Review: “The Weight of Souls” by Bryony Pierce

The Weight of SoulsTitle: “The Weight of Souls”

Author: Bryony Pierce

Publication Date: August 6, 2013 (Strange Chemistry/Angry Robot – North America)

Source: Publisher-provided ARC

Genre: YA contemporary, paranormal, PNR, mystery

Summary: Sixteen year old Taylor Oh is cursed: if she is touched by the ghost of a murder victim then they pass a mark beneath her skin. She has three weeks to find their murderer and pass the mark to them – letting justice take place and sending them into the Darkness. And if she doesn’t make it in time? The Darkness will come for her…

She spends her life trying to avoid ghosts, make it through school where she’s bullied by popular Justin and his cronies, keep her one remaining friend, and persuade her father that this is real and that she’s not going crazy.

But then Justin is murdered and everything gets a whole lot worse. Justin doesn’t know who killed him, so there’s no obvious person for Taylor to go after. The clues she has lead her to the V Club, a vicious secret society at her school where no one is allowed to leave… and where Justin was dared to do the stunt which led to his death.

Can she find out who was responsible for his murder before the Darkness comes for her? Can she put aside her hatred for her former bully to truly help him?

And what happens if she starts to fall for him?

☆: 3.5/5 stars – a fun urban fantasy adventure that will leave you wanting a sequel!

Review: Do you like strange curses? High school mean girls? Bringing killers to justice? Urban fantasy? “The Weight of Souls” is definitely a read you should check out – it has all of this and more. While I was a bit conflicted by the ending of the book (and the pairing that happens with it), I still enjoyed this read quite a bit. If you’re looking for a new spin on ancient family curses, give “The Weight of Souls” a try. There might be a few spoilers in this review, so you’ve been warned.

My biggest issue with this book: the romance and general balance of social dynamics between Taylor, her besties, Justin, and his popular crowd. Though all explained in the end (and rather neatly tied up in terms of their relationship) is the one between Taylor and Justin. He bullies her mercilessly for years, and though his death humanizes him (ironically enough), it really did bother me that they fell for each other, even if he acted out like a second grader in terms of his feelings in the first place. While the ploy of him unwittingly forcing her to help track down his killer is a good one, and their friendship does feel genuine once thrown together and he starts to see what he’s done to her over the years accumulate more and more in terms of social and emotional damage, their romance felt a bit rushed, especially toward the climax/resolution/end of the book. So while yay realizing you’ve been a jerk when you were alive and basically destroyed a girl’s social life, it does feel a little too little, too late in many parts of the book. However, by the time Taylor starts to execute her plan in order to find Justin’s murderer, things have started significant rehabilitation once Justin starts seeing things from the other side of the looking glass, and starts to see that who he was in life is quickly being forgotten. That was quite satisfying, and put a silver lining to the whole bullying thing – and more importantly, it leveled the playing field really well for Taylor and Justin to work together to solve her Mark. In terms of the romance, it is known in the beginning of the book that Taylor does (and possibly has for a long time) nursed a crush on him, so it’s not like the romance completely came out of nowhere.

Another issue: the semi-developed idea that the family curse is actually a virus. I read an ARC version of the book, so maybe this might be re-edited by the time the final version gets released. This is a very large running theme throughout the book, and one that helps contribute to the family dynamics between Taylor and her father, and an idea I felt was a bit of wasted potential in terms of development. SO MUCH could have come from this idea, and we’re given the hint at the end of the book that there really might be more to this curse than just the supernatural so I’m hoping for a companion book if just to develop this idea further. I love virology and the supernatural, and to have them come together like that was really, really fun. I just wish it had been developed more.
Now for the awesome stuff – first, the protagonist. Considering what she has to do in order to survive and everything that’s happened to her, Taylor is not only a very sympathetic MC, but a badass as well. She does a lot of brave things in the face of very real danger, and she also continually survives a school life filled with bullies and diminishing returns with her best friends. It’s hard to live a life like that (to put it lightly), so her hanging in there was really pretty great to see. The character development for the rest of the main cast varied – I felt like the bullies got far more development than her bestie Hannah did, which felt a little uneven and off. Nevertheless, these characters are good enough to go on, and though I wish they’d been a little more richly detailed, they still develop significantly by the very end of the book.

There’s also the mash-up of mythology that Pierce uses within the book – that of family curses, Egyptian tomb curses, the Minotaur/Labyrinth Greek myth, and general Egyptian myth. While I feel like some of the ideas needed to be a bit more developed (again, this is why I want a companion book, if just to develop this idea further) in the Egyptian myth arena (Anubis and his frozen army of the dead, which even Taylor is confused by). We’re not even given a hint as to the previous and very creative spin on Anubis’ particular myth, and that was a bit frustrating. It’s not resolved at all, because we suddenly delve into Justin and Taylor’s romance. I wanted more resolution there.

The rest of the book? Brilliant. Loved the general worldbuilding, plot flow, and sensory imagery and language. Pierce definitely has a talent with the sensory – she made so many scenes so very vivid, it’s as if I’d been standing right next to Taylor as she experienced everything. In terms of catching the murderer, and the race against time with the Darkness, this book definitely kept me turning pages if just to find out the whodunnit. And let me tell you – with the Mark, and certain attributes to Justin’s murder, it redefines the term “being caught red-handed”. Definitely gets into the thriller genre of things toward the end, and I absolutely loved that.

So, kind of a mixed bag here. On one hand, excellent characters, worldbuilding, sensory imagery, and plot. On the other, some wasted potential, rushed romance, and unresolved plot pieces that definitely deserve a companion book. Nevertheless, this was a great read, and definitely recommended. “The Weight of Souls” is out now from Strange Chemistry/Angry Robot in North America, so be sure to check it out when you get the chance! And don’t forget to stop by the blog today, August 6th, for Pierce’s guest post on making up mythologies!

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