This book. Oh, my god. Between the jabs at Chicago (all spot-on, by the way), Loki's sense of humor ("An experiment could be more fun than setting a fThis book. Oh, my god. Between the jabs at Chicago (all spot-on, by the way), Loki's sense of humor ("An experiment could be more fun than setting a fire!"), and tidbits like Ratatoskr the extremely foul-mouthed squirrel, I laughed so goddamned hard I'm pretty sure the people on the bus thought I'd lost my mind. This series is something of a guilty pleasure read for me, one I was pretty sure was going to be terrible, but I ended up being very wrong, and I'm glad I checked it out.
It would probably have been worth reading this just for the humor, but fortunately that's not the only thing here. The pace is pretty good; definitely enough to keep me reading. The various myths that get pulled in are interesting, and I like that the characters ask some of the same questions I would in those situations rather than overlooking coincidences and odd similarities. And throughout the first three books, the author's characterization is fantastic: her original characters are realistic and engaging enough, but the mythological characters pop right off the page: Hoenir, Thor, even Odin's ravens. Her portrayal of Loki, in particular, stands out; he is fascinating in his complexity, particularly as his history is gradually revealed through the second and third books. This is by far my favorite fictional version of him.
While the narrative perspective is clearly sympathetic to Loki, and several familiar myths are retold through this lens, the author maintains that balancing-on-a-knife-edge paradoxical nature of the trickster, the powerful fool -- that tightrope-walk between creation and destruction, between tragedy and hilarity, that makes him so interesting. Her Loki is more Loki than any others I've seen: smart, but fallible; mischievously curious to a fault; see-sawing constantly back and forth between his own selfishness and his better instincts. He can be fun and charming...or an ice-cold, manipulative jerk. He can be incredibly kind...or he can be malicious. He can be good...or ruthlessly, viciously efficient at getting what he wants -- and his sometimes chilling interior monologue makes it clear that he is constantly weighing the comparative benefit of these options. This is a guy for whom "good" takes work, and he's not always sure it's worth the effort. The fact that he's so conflicted about his nature and its effect on the people around him gives him an endearing depth, and makes him that much more terrifying when he's not playing nice.
Unlike the first two books, this one had an ending that felt like an ending rather than an abrupt cliffhanger, which was an improvement. It was the kind of ending I hate to love, but it worked for the story, and I'm curious to see how she'll manage to keep the story moving after it. There were a few things that didn't make much sense to me -- I continue to find Cera's weird Josef thing kind of baffling and superfluous (and in my head that character speaks with the voice of the Communist greeting card from Futurama, which probably doesn't help), but perhaps that will have significance in a later book.
Overall, this was a very entertaining read....more