Sunday, January 18, 2015

Emmy's Book Review... I bring the Fire (Part 1)

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In the middle of America, on Route 44, Amy Lewis has a plan — to get to her grandma’s house in time for dinner. Galaxies away Loki is waking up in a prison cell, strangely without a hangover, and with no idea what he’s done wrong — this time anyway. But he does know Thor is hiding something, Odin is up to something wicked, and there seems to be something he’s forgotten...

In this tale that is equal parts “Another Fine Myth,” “American Gods,” and “Once Upon a Time,” a very nice midwestern girl and a jaded, still very mischievous Loki must join forces to outwit gods, elves, magic sniffing cats, and nosy neighbors. If Loki can remember exactly what he’s forgotten and Amy can convince him not to be too distracted by Earthly gadgets, her boobs, or three day benders, they just might pull it off…

This first volume of "I Bring the Fire" is for anyone who suspects chaos and mischief makers might have their own redeeming qualities, and anyone who just wants a good fantasy romp through modern Earth, ancient Asgard, and beyond!

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Just a few things first: In the author’s biography she mentions that she got started writing fanfiction, and after reading this story, I’m wondering what she’s written.  I’ve been known to blow through fanfiction at a rate that is almost legendary….. I’d be interested to read what she’s done.

Also, I have to admit here that I am something of a mythology buff.  I’ve been unofficially studying the mythologies of just about every culture I could think of ever since I was 11.  So I told you that to tell you this, that this isn’t my first encounter with The God of Mischief. He’s always been one of my favorites.   I’ve always thought of him as the “No Bullshit” god, mostly for his role in the Lokasenna.  Trickster gods are by their very definition, tricky, but it seems to me that they often have the ability to see straight to the truth of any matter, despite what they may or may not decide to do with that truth.

I would pay good money to see a fic where Loki sits down in a bar and has a beer with Coyote.  Maybe Br’er Rabbit can be the bartender.  

So just to get us straight from the start: This is not strictly Marvel Loki, this Loki is definitely rooted more in the traditional Norse myths.  The comic books and movies are mentioned, to hilarious effect.

“Frost Giants are not blue!” he says, “I should know.  I’ve been one for more than 1,000 years!”

So don’t think this:
(Although, why wouldn’t you….damn….)

Think more like this:

Sorry kids, he’s Loki for me no matter the incarnation.  But at least the hair’s right in this one.  

This is one of the best Loki fics I have ever read.  I read almost the entire thing in an afternoon.

Amy Lewis (I keep thinking Darcy Lewis, from Marvel, Jane’s assistant, esp. since Amy has big boobs) is a vet in training, on the way home to chicago to her grandmother’s house for the summer.  She plans to (as she does every year) get a job during the summer to save money for her expenses during the school year.  She is traveling with her little rat terrier (several people have compared her to Toto) Fenrir.  the story opens with Amy washing the little dog in the sink of a gas station along the road because Fen has gotten away from her when she stopped and rolled in something dead.  She’s creeped out by a guy at the station who asks if she’s traveling alone, and leaves.  Several miles later in the dark forest she’s exhausted, and when she swerves to miss a deer she crashes the car.  As she is dragging herself and the dog out of the car the creepy guy from the gas station pulls up behind her.  He pulls her out of the car, but any thoughts you may have had of good samaritans goes out the window very quickly - he’s going to kill her.  All she can think to do is pray for help. “Someone, anyone, help me”

In Asgard, Loki wakes up in the Tower, a prison where all magic is made null and void.  He’s pretty sure he didn’t do anything to get thrown in there, and shortly after he wakes up Thor is there, but isn’t volunteering any information.  Sigyn, Loki’s ex-wife arrives and fills him in.  Odin tossed Loki in the tower, then took his sons, Valli and Nari, into custody. ((“Valli and Nari have been accused of treason by Heimdall and are to be thrown into the Void” - Sigyn))   Odin intends to throw them both into the Void, Sigyn tells Loki, for trying to implement changes to the Asgardian political system.    Sigyn and Loki manage to incapacitate Thor ( he gets whacked with his hammer, which while in the tower, is just that, a hammer) and break out.  Sigyn has brought supplies, sent by Loki’s best friend/mentor Hoenir, (this guy reminds me of Hagrid, always breeding nutty looking creatures) including a bag of grenades from Earth.  They break out, and race (in Thor’s chariot, which can fly itself) to the location of the Void and the World Gates. Sigyn is injured in the escape.   

