Review: The Weight of Souls by Bryony Pearce

16006117First of all, can I gush about the book cover since that’s what made me pick up this book? Asian female protagonist, shiny magical light all over the cover, and hieroglyphs in the background…YES, I will read you right now. (And a shout-out to Steven Wood for this fantastic cover – I also really like his regular works, since they’re so cute and colorful! Okay, I’m digressing…) The predominant emotion I felt while reading The Weight of Souls was frustration… and not in the good way. (Good frustration is called ANGST.) I was frustrated for the protagonist, at the protagonist, and at the pacing of the story on multiple occasions, and the ending made me want to stuff cookies in mouth just to feel less bitter about it.

 

Introduction

Taylor Oh can see ghosts that have been murdered, and they can see her. In fact, ghosts are attracted to her, because Taylor can help them get revenge and retribution for their deaths – once these ghosts touch Taylor, she receives a Mark on her hand. Taylor has to then transfer the Mark over to the ghost’s killer quickly, or else the Mark blackens her hand little by little until the Darkness swallows her instead of the killers. Even though Taylor is super popular with the non-living, she’s bullied at school by a group of popular kids led by Justin Hargreaves, who Taylor hates but secretly thinks is hot.

Suddenly, Justin shows up at school – as a ghost. He doesn’t know who killed him, so Taylor and Justin set out to find Justin’s murderer, and in doing so, investigates a club that Justin was a part of: the V Club, a secret society that revolves around a risky game of truth-or-dare. And somehow, in the midst of finding a killer, Taylor has to deal with her new-found feelings for Justin.

Discussion

I have a problem with Taylor because she’s SO focused on the ghosts, and her actions don’t make sense to me. Whenever she hangs out with a friend, or gets ready for bonding time with her dad, she’s like this:

(Except ghosts are the squirrels in this world.) Because of this, she’s always distracted and leaves her friends hanging, which leads to all of her (two) friends deserting her. So Taylor becomes the emo loner who’s still able to put up a strong front and deal with her bullies by herself. She’s also failing in school because ghosts are all she thinks about. Bravo, Taylor.

And when Justin dies, Taylor gets frustrated (aka I get frustrated) because now she has to help the guy she hates, or else she dies. (But since she secretly thinks he’s hot, it’s okay?) Somewhere along the way, Taylor felt something in her mouth:

I caught my breath. I… liked Justin. I explored the sensation as if I was probing a broken tooth with my tongue.

Sure, he was good-looking, but he’d always been attractive; his attitude had made me immune. Somehow this last fortnight he’d become a friend and that had exposed my heart.

What? This was the guy who ordered someone to steal your backpack and trip you, the guy who was lusting after his evil girlfriend, and whom you hated since you were ten years old… and now you like him? WHY? I would have liked the story better without the romance, but unfortunately, parts of the story require it to function properly.

I guess the good thing is that Pearce has fully captured the essence of teenagers through Taylor’s thoughts, actions, and relationships – the impulsiveness, the drama, and the rebelliousness of the characters are all portrayed really well. Maybe I just can’t relate to high school students anymore because I’m old more mature now.

Oh, and one other thing – I don’t understand why Taylor has to be Asian. Is it just so people can call her “Lucy Liu” and “Chickety China”? I feel like Taylor’s ethnicity just made her easier to bully, but it really didn’t add anything of value to the plot at all, since her curse focused on Egyptian mythology and not Chinese mythology.

Aside from my frustrations with the protagonist, I liked the mythology fused into the story. Taylor’s abilities are due to a family curse, which had been brought onto the Oh family from an ancestor who wronged Anubis, the Egyptian god of death. I enjoyed how that ancestor’s tale has been incorporated into the chapters, and I would have liked to see more Egyptian mythology in The Weight of Souls. The storyline itself was fast-paced, since Taylor’s life is at risk if she doesn’t find Justin’s killer quick enough. However, because Pearce created such a complex system to lead Taylor to the killer, some ends were left untied in order for Taylor to actually have time to find Justin’s murderer. For example, Taylor’s dad’s experiments to find a cure for her “disease” led to findings that were not addressed, Justin’s ghost does things that other ghosts can’t do for some reason, and Taylor and Justin’s relationship is just really messed up. The identity of the killer was also very predictable, as Pearce provides multiple hints along the way.

The Weight of Souls sputters to an end like a TV show does: slowly, unwillingly, and with many “by the way’s”. It seems as though Pearce set up the ending in preparation for a sequel, hinting at more trouble on the horizon for Taylor. I personally prefer books that can work as standalones, even if they are a part of a series, so the ending was disappointing for me. At least it wasn’t a cliffhanger!

Conclusion

Overall, even though Pearce tries to tie together several interesting concepts, such as a non-Caucasian protagonist, Egyptian religion, a secret society, and ghosts (all in London, England, so American readers can go gaga over the written British accents!), I thought that the storyline moved too fast and didn’t flow as smoothly as it could have; if The Weight of Souls was a TV show, it would have fared a lot better. The characters and the plot just didn’t hit home for me, but if you’re looking for something fast-paced and different from the usual ghosts, vampires, and werewolves, and you’re okay with feeling a wee bit frustrated or exasperated, then go for it!

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