Saturday, 17 August 2013

Weight of Souls by Bryony Pearce

Weight of Souls by Bryony Pearce is the first book I've read by the author. It's YA urban fantasy set in London with Egyptian mythology in the form of a curse upon a half-Chinese girl, Taylor. So, y'know, a little bit off the beaten path. The blurb, abridged due to spoilers:
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.
I quite enjoyed Weight of Souls, especially the second half, which I think was more exciting than the first. I liked that Pearce chose to use Egyptian mythology rather than something more standard or ambiguous. It leant additional flavour to the story beyond standard urban fantasy tropes of kicking arse and taking names. In fact, I wouldn't say Taylor spent all that much time kicking arse. Sneaking around to do her job fulfil her calling, yes, but she went about it a bit haphazardly (especially while dodging ghosts) and fairly non-violently. In the course of doing what she had to, she also missed a lot of school failed to deal with her best friend very well. For the most part, it wasn't that she had to miss school per se, or that she had to keep her curse a secret from her friend. She did those things because she thought they were best, making her a flawed and believable teenager.

Near the start I found myself a bit annoyed at Taylor for going to great lengths to avoid getting a second mark on her skin (from a second ghost also wanting retribution) because it seemed to me like it wouldn't be possible, particularly after at least one ghost didn't even try to mark her. It made me feel like she was overreacting when she dodged and panicked over ghosts while already bearing a mark. However, although we never see her get a second mark, it later on seems as though her fears aren't unfounded. But I remained unsure (albeit also less annoyed at her). I would have liked to have seen a more definite ruling either way. But ultimately that was the only problem I had with the book.

Pearce weaved together two main stories: Taylor's running around after murderers and, initially in the back ground, happenings at her school. I enjoyed the school-based storyline (I don't want to spoil by saying to much like the full blurb does) although some aspects seemed a little bit far-fetched for an ordinary — as far as I could tell — state school.

The ending was satisfying, with excellent setting up both main storylines for a sequel. Although I couldn't find anything online about a second book, I have to assume the author is planning one. (For those that dislike such things, I wouldn't call it a cliff-hanger ending, not really. Weight of Souls stands alone fairly well.)

Weight of Souls was a good read. I thought the beginning was a little weak, but I was quickly hooked into the plot. I recommending it to fans of YA and urban fantasy, particularly those looking for something a bit different in the back story. I will definitely be picking up the sequel, whenever that comes out.

4 / 5 stars

First published: August 2013, Strange Chemistry
Series: I think so, based on the set-up at the end. Book one of ?
Format read: eARC
Source: Publisher via NetGalley

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