The World Gates, are as you may have suspected, are the point where one may travel to the other realms on the World Tree.  The Void, however is a gate to open space, nothingness, and is the place where all of Asgard dumps useless things, and the occasional criminal.  He arrives just as Odin is preparing to do the deed. Loki sends Sigyn in the chariot on to Hoenir’s place for healing and to keep her safe. Odin uses Gungnir to slow down time, almost freezing Loki in place.  Odin uses the excuse that he is trying to keep the nine realms safe, and Loki warns him that if he does this, then Odin will be making Loki his enemy.  Odin is not swayed however, and again using the spear Gungnir, banishes the boys to the the Void.  Loki jumps in after them, trying to save them.  As soon as they enter the Void, both him and the boys are jerked through separate tears in space.  He lands on Earth (Midgard) very close to the place where Amy is being held at gunpoint.  He hears Amy praying for help, and comes to her rescue.  

Loki kills Amy’s attacker, and when she looks in the guy’s van she finds a photo album of his “trophies” - mostly women and children.  She is shaken up, and doesn’t know quite what to make of Loki.  He helps her set Fenrir’s dislocated hip, and asks her if she’s got anything to eat.  He wore himself out magically trying to rescue his boys and is famished.  Amy is amazed that Fenrir will tolerate him, but her man hating little dog loves Loki on sight.  He tells her his name is Thor, mostly for his own amusement.  The cops arrive, and they spend hours at the police station.  In what is obviously a set up for the coming novels, we find out that various magical things and creatures have been appearing in this area for some time, I’m guessing due to the “wormhole” in the Void that leads there.  The cops call the incident to some shady government agency, and they advise the cops that “Thor” is one of the good guys, to not piss him off, and to let him go.  They do so, but I’m sure that is only the beginning of their involvement in this series.  

Grateful for the rescue and not quite sure just what it is about him, Amy offers Loki a place to stay in the apartment over the garage at her Grandmother’s.  Loki has no other place to go, and takes her up on the offer.  Amy’s grandmother, Beatrice, is a great character. She pretty much has Loki figured out before the end of the evening, all but calling him by his name.  She tells Amy that it’s much better that they stay on his good side, much to Amy’s confusion.  She’s had a terrible shock, and still isn’t quite convinced that she’s not hallucinating all of this.  It’s hilarious in this part how Loki’s pretty much a walking stomach - dude is hungry - he’s still trying to recover.  During the second course of dinner (after Beatrice has retired to bed) Loki pretty much admits to Amy who he is, despite her delirium.  There’s a great scene with Amy reading off all of the old myths to him - and him setting her straight on them.

The next day, Loki wastes no time in his mission to find his sons.  
Loki uses the World Gate in Chicago to enter Alfheim, the realm of the elves.  Their queen is all-seeing, and may be able to tell him where his sons ended up.  Upon entering he discovers that the gate is a good bit farther from the castle then he remembered. (Did it move? Yes, branches on the tree grow) He returns to Chicago and wrangles a favor out of Beatrice and Amy to drive him somewhere. (he did save Amy’s life, after all)  Beatrice seems to be handling this whole hey-there’s-a-Norse-god-in-your-kitchen thing better than Amy is.  They take the car through the gate, and through the forest road in Alfheim all the way to the queen’s castle. Amy seems to believe now that Loki is who he says he is.   Loki alters his appearance, because even though the queen will know who he is, if she’s asked she will be able to say she hasn’t seen Loki.  The elves are welcoming to Amy and Beatrice, giving them fancy dresses and throwing a feast for them.  During the feast Loki gets his audience with the queen.  The queen says that she doesn’t know where his people are, that she  can’t see everything.  She offers him “comfort” and yessssss, that kind of comfort.  Thanks a whole heap, author, for barely any detail at all of this. (Sarcasm, if you hadn’t guessed...aarrrrggghhh)

