I picked up the Urban Mythic Box Set a while ago because I enjoy the myths it springs from, but like most books, it ended up buried on my Kindle until this week. I happened upon it when needing a break from my planned reading list. Sometimes luck is with you, and a random choice brings you a new favorite author, as I seem to have found with C. Gockel.
This book is the beginning of a series focused around the Norse mythic character of Loki. Tricksters are complex creatures and it’s a tossup whether they are villains or something else. In this, Loki is definitely something else, though he has both bad moments and good.
The myths and stories often bug me. It’s not that I have a bad boy preference but more I can see the full character arc. I see both where Loki has the potential to be good and is good along with where that nature is twisted because of the actions of others. The supposed good guys often behave horribly, but no one calls them on it. It’s fine to bully Loki because he deserves it. There’s no recognition given to how his behavior is a response to mistreatment in the first place.
Yes, I have a soapbox, and Loki puts me right up there on it.
That said, this portrayal is well done because it provides a balanced view of the character, showing both what prompted his behavior and how his response can be out of proportion and brings chaos along with it. There are a lot of hints about things hidden from him as well, giving the character a sense of mystery and more to come.
Then there’s Amy. She gives a lovely human perspective to it all. She doesn’t have an easy life. Amy has to work and save every penny each summer to pay for her veterinary degree. She’s far from trusting, but she judges a person on their actions for the most part and revises that judgment when she learns more. As a vet in training, she has a soft spot for animals I can appreciate (along with a technical curiosity I found amusing), but it’s more than that. She’s a “roll with the punches” type of person who holds those around her to the same high standards while giving them a chance to improve instead of writing them off. She doesn’t sit back and accept, but tries to figure out what’s at the root of things even when the light it shines doesn’t show her own behavior off well. There were a couple of times when I thought the author had been caught up in the revised fairy tale, but Amy is the one to see behind the curtain.
I’m a sucker for books that make me want to share quotes, and even more when the moment is still strong when out of context. While there are definitely both deep and dark points in this story, the fun, and funny, times are just begging to be read aloud. This is especially true where Loki’s confusion with the modern world comes into view. His brushes with technology are infrequent enough and well chosen to be amusing even as they emphasize how out of place he is. A quick example is the perspectives of Amy and the standard SUV with remote versus Loki and “Car,” a living metal creature that understands politely worded requests like please open a window.
Even better, those tangles with technology are not just there for humor value but end up becoming relevant in the story.
I’ve focused a lot on the main characters (though Amy’s grandmother Beatrice and Fenrir, an ugly rat mutt of a dog, deserve not to be left out along with Loki’s caretakers), but the story is strong with as many serious as funny moments. The characters are definitely a strength, but this “part one” offers complex events that change the characters in many ways. It is an opening into a story world that is both familiar and unknown.
This is neither a Marvel nor a mythological recounting of the Norse tales. It has been influenced by both, and they’re mentioned in the story, but this tale is of its own telling. It’s strengthened by the solid foundation into a well-rounded story with characters I came to care about and mysteries still to come. The book offers a fitting series beginning with a satisfying, complete arc and introduces the next piece to come. The “cliffhanger” ending comes in what is more like an epilogue than part of the main story. As such, it did not bother me beyond making me want to continue to the next book.