EIGHT DAYS OF LUKE
First published in Britain in 1975, this early novel by a popular author of fantasy (The Lives of Christopher Chant, p. 619/C-97) is published here for the first time. David, an orphan, has as guardians four disagreeable relatives who blatantly dislike him and grudge him the most fundamental necessities. Inadvertently (chanting nonsense in the hopes of coming up with a charm), he summons Luke, who ultimately proves to be Loki: David has released him from 1000 years of imprisonment. Grateful, Luke befriends David, but the other Norse gods would like to recapture him and appear, disguised as mortals, on the successive days of the week that bear their names. Though becoming aware that Luke is an amoral mischief-maker, David is taken with his charm and wants to save him; to this end, he agrees to an impossible-sounding quest given him by Mr. Wednesday (Woden). Serious real-world themes--David has been made to feel guilty so often that he finds guilt easy to ignore, and discovers with relief that he can feel grateful if no one demands it--are skillfully dramatized. Less persistent readers may find the disguised deities--even with the help of an explanatory afterword--more of a puzzle than they are prepared to work out; but even without their added dimension (Loki and Woden, tree to character, are intriguingly ambivalent), there's plenty of action, humor, and suspense to enjoy here.