He wakes up to find her holding his own knife to his throat and wanting to know where he got the book that Hoenir had included in the bag when he escaped the tower.  She says that it was her lover’s book, it is a journal, and also a guidebook of sorts that he had been using to find the world gate they entered through.  She mentions that she betrayed her lover to Odin, and I’m sure that there is something here that both Loki and I are missing.  His answer seems to satisfy her, even though she has already called Asgard to report that he is there.  She offers to help him find his sons in the pool, some sort of magic seeing device.  His sons wound up at Hoenir’s place, as did Sigyn.  Odin appears there, with Heimdall and a pile of Valkyries,  trying to take the boys into custody again.  Thor tries to defend them against Odin.  Hoenir’s house catches fire, how is not clear, but it’s a sudden fast moving fire.  Thor calls rain, to no avail, the flames seem increase grow stronger.  
Everyone inside is killed.  In one fell swoop Loki has lost his two sons, his ex-wife and both of his best friends.  Stuff has been catching on fire inexplicably throughout this novel, and the few times that it has happened around Loki he thinks that he is doing it accidentally.  Something is wrong with the magic, with the fire.   However, Odin has already been told that he’s there,and he is forced to make a quick exit.  Amy heard that messengers were coming from Asgard, and met Loki with the car.   Just as they reach the gate Thor appears with a regiment of Valkyries.  Thor tries to tell him that the fire that consumed all of his family was an accident, and I’m not too sure it wasn’t, but Loki’s not hearing any of that.  Odin ordered Thor to bring Loki back to Asgard, but they escape thanks to some fancy magic work, Amy’s driving and a well timed attack by Dark Elves in the forest near the gate.  They make it back to the house, and Loki promptly disappears.

Three days later he reappears, passed out drunk, in Amy’s backyard.  His subconscious, in the form of Fenrir the wolf, appears to Amy and tells her that he’s outside.  She and Beatrice drag him into the house.  While Loki himself is incoherent, Fenrir is merely drunk, and tells Amy and Beatrice who was killed.  He mentions Helen and Anganbooa, others that he has lost. (See the flashback section for more detail) It’s very obvious here that Loki has lost absolutely everybody he’s ever cared for or who has ever cared for him.  The next morning Amy and Beatrice both express their sympathies.  Time passes, and Loki is still staying with them, slowly adjusting to life on Earth.  He’s obviously depressed, and who could blame him.  He asks Amy to teach him about Google and computers, and surprises her with how quickly he catches on to everything.  The one thing he doesn’t catch on to is that stealing is wrong, however, and freaks the women out by coming home with a whole butchered pig.  Hey, the man is trying to offset the grocery bill, the only way he can think of.  By the second week he’s capable of hacking whole computer systems, although his depression hasn’t lessened one bit.  

At this point he is approached by a red mist-like power.  It’s not the first time he’s felt it, he’s been running into it randomly since the beginning of the book.  It speaks in a child’s voice, in Russian.  Here it identifies itself as Cera, or power, saying that it could be his Cera.  Loki is seeking something to enable him to take revenge on Odin, and although humans are close to the advancement he needs, we are still not there.  Amy and Beatrice have forbidden him to steal while living with them, but when he tells Amy that he needs money she offers to lend him some.  She means that he’s welcome to borrow the money that she has brought home from her second job hostessing, her tips.  She should know by now that you can’t be that vague with Loki.  He promises to pay her back, with interest.  He’s very grateful, and for a second there she thinks he might actually kiss her and so she runs out of the kitchen door. (AAAAAARRRRRGGGGHHHH, dammit, girl!)  

Later that night she comes home to a note from Loki thanking her again, and telling her that he must leave for awhile.  She feels a pang for him leaving, but goes on. She and Beatrice both obviously miss him.  A week or so later she finds out the truth - she offered Loki money - he cleaned out her bank account.  She will not be able to go back to school.  Beatrice is outside watering her flowers when she sees the expression on Amy’s face.  She comes running, and falls, breaking her leg.  Amy calls 911 and while she is sitting in the hospital she is approached by two men who say they are from the FBI.  They want to bring her in for questioning.

And that my friends, is where this novel leaves us.  I had heard that it ended in a major cliffhanger, and have seen some people rate it badly because of that.  This story does not deserve a bad rating just because the author didn’t tie it up in a nice bow for you.  I thoroughly enjoyed this story, and will be getting the next in the series.  I’m dying to know just what Loki will get up to next!

Now, because I haven’t nerded out enough in this review, here’s a whole other section:

At points we are getting Loki’s flashbacks, starting back when he was just a small child, his friendship with Hoenir and Mimir (who’s a head, a talking head, for some reason this cracks me UP, mainly because the way he talks and acts reminds me of C3PO) onwards through his life.  The flashbacks are what really show you his character, what really makes him tick, and endears him to you more, if he wasn’t already.  It’s alluded that something happened to his daughter Helen (who we also know as Hela, or Hel) that was Odin’s fault.  In the myths, Odin cast her to Hel, her own realm, where she supposedly reigns over the dead, but this version leads you to believe that this is not the case, that Odin straight out killed her.  or something like that.

First Flashback
Loki at 11, at Hoenir’s hut. Odin away killing folk. Hoenir is mute, Mimir speaks for him. they are using a magnifying glass to catch the sun to make fire, using the way the glass bends the light to make heat as an example to teach him how to concentrate and control magic.  When Hoenir hands Loki the magnifying glass he hears someone shouting his name, and flames flare up wildly in the glass’s wake.  mimir says hoenir should have known that would happen.  he tells them about the voices, they tell him to concentrate.  the voices are humans, praying for him to save them from the giant Cronus, a giant.  Odin had cut him into pieces, but he reassembled himself and is seeking sacrifice.  Loki is compelled by the prayers of the people and goes to earth to help them.  Hoenir and Mimir go with him.  His plan backfires, but he and the villagers manage to chop Cronus to pieces again, keeping him apart by shoving an iron nail into the severed limbs, keeping them from healing back together again.  

Second Flashback
still in the village, just after killing Cronus, the villagers throw one hell of a party for him.  One of the villagers gives him a flask, and before long Loki (11, mind you) is drunk as a skunk and having a grand time.  the villagers call him “our god of gods” he says no, he’s the god of fire, (true, he was known as a god of fire, a Prometheus type figure) the god of spirit (s) remember he’s drunk - then Odin appears, and calls him the God of Mischief, not unkindly.  I think the whole flashback was to demonstrate that they did get along - loki even looked up to Odin like a father at one time (in this version, as in old myths, odin not his dad, although it’s rumored that he might be)

Third Flashback
Loki is 12, and once again in Hoenir’s hut.  Odin has chased him out of the castle in anger.  Odin and Frigga’s baby Baldur has recently been born.  Everyone who sees him sees a happy baby with golden curls and skin and rosy cheeks.  Loki, on the other hand sees something totally different, a baby with black hair, pale almost blueish skin and surrounded by gray/black magic.  Something is obviously off with this kid, and when Loki tries to tell Odin what he sees Odin has a fit.  So he ran straight to Hoenir.  While they are talking (and watching what they thought would be a hadrosaur hatching) Odin arrives.  The hatchling is not a harmless hadrosaur (vegetarian dragon) but a vicious velociraptor. Odin kills it, then proceeds to blame it’s hatching on Loki, telling Hoenir that Loki should have never been allowed to come there (and tangentially, become Hoenir’s friend)  

Mimir argues with Odin, telling him not to be paranoid about their friendship, and that Loki can’t help what he saw.  He tells Odin that he trivializes Loki, and Odin fires back that he is trying to give him a childhood.  In the midst of all this Hoenir motions to Loki to go out the back door, and he does so.  Hoenir and Mimir find him later, and tell him that he’ll be staying with them for a bit.  Loki tries to ask Mimir what he meant by saying that Odin trivializes him, but Mimir brushes it off, telling him that he said it in anger, and should not have questioned him like that.  I think this flashback was more to let us start to see the breakdown between Odin and Loki, because as Mimir says, Odin is trying to control him, and gets angry as soon as Loki sees the ugly truth for what it is.  

Fourth Flashback
Loki, Beatrice and Amy are in Alfheim, on the road to the queen’s castle.  Amy has pretty much accepted that Loki is, well, Loki, and asks him about different things, like if he and Thor were brothers (no, though it’s been rumored) and if he actually could shapeshift (no, just illusions).  She asks him about Sif’s hair, as one of the myths is that he cut her hair off.  True, he says, he cut if off “to prove that she was a lying cheating whore.”  Turns out that cutting off a woman’s hair was a traditional punishment for adulterers, so first he made sure of it (yeah, he totally screwed her) then delivered her hair to Thor as proof.  Sif is Thor’s wife, so needless to say he didn’t take it very well.  But why, you ask?  Here’s where the flashback actually starts.  Thor and Loki are returning from Midgard after a troll hunt.  Thor has just recently came to court, and even though Odin has ordered Loki to go with Thor on his quests (Loki is Odin’s “retainer” now, it’s his job) they are working on a tentative friendship.  Thor mentions that they should take Baldur next time.  

