I Bring the Fire
by C. Gockel is in part the beneficiary of my recent reading slump. Which isn't to say it's not an enjoyable read. Just that I've had such a hard time finding books that engaged my brain, books that didn't slay my muse (with boredom), that I'm feeling really generous toward any that "work." Hence, it's really more of a 4.5 starred review, but gets rounded up for making the muse happy.
Amy Lewis, veterinarian-in-training, is driving home for school break. Her little canine companion, Fenris (a kind of Toto with a perpetual bad hair day), has taken a bath in roadkill, but thus far it's been an uneventful journey. That is, until her car runs off the road, and she's attacked by a serial killer with long history of preying on women and children. In a moment of desperation, she makes a silent prayer, hoping that anyone will save her....
Meanwhile, in Asgard, Loki, god of mischief and all things tricksy, wakes up in Odin's prison. He can't remember exactly what landed him in the big house. With good reason; he isn't there for his transgressions. Odin is about to throw Loki's two sons into the Void, their punishment for having the audacity to try to bring democracy to Asgard. Change, it seems, doesn't go over well with the immortal set and Odin has a serious case of "Hey, you kids, get off my lawn!" Loki's escape is successful, but the rescue of his sons, not so much. He and the boys are chucked into the abyss with Loki ending up, alone, on Earth. Where he hears a voice calling for help....
And so our two protagonists meet.
Loki's abiding motivation is to find out what happened to his sons and rescue them properly this time. Amy would just like to get home to her grandmother Beatrice's house and forget about her near-death at the hands of a serial killer. Feeling grateful to her rescuer (who, amusingly, for a time, calls himself Thor), she takes him home with her. Of course, Loki only bothers to maintain his false identity for a short while, especially after Beatrice, who is savvy about things paranormal, figures out who he is.
Cue a plot line that relies on a good deal of fish-out-of-water hijinks. Both as Loki adapts to modern life on Earth, and when Amy and Beatrice find themselves on a trip to a magical world. One of the story's strengths is that it relies on tropes, but does it well. For instance, Amy initially denies that what she is seeing--Loki's magic, etc.--is real, convinced it's a side-effect of her recent trauma. Fortunately, Amy's denial only goes on long enough to be believable, but not so long as to get irritating.
Amy is likable, smart, sweet and surprisingly naive. As in, often impervious to many of Loki's naughty double entendres. You could say, she's almost too innocent, but fortunately the narrative manages to keep her character from becoming cloying.
The Loki in this story isn't the psychopath of the recent Marvel-verse movies, but is instead grounded more firmly in traditional folklore. He is, however, probably one of the more approachable versions, because he is, essentially, a father trying to save his sons. Key events from his past are woven nicely into the current storyline, presumably building on the overall plot, both developing the character and grounding him in myth.
The book's weakness is largely that it's the first half of a two part (?) story, ending with a metaphorical cliff hanger. As such there are plot elements--the small town sheriff who has run into magical beings before, the secret government agency in charge of dealing with paranormal critters, the suggestion of political unrest among the elves, etc.--that don't seem to go anywhere.
As a self-published work, the editing is solid, holding up to any book from a royalty-paying press. (Other than the author's use of "alright," rather than "all right," which makes this former* copy editor's eye twitch. But the usage seems to be creeping into the accepted lexicon. Oh, well.)
A fun read that's a hybrid of contemporary (urban) fantasy and more traditional sword and sorcery fare. Recommended.
*Not that you'd know it now. I am become queen of typos, mis-usages and other crimes against language.