The Weight of a Soul by Elizabeth Tammi

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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? 

DISCLAIMER: I received an eARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

EXPECTED DECEMBER 3, 2019

2 STARS

CW: loss of a loved one, violence

Last year, Outrun the Wind ended up in my list of ARCs, and I loved it. It was a retelling of the Atalanta myth, but f/f, and the queer classics major in me craved every word of it. On the heels of that, I figured that it was worth requesting an ARC of Elizabeth Tammi’s latest novel, which moves away from Greece and dives instead into the realms of Norse mythology.

I’m sad to say I found myself sorely disappointed.

At its core, The Weight of a Soul is supposed to be a story about the bond between sisters and the lengths they would go for one another. Layer some encounters with the gods in there, and an arranged marriage, and you would think things would start to get complicated.

Instead, I spent 300-odd pages watching Lena commit atrocity after atrocity in Fressa’s name, only to get an anti-climatic conclusion and an epilogue that hints that all of Lena’s efforts were ultimately for nothing, that she played right into the gods’ hands and paid dearly for her fleeting victory. It left me feeling cheated, and that’s never a good feeling as a reader, not ever.

Maybe if we’d spent more time with the side characters, maybe if Lena valued her own existence and relationships with other characters beyond her sister, it would have been more interested. Characters like Bejla could have played a larger role in Lena’s life, could have turned this into something other than a tale of pure tragedy and futility. And yet it seemed like Lena was never going to be a full character in her own right. Despite being dead, Fressa was more the main character than Lena was, and it grated.

Worse still, I found the plot to be underwhelming. It’s suggested that Fressa’s death happened with a reason, and that the gods are hard at work bringing their whims about in the world, and we never see any of that play out. It’s a game of cat and mouse with Lena running herself ragged at the center, and it brought me little joy to see her making such terrible choices, only to be rewarded with such meager payoffs.

Really, the only thing I did like about The Weight of a Soul was its atmosphere, which carried a heavy chill to it, one that seems fitting of traversing between the world of the living and the world of the dead, of speaking to gods, of mourning lost loved ones. That much did save this from being a 1-1.5 star read.

Overall, though, I can’t give The Weight of a Soul my recommendation. If you want to give it a try nonetheless, it releases on December 3rd this year, but I make no promises about how enjoyable you’ll find it. May your experience be better than mine, and the finished copy less frustrating than the ARC, but this not a book I’ll be purchasing for myself.

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