Tricksters are hard to write.
You have to ride that fine line between keeping them chaotic enough to push your protagonist, create conflict (and help solve it) and at the same time keep them charming enough that your audience doesn’t wonder why your hero isn’t pushing back hard (your hero can hate the trickster plenty, in fact that’s encouraged).
There’s been a few trickster figures in fantasy that as a reader I’ve felt have been exceptionally handled: Coyote in Christopher Moore’s Coyote Blue, Matrim Cauthon in Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time (starting in The Dragon Reborn and onward; he irritated the hell out of me in books one and two), and Karen Dudley’s Hermes in the forthcoming Food for the Gods, among them. I hope Thunder Road readers will feel that way about my take on Loki.
As soon as I decided to write a book with a Norse myth focus, I knew it had to have Loki. So I thought about who would be most irritated and uncomfortable about having to share a mystical quest with a shapeshifting and gender swapping wise ass. My Alberta oil worker protagonist, Ted Callan, was in essence created and driven by Loki even before the story started.
What’s not to like about Loki?
Everything good or bad in Norse myth happens because of him. How did Thor get his hammer? Loki. How did Odin get his spear? Loki. Who was ultimately responsible for the god Baldur’s death? Loki. Who also ensured that Hel would not release Baldur from the underworld? That was Loki too. Loki’s children Fenrir and Jormungandur are responsible for the deaths of Odin and Thor. Loki and Norse watchman Heimdall died at each others hands at Ragnarök like a viking Holmes and Moriarty.
When there is talk of Loki’s family (and this comes up surprisingly often in my circles), it’s almost always about his monstrous children with the jötunn, Angrboða: Fenrir, Jormungandur, and Hel, goddess of the dead. But Loki had a family among the Aesir gods too. Once Loki was bound by the gods, his wife Sigyn spent the rest of her days catching the poison that dripped over Loki’s face. Was it simply blind devotion to the institution of marriage? I don’t think so. To me, there had to be something lovable about Loki. One of their children is transformed into a wolf and tears apart the other, whose guts are then used to bind her husband, and still she tried to ease his suffering? I felt that act had to be honoured. Somehow.
The question is: will that lovable something be enough to keep Loki alive this time around?