“‘There is a way back to the light…crawl to it if you have to.'”
Notice: this book is expected to release December 3rd, 2019. I was contacted by Elizabeth Tammi to review the book and accepted an eARC through NetGalley. Thank you to both Ms. Tammi and NetGalley. This does not affect my opinions of the work.
When Lena’s younger sister Fressa is found dead, their whole Viking clan mourns—but it is Lena alone who never recovers. Fressa is the sister that should’ve lived, and Lena cannot rest until she knows exactly what killed Fressa and why—and how to bring her back. She strikes a dark deal with Hela, the Norse goddess of death, and begins a new double life to save her sister.
But as Lena gets closer to bringing Fressa back, she dredges up dangerous discoveries about her own family, and finds herself in the middle of a devastating plan to spur Ragnarök—a deadly chain of events leading to total world destruction.
Still, with her sister’s life in the balance, Lena is willing to risk it all. She’s willing to kill. How far will she go before the darkness consumes her?
I am very thrilled with the Nordic viking culture of this book. The setting is a small trading village of about 70 people in Scandinavia. Sustained only by its agriculture, it serves as a central port for maritime tradesman.
The culture of this book is done incredibly well. It goes to great lengths to describe the culture of chiefdom, village life and its societal roles, marital traditions, etc. If nothing else, I got a good sense of what it would be like to live in Lena’s village on a daily basis.
“Their village relied on the work of their blacksmiths and textile workers, yes, but above all, they were an agricultural settlement. It was the barley, wheat, and fish that sustained them.”
I also appreciated the prevalence of Norse mythology in this story. We are introduced to multiple gods and goddesses, and are told the legends of Ragnarök (world destruction) and Fimbulwinter (infinite winter). Throughout the story, Lena traverses two of the nine realms in Norse mythology, which is completely unheard of. The nine realms are connected by a tree known as Yggdrasil.
Finally, though I cannot say much about it because it is a spoiler, the ending of this book is fantastic. It left room for a smooth transition into a sequel if Tammi chooses to pursue one.
In all, I really enjoyed the exploration of Nordic culture and how everything was tied together in the end. After reading, I feel more learned in Nordic culture.
Unfortunately, my dissatisfactions with this book far outnumber my appreciations. My intention with the following critiques is to be constructive.
Firstly, The Weight of a Soul is told in third person point of view. While I have no problem with third person POV books, I do think that there is a heightened delicacy of execution needed to make them work. Sadly, third person did not benefit The Weight of a Soul at all. In fact, I believe that it largely took away from the emotional impact of the book. Here are two prime examples:
“Frustration simmered and she fought off angry tears.”
“When had this happened? Any of this? Had Lena been so focused on her sister that Nana had slipped so far without her noticing?”
Imagine the impact these lines would’ve had if told in first person perspective. Instead, the book uses third person perspective to tell instead of show.
Here are my reimagining of these lines in first person for clarity of my point:
[Lena] “I slammed my firsts on the table. Tears threatened to pour down my face, but I wouldn’t let them.”
[Lena] “When had this happened? Any of this? Had I been so focused on Fressa that Nana had slipped so far without me noticing?”
I am disappointed by this because it made much of the book feel unauthentic. I found it so difficult to understand and empathize with Lena’s determination to resurrect Fressa because I never felt her attachment to Fressa in the first place. Any emotional scenes felt so blah to me, and because of this, I never really connected to any of the characters.
The next thing I wanted to comment on is the fact that this book has a lot of loose ends and fails to mention important details until very late in the book.
For example, we don’t learn that Amal is 17 until 71% through the book. I couldn’t even tell you how old Lena and Fressa were supposed to be either, nor the age gap between them.
There are also multiple subplots that are introduced throughout the book, but are never followed up. For the sake of length, here is just one instance:
“They had said that Nana’s job was an important one. Lena thought ‘important’ meant something big and exciting, but now she wondered what else the title held.”
That sounds interesting, right? When I read this passage, I thought some kind of backstory about Nana would follow and help complicate her sweet old lady facade. Too bad there wasn’t one.
To me, the unexplored subplots were missed opportunities to build very important characters and help readers understand the weight of Fressa’s absence. So much of my experience with this book was either me feeling confused or frustrated.
The last point of critique I want to note is how unrealistic Lena is as a main character. Her reactions are unbelievably dramatic, and again, I found it nearly impossible to understand her reasoning for her motives or feelings. Examples:
“Fear could be crushed and suppressed. Fear was nothing compared to the gaping hole in her heart; fear was a flea, and Fressa’s absence was a thousand knives impaling her at once.”
“She realized she was only staring at an iceberg’s tip—an inconceivable mass of solid ice plunged into the black depths below, and she saw none of it from where she stood. Her focus had to be honed on her sister—the iceberg’s visible point—or she would never succeed at her task.”
To some, these passages may read as lyrical metaphors to emphasize the sheer loss and hopelessness that Lena feels after her sister’s death. To me, they read as very dramatized attempts at painting the concept of grief. They also (again) are the epitome of how much this book tells rather than shows when it comes to main character emotions.
Again, thank you to Elizabeth Tammi and NetGalley for providing me with an eARC of The Weight of a Soul. Though my experience with the book was not great, I as always still encourage others to give it a read and make their own opinions. Until next time!