Loki was always one of the more interesting villains in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Where other various generic villains in the Marvel movies like Malekith (would not be surprised if you had to look that up, I did just to be sure) are rather forgettable, Loki was always a fan favorite. His story is much more complex with Thor, Odin and the Asgardians, making him a character you would often be happy to see make an appearance. When I stumbled onto Loki, Where Mischief Lies by Mackenzi Lee, I was excited to read more of the backstory to our favorite Marvel bad boy.
What is no surprise to anyone, Loki is the protagonist of his own story and we only see the plot unfold through his eyes. It’s appropriate considering the conflicted feelings he often feels matches what we’ve come to expect from the Marvel version of Loki. Despite how much he loathes humanity, he often has very human feelings and reactions to the events of the story. It made him relatable in his struggles with proving himself and his issues with his family. Everyone always assuming the worst of him and him wanting to prove them wrong, what’s not to love?
What’s not to love is the supporting cast of characters. While Loki comes off as interesting and complex, everyone fails in comparison and falls into a rather dull stereotypical roll. I can’t lie, I’m a bit biased here as Thor is my favorite of the Marvel heroes and here he only really comes off as a big doofus with no real moments of intelligence or heroism. Odin comes off as a neglectful father figure which is in line with his characterization in the Marvel universe. But in the MCU he has moments of wisdom that makes it seem like he knows more than how to be a bad father. The worst offender though is Amora. What felt like a very complex character with interests and motivations falls into a rather predictable and almost disappointing role.
This was truly disappointing in terms of world building. Considering we have the entirety of the nine realms to explore within the Asgardian universe, why do we end up back on Earth? Earth is so incredibly dull and done to death so frequently that I couldn’t help but internally groan when the story turned out to primarily take place there.
But aside from that there are some cool new elements of the universe that are briefly touched upon. The Godseye Mirror was a really interesting plot device though it felt underutilized. There could have been a lot more used to reference maybe what happened in the MCU for some fond memories (maybe references to the Thor movies or the first Avengers). It served its purpose though but never really built on the worldbuilding.
I’m not sure if that might be what I was most disappointed by. The fact that we didn’t gain any additional information on the Asgardian universe to really sink our teeth into felt like a lost opportunity. Considering Loki is a very knowledgeable, it felt like there should have been more exploration to the Asgardian mythos that could have related to Norse Mythology. It made me smile everytime I read a reference to Norse Mythology though there were very few.
The story moves incredibly quickly and then slows down all of a sudden. It’s a rather jarring transition in terms of pacing when Loki comes to Earth which confuses me the most. Earth is something the reader is already familiar with and isn’t very interesting when compared to the other nine realms. Why the majority of the plot takes place there, I don’t know. It also follows a rather predictable path as more is revealed about the magical mishaps on Earth. It feels like a misstep as there’s a lot of potential story exploration that could have been done on Asgard or the other realms. When Frigga decides to teach Loki more about his magic, there’s so much potential to have the plot revolve around Loki growing into his magical ability. Maybe he learns something dark and terrifying about his magic that makes the prophecy vision even more likely to happen. Considering magic is core to who he is as a character, it’s a missed opportunity to not explore his magical training further.
The story is pretty easy to read. There aren’t any major issues of flow aside from the pacing and the word choice was straight forward. Aside from Loki’s internal monologues which were fantastic as well as his dialogue sass with the other characters, the quality of writing falls when the other characters are involved. Loki feels like the most clever character in the room and that’s reflected in how he talks and considers the world around him. The issue though is that the other characters don’t feel like worthy challenges to the sass master that he is.
What Writers can Learn from this Book
The major issue I think this book suffers, which writers can learn from, is playing it too safe with the characters and the story. I wouldn’t blame Lee for what’s lacking in the story as there’s only so much that can be done with an IP that doesn’t belong to the writer. But as a result, it feels like there’s a lot of missed opportunity to what could have been done to really flesh out Loki as a character as well as the Asgardian universe. And this is where my bias is revealed, I wish there were more references to the original Norse Mythology. There are so many references to Thor, Loki and Odin’s Norse Mythology when Loki is on Earth but it’s never explored. The story is too safe and never enters a realm of real gripping storytelling and world building because of it.