I was provided a copy of this book free of charge from the author in exchange for my honest review.
I will admit, Marvel and Tom Hiddleston have made me perk up and pay attention when Loki’s name is mentioned around me. Even apart from the Avengers movies, I’ve enjoyed learning more about the original character, the trickster god, through other re-tellings and myths. Loki is exactly the kind of character I love to watch—loving to cause trouble, but not too much. So seeing another story where Loki can take a main-stage place in modern times was absolutely a draw.
Unfortunately, it seems to only be just that. (Mild spoilers beneath the cut.)
Loki, here, has taken a female mortal form who goes by the name Cleo. (Her full name becomes Cleopatra Anthony. More on that later.) Early in the book, we find that Loki—Cleo—has requested that her brother Thor be sent to Earth as well, in response to a feeling that the powers have shifted somewhere in the world, and it needs looking at. (Thor becomes Rocky once in mortal form.) Cleo and Rocky do their best to slip into police roles, intent on finding this power change, but it becomes quickly evident that this may be more than either of them expected…and there’s a detective who’s proving to be quite the distraction. It’s up to Cleo and Rocky to get to the bottom of this before it ends up being too late.
So got it. There’s been a disturbance in the force, Cleo and Rocky aren’t pleased, so let’s go play Dean and Sam Winchester and grab our fake FBI badges and jump in. Rocky goes from being about as smooth as Castiel in the same situation (utterly incapable of blending in) to being more smooth about all of it than Cleo. No explanation given. Enter Detective Martin, average Joe until suddenly he’s not anymore. A mere mortal man, able to utterly throw Cleo for a loop. Chalk it up to hormones all you want, this is more than just female lust. This runs deeper.
Cleo takes a place at a local business, thinking that she can see what’s happening from the inside, as this is the most likely place for the power-balance-upset she’s been feeling. This is where my “okay, there are a few odd things” begins to fall apart into “are you serious.” First, is literally no one going to make mention that her name is Cleopatra Anthony? Really? Even if it’s a tongue-in-cheek mention, met by a “yeah, I get that a lot” from Cleo, I’m supposed to believe that no one in the world even mentions it? Questions it? Nothing? Martin’s continued presence multiplies this. I was positive I knew exactly where Ayres was going with Martin…and then it dropped me on my face. I get no explanation as to why he’s affecting Cleo the way he is. Am I supposed to believe that he’s just that much of a special snowflake that he can make even the notorious Casanova that Loki is, just roll over and play nice for him? The only way this makes sense to me is if we find out something more later, but if you’re going to carry this into future books—since I know there’s at least one more in this run—then I need something to bit into now. I need something to make me continue to care. Because right now, he’s a special snowflake Gary Stu who I have very little interest in. (Which is unfortunate, because honestly I think Martin’s one of the better characters in the book. I wouldn’t mind having him around—and also, he’s got grey eyes. Do you know how hard I have to look sometimes to find cool characters with the same color eyes as me?)
But what frustrates me the most is Cleo and Rocky themselves. There’s nothing wrong with their portrayal as Loki and Thor…except that they are. I don’t see any reason for these characters to be who they say they are. Nothing about them is intrinsic to Loki or Thor, there is no connection (well okay, no necessary/strong connection) to either of their given powers, and I think the story could have been told just as well if they hadn’t been gods, or hadn’t been those gods, or had just been supernatural beings of a different flavor. My comparison to Sam and Deam Winchester earlier wasn’t flippant; that’s what this is. This is an episode of Supernatural, except we’ve superimposed Norse gods over our favorite demon hunters. Why? Cleo doesn’t use her powers for anything more major than some shadow-jumping and minor mischief, and Rocky only seems to use his powers to destroy Cleo’s apartment or to play deus ex machina. I wasn’t sure what I was expecting, but whatever it was, it didn’t deliver. It felt flat and forced, and left me with little to really root for.
Ayres’ writing is good; there’s some really nice wordplay hiding throughout the book. I’ll admit to a bit of surprise at the reveal at the end, though it got muddled in with a bunch of other things that flattened it out a bit. I left the book feeling like there was an interesting concept in here…and it never quite managed to find the light of day. Which is unfortunate; I think this could have been a lot of fun.
(A belated note here at the end that I just saw: It appears that this is Ayres’ first novel, which explains a great deal to me. It doesn’t change my rating at all, but it gives me a bit of insight as to why it’s there.)
Rating: **1/2 (Almost Worth a Look)
rounded down to ** for GR