Loki is still unsettled by Baldur, who still looks the same to him as he did when he was a newborn.  Baldur has a glamour, which causes everyone around him to perceive him as being beautiful and brave, golden haired and rosy cheeked.  The glamour extends to a kind of mental influence, so that no one can disagree with what he says.  This glamour has never worked on Loki, and he sees the truth of what Baldur has become.  Anyway, they arrive back to the palace, and Thor is picking on Loki about Sigyn, who he’s fond of, but they are not together yet at this point.  They get to Baldur’s hall, and hear someone messing around in the hall, obviously having some sort of encounter.  Thor muses who it might be, and Loki responds with how it could be anybody, which Thor takes offense to, thanks to Baldur’s glamor effecting him.  

Unfortunately, the woman that comes out of the hall is Sigyn.  Loki is obviously upset, and Thor unkindly laughs, and says “You should see your face.”  Later on during the feast Odin makes the observation that Thor is becoming a laughingstock thanks to his wife, Sif.  It’s common knowledge to everyone but Thor that his wife Sif is the previously mentioned whore.  Loki tells Odin that if he will permit it, he will take care of the problem.  Odin tell him good luck, and leaves the hall.  After that it doesn’t take much to get in Sif’s chambers, and when he gives Thor the bundle of her hair he tells him, “you should see your face.”  This flashback shows us how Loki is becoming more and more isolated from the rest of the Aesir, even from Thor, who but for Baldur’s influence could have been more of a friend to him.  Turns out that this is the situation that led to Loki having his mouth sewn shut.  How I wish they would do that in the Marvel movies, that would be nine kinds of awesome.  After taking that punishment Thor felt that his honor was avenged, and he and Loki did eventually become friends.  Thor was even patron to Loki’s sons, for all the good it did them in the end.  

Fifth Flashback
This is when he comes back to Amy’s drunk and maudlin.  He’s remembering Anganbooa, who we know as Angrbooa; she is the Jotunn with which Loki fathered Fenrir, Jormungandr (The Midgard Serpent) and Hel, or Helen, who I’ve mentioned previously .  He says that Anganbooa was destroyed by Baldur,who called her a troll and a witch, and no one would speak against him.  This final flashback takes us to when he met her.  He says that she was the only one to also see Baldur for what he was.  She favors Loki over Baldur, which enrages the spoiled prince.  When her brother practically promises Anganbooa to Baldur, she flees the castle, and Loki, Hoenir and Mimir find her in the garden trying to get out.  Loki tells her that she can come with them, although he knows that he shouldn’t.  Baldur’s glamor is dangerous.  She tells him that when she looks at Baldur straight on that she sees what everyone else does, but she senses there is nothing good or beautiful about him, only cruelness and ugliness.

They arrive back at Hoenir’s place, and ask her what her plans are, since she’s obviously running away.  She is hoping that she will be able to find work as a teacher/governess.  She has a book with her that she couldn’t bear to leave, and it just so happens that it is one that Loki has read.  She is just as well read as he is and just as interested in magic.  Loki shows her Hoenir’s library, and they spend hours together in there.  But while he can use magic, she can only see it.  Here we witness the start of their love story (which I am now desperate to read more of) and also a sad reminder of how life in Asgard’s court works.  Loki tells her that she must lie, and tell the court that she was tricked by him to leave the castle, for otherwise her honor would be tarnished, and Baldur would make sure that she would never be employed.  How she is to further defend herself against Baldur is not mentioned, but we know from the myths that Loki was indirectly responsible for Baldur’s death.  I’m curious how that is going to play out.

Until next time, keep the pages turnin’.

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P.S. This is Barb.. (grins) Just want to confirm a few things Emmy is my own personal google on two feet. If I don’t know it she does. And her obsession.. I mean knowledge of mythology and all things Loki is amazeballs, and a tad scary but its a great talent. LOL And her knowledge of Fanfics ain’t no joke either, especially if the elflord.. I mean Loki is involved. So keep that in mind. If you need fanfic info hit us up.

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