Sigmund Sussman is your stereotypical nerd. At twenty-two, he still lives at home. When not working tech-support, he plays games – handheld, console and MMOs. He has a Dungeons and Dragons group and the walls of his bedroom are papered with Star Wars posters and pictures of dragons. He’s a bit plain, a bit overweight, wears glasses and is still a virgin. So, perhaps no one is more surprised than Sigmund when the new guy in IT, the painfully hip and casually gorgeous Lain Laufeyjarson flirts with him. Sigmund has kissed a girl. Twice. Beyond that, he’s never considered is sexuality. Lain radiates the sort of confidence that encourages everyone to act now and think later, however, and so Sigmund flirts back. Clumsily.
Shortly after bucking the expectations the tech-support department, his two closest friends and his father by dating the hot new guy, Sigmund figures out the meaning of Lain’s last name. The fact that every story Lain tells is filled with lies sort of makes sense if he’s actually a deceased Norse god, right? When Lain sprouts horns and a tail, Sigmund’s suspicions are confirmed. He’s actually dating the Liesmith, more commonly known as Loki.
For his part, Loki has been cooling his heels in Australia for about seventy years. Building an outstanding tech company that has made him the third richest man in the world has been a nice break from warring with the other gods. The city of Pandemonium is more than a home, however. It’s tied to his IT company and he is tied to it. Really, it’s just another prison. Then he meets Sigmund. In the sort of plump and nerdly figure of the guy from tech support, Loki recognises the soul of his wife. Doesn’t seem to matter that Sigmund is a guy. Love is love. So he begins to court Sigmund and that’s when things start to get complicated. I’d say that Loki has unwittingly opened a new chapter in his legend, but I’m not so sure that Loki does anything accidentally.
Mythology intersects reality rather quickly and for everyone who is Wyrd-touched, life becomes very, very interesting. Sigmund learns that he’s the reincarnation of a goddess, his two friends used to be Valkyries, and that Loki has more enemies than friends. Oh, and someone wants them all dead. A dedicated tabletop gamer, Sigmund struggles with the idea his boyfriend is inherently Chaotic Evil, and that he really wants to defend him from the Good Guy. Meanwhile, Sigmund’s father is struggling with the idea that his son is not only gay, but dating a horned monster from legend. We all have our crosses to bear. Loki is trying to outthink the inevitable: Ragnarök.
Liesmith is, at heart, Urban Fantasy. There are elements of horror. In fact, there is so much foulness and gore that you kind of get used to it after a while. Mythical dimensions bleed into reality and the landscape becomes reminiscent of Limbo in DMC: Devil May Cry – that’s the visual I had in my head, anyway. Lots of breathing lumps of…something. Monsters lurking in every shadow. Unexplained piles of skin and bones. And monsters.
Alis Franklin draws extensively on Norse legend to populate her tale, but she twists the myths to her own purpose. I will admit I got a little lost on the way to Ragnarök. Right at the end, when everyone was dying, I still hadn’t figured out quite what went wrong. Everyone dying is a really vague spoiler, by the way, because you don’t know who everyone is. It could be everyone in the world, or just everyone you care about as a reader. Or I could be pulling a Loki on you. Regardless, by the time I turned the last page, I might have figured out what happened – which is why I don’t read a lot of Urban Fantasy. I often feel a bit puzzled at the end.
If you pick this book up hoping for hot and heavy same-sex romance, you’ll be disappointed. The romance is sweet and it’s an integral part of the story. But it’s not the means to the end. Rather, Liesmith is an action-filled adventure through a new chapter of the life of a reimagined Loki and his cohorts.
Despite getting a little lost in the plot and being disappointed by the fact Loki and Sigmund didn’t get it on – it’s a story about a god and a virgin, it’s kind of expected, right? – I really enjoyed Liesmith. The character’s voices drew me in quickly. I really liked Loki. I wanted him to win in the end. I also wanted to see him and Sigmund ride their unconventional horse off into the sunset together. Sigmund might have started out as a caricature of nerdliness, but he developed into a young man of unexpected strength and sweetness. Actually, the sweetness wasn’t that unexpected, but I liked seeing it. The writing style plays fast and loose with grammar. It’s a little quirky and takes some getting used to, but really does convey the characters personalities very well. Also, the book is very funny. I laughed out loud several times.
Finally, Alis Franklin is Australian and the book is set Australia. Though I haven’t lived there for sixteen years, the rhythm of the language and odd phrase were happy reminders. I’ll definitely be looking for the sequel.
Written for SFCrowsnest.