Mortal Gods, by Bonnie Quinn. Copyright 2012. Fiction. ISBN 9781484917749.
In the modern era, a small and scattered group of people found they have –for reasons unknown—the ability to reshape reality simply by willing it so. They took the names of the mythological gods for themselves, and refused to answer to the rules and structures of mortal society.
For almost twenty years now, the mortals and gods have lived in relative peace, with a small handful of gods attempting to keep some measure of order among themselves. Among them is Loki, once a woman, now a genderless creation of its own with no ties to its past life, no obligations, and no sense of consequences. When a series of strange events point towards divine power, the trickster god is tasked with investigating the source, and a web of conspiracy quickly develops between groups of gods and mortals, all striving to dictate how humanity will progress. Loki is caught in the middle and irrevocably involved, as it has been named by the Oracle as the one who will be the catalyst that leaves the world forever changed.
Style and Plot:
Before reading this book, one should understand that it was self-published, which means that there are several formatting and grammatical errors throughout the text. However, if you look past those (and there aren’t so many that this is impossible), the story itself is well written and more than makes up for them.
“On Monday, I infuriated a god named Anteilis.” This is the first line of Mortal Gods, depositing us directly into the mind of Loki, a god who is attempting to find out who set fire to her Yggdrasil and caused several other events that she’s getting blamed for (for the sake of simplicity, I’ll be referring to Loki as “her” throughout the review, although the character is technically genderless). True to its beginning, the book remains fast-paced, but never feels rushed. The story portrays how people react when faced with sudden nigh unlimited power and immortality. Some thrive. Some hide. Some go insane. As you read the story through Loki’s twisted eyes, you can’t help but be pulled into this world where suddenly the fundamental laws of reality no longer apply.
The book has two major plots to it: the mortal attempts to get on the same ground as the gods (and the repercussions of those attempts), and the development of Loki as a catalyst. While both seem equally important throughout the story, the ending definitely does not treat them as such: the climax gives most of the attention to one, while giving the other a nod or two. This may feel a bit unsatisfying, but the loose ends of both conflicts are tied up, and it does prompt discussion on which one was supposed to be the point of the book. Mortal Gods asks several questions of the reader that demand to be considered. Is it possible for an immortal to retain their humanity, or should that even be attempted? When you’ve put yourself beyond mortal restraints, what is there left to restrain you? Everyone’s heard of “with great power comes great responsibility,” but how much of it is actually someone’s responsibility, and how much is their right? This is not just a book for mythology lovers, this is also a book for people who love the what-ifs.
Our main character is obviously Loki, a woman who has taken her name from the Norse god of mischief, and she has the wicked sense of humor and devil-may-care attitude to match it. She was quick to take to the power of a god and revels in it, but she’s also often plagued by questions about where her responsibility lies. It’s not easy to throw off the life and society that one has been born into, of course, and so Loki struggles to understand exactly what her role is in the world. She makes every effort to live up to her name, becoming the god of mischief and dualities in every way possible: remaking herself into something physically genderless, taking a neutral (but hardly uninvolved) stance on everything, and seeing many things with a clarity that others lack. It’s ironic, then, that she’s often also indecisive and uncertain. Quinn does an excellent job of maintaining Loki’s unpredictability, allowing the reader to understand her, but holding back just enough to maintain an element of surprise.
It’s stated that there are 48 gods in the modern pantheon, but probably only half of them are ever mentioned, and of those, only a handful are focused on in any depth. Some gods chose to take the names of mythological characters, such as Morrigan or Cupid, while others chose to make up their own names, such as Quif, Kingfisher, or Etci (not the god of online handmade marketplaces), and one unfortunate Tim. Although several gods are spoken of in the book, Quinn has managed to give them all distinct personalities and backstories without spending too much time on them or making them all blur together, so even a god whose been mentioned once is easily remembered. A strong cast is one of the most important parts of a book, and Quinn has pulled it off well.
Mortal Gods is psychological, hysterical, and evocative, and not one to be passed up. 4 out of 5 stars.
It’s important to note that the author, Bonnie Quinn, wrote and posted Mortal Gods one chapter at a time on a public art website, before taking it down when it was finished and putting it through edits. It was in progress before the Marvel movie Thor came out in theaters, which means that it unfortunately has another major character with the same name sucking up all of the attention. However, do not read this book with the picture of Marvel’s Loki in your head. The two characters are extremely different, despite being from the same namesake, and thinking of one while reading/watching the other is unfair to either of them.
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