asgard as an outsider. He is a trickster, an unreliable narrator, the god of intelligence and politics.

In spite of his cleverness and sparkling wit (or, perhaps, because of this…) Loki struggles to find his place among the old patriarchal gods of supernatural power and is constantly at odds with the god of thunder – Thor.

Blurb taken from Goodreads. Add to your shelves here.


Review:

It’s always interesting to watch trends change in publishing. For a while, we have been in a big boom of Greek mythology retellings (one that doesn’t look like it’s going to end soon), but LOKI is a book that comes as the scope is widening to include other mythologies.

This take on Loki is very much a “Loki is amazing and brought all good things to the world because he is so clever, and everyone else is either stupid, jealous, spiteful , or horny – or all four at once.” It is absolutely scathing of the major gods – Thor is a bigoted brute, for example.

I think there are different ways you can read that. As truth (whatever the male equivalent of a Mary Sue is, I guess?) and that he is incredible and yet was still taken down. Or as an exaggeration. Afterall, Loki calls himself a liar many times in the book. And why would he not buff his own reputation in a tale that ends with a plea to be released? I personally chose to read it the second way. That perspective is one I enjoy more, the sense of a narrator being unreliable but for reasons you can understand (needs to big himself up so someone frees him!)

It is also a book that does not gloss over the queerness of Norse mythology. Loki is a shapeshifter and spends time as a man and as a woman, and loves both – and that takes centre stage in this retelling. It also looks at how the body of Norse mythology includes both queerness and homophobia, and I really liked that it didn’t try to erase one to make the other fit.

The book weaves in all sorts of well known and lesser known myths, some of which could have been a book of their own. Loki frequently says “but that’s another story”, which is a fun way to acknowledge how much more tales there are than can fit into any one book. It has picked and chosen those which best help tell the story, giving them an irreverent and yet often sincere narrator as we navigate a world of gods and monsters.

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