Book: “Loki: Where Mischief Lies” by Mackenzi Lee
Publishing Info: Marvel Press, September 2019
Where Did I Get This Book: I received an eARC from NetGalley!
Book Description: Before the days of going toe-to-toe with the Avengers, a younger Loki is desperate to prove himself heroic and capable, while it seems everyone around him suspects him of inevitable villainy and depravity . . . except for Amora. Asgard’s resident sorceress-in-training feels like a kindred spirit-someone who values magic and knowledge, who might even see the best in him.
But when Loki and Amora cause the destruction of one of Asgard’s most prized possessions, Amora is banished to Earth, where her powers will slowly and excruciatingly fade to nothing. Without the only person who ever looked at his magic as a gift instead of a threat, Loki slips further into anguish and the shadow of his universally adored brother, Thor.
When Asgardian magic is detected in relation to a string of mysterious murders on Earth, Odin sends Loki to investigate. As he descends upon nineteenth-century London, Loki embarks on a journey that leads him to more than just a murder suspect, putting him on a path to discover the source of his power-and who he’s meant to be.
Review: Thank you to NetGalley for sending me an eARC of this novel!
Long time readers of this blog might remember that, unlike Serena, I am rather prickly when it comes to the DC and Marvel rivalry. I don’t really go out of my way to read many Marvel things, and when it comes to the MCU I’ve only seen a handful of the films. But the movies within the canon that I have seen multiple times and in a complete arc are the ones that center around Thor. And it probably surprises no one that the biggest factor of this is Loki, the sometimes villain, sometimes anti-hero brother of Thor who is at turns a pain in the neck and other turns a somewhat valuable ally. Because of this, when I saw that Loki was getting his own YA novel that gave him his own adventure and some backstory, I was mildly intrigued. But when I saw that it was being written by Mackenzi Lee, the author of the lighthearted and romantic romp “The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue”?
Lee has always had a real talent for giving voice to snarky, bitchy, and flawed yet likable protagonists, so it’s really no surprise that her version of Loki was spot on. She does a very good job of balancing the complexities of his personality, both the megalomaniac side, and the side that has been emotionally warped by his family life and the ways that his father and brother have failed him. You see him wanting to bring pride and joy to Odin and Thor, but ultimately falling into the easier patterns of being out for himself, in part due to his only friend Amora. Amora is a mysterious character who is the court sorceress’s student, and her magic entices Loki since he, too, is magical. You get the sense that Amora isn’t a great influence on him, but you also completely understand why he would be drawn to her, given that Odin has tried to suppress his magical powers. But while you can definitely understand why Loki lashes out and behaves in the ways that he does, Lee is also very careful not to go to the ‘poor misunderstood baby’ interpretation. Loki’s choices are his own, and while she lets you see why he’d do it, she never lets him off the hook. If anything it makes him all the more tragic, especially when you see him interacting with his family, particularly Thor and their mother Frigga. Given that the reason I can’t totally write of “Thor: The Dark World” is the heartbreaking themes and Frigga and Loki’s relationship, any scenes with these two had me almost in tears. Lee really know how to get to the meat of Loki’s motivations, and that was great to see.
The overall plot was also a delight and a half. While we do spend a large amount of time in Asgard (as well as other realms), a big chunk of the story is spent on Earth in Victorian London. Odin sends Loki to work with a mortal secret society that has found evidence of Asgardian magic being used for bad purposes, and to have the spoiled and vain Loki have to interact with Victorian era humans is QUITE amusing. The secret group, SHARP, consists of a number of societal misfits, much like Loki himself is, and I felt like Lee gave solid backstories to all of them. My favorite of this group was Theo, the earnest and loyal investigator who has to hide his sexuality from the world. Theo acts as a moral compass to Loki, but in ways that don’t come off as condescending or self serving, which tends to be the problem with Thor back in Asgard. This is in contrast to Loki’s other foil, Amora, who tries to pull him more towards his more self serving side, and the two relationships make for high tension and conflicting feelings in Loki. Related to this is that Lee has made Loki the genderfluid and pansexual character that has been long heralded in the fandom, and it really, really works within this narrative. Sweet, sweet romantic agony as you feel like Loki wants to be good enough for Theo, but feels he can only meet Amora’s standards.
Overall, “Loki: Where Mischief Lies” was a super fun interpretation of a beloved Marvel fan favorite. Mackenzi Lee is writing a couple more backstory novels for other Marvel characters, and even if they aren’t my own personal favorites, I may have to give them a go.
Rating 8: A fun backstory for Loki from one of the most fun YA authors of today, “Loki: Where Mischief Lies” gives the morally ambiguous quasi-villain some time to shine and be the (anti)hero of his own story!
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