Thursday, August 20, 2015

Liesmith by Alis Franklin

“I am Loki of Asgard, and I am burdened with glorious purpose.” Loki from The Avengers (2012)

The popularity of the movie’s portrayal of Loki and Tom Hiddleston make it a hard act to follow, but Alis Franklin’s urban fantasy debut featuring Loki stands out with fun and crazy twists.  Liesmith features Norse mythology set in modern times and in Australia, geeks, geek humor, gods, monsters, a serious case of mistaken identity, a star-crossed love story across the ages (with “it’s complicated” written all over it), and Loki in all his infamous glory.  

The plot sounds like some fantasy cliché:  A nobody, Sigmund, finds out he is kind of special, gets caught up in a world of magic and gods, falls in love, and everything that happens is fate.

This book is such a fun, entertaining, fast-paced read with a lot of snark, humor, and pop culture references. The book is an ongoing geek-out session, as the characters react and over-react about discovering Loki and his world.  Franklin’s research and interest in Norse mythology shows (complete with the less-familiar spellings) with the inclusion of the fascinating and complex backstory between Loki, Odin, Baldr, and Sigyn, making for a messy family drama that is not over yet. The geeks, with their interest in role-playing, video games, and all things fantasy, can accept the revelations of the Norse myths and Loki being real (though they also find that the real thing is not the same as fantasy and much scarier). They are an unusual cast for action, but Franklin makes it work.

The story stands out with her re-imagining of Loki, creative world-building, and an original premise that brings the Norse myths into present-day Australia.  The premise of the Wyrd revolves around the power of stories and how they follow particular narrative paths, how certain types of story persist—think genre tropes and clichés. There are also the hero and villain stereotypes, which is especially problematic for Loki since he is usually the bad guy. It does become an interesting interplay between the expected story and the characters' attempts to subvert it.  With all the fun fantasy ideas, Franklin also integrates issues of diversity, with a main lead who is a colored person coming out.

Look for Liesmith on VBPL’s Overdrive site.  The sequel is Stormbringer.  For fantasy with gods, try the Inheritance trilogy by N.K Jemisin, featuring her own prankster god (see review).  For another modern re-telling, try Joanne Harris’ Gospel of Loki.  Seanan McGuire’s Indexing is a modern fantasy featuring fairy tales with a literal narrative force (see review).

Reviewed by Tracy V.

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