Title: The Weight of Souls
Author: Bryony Pearce
Release Date: August 6, 2013
Publisher: Strange Chemistry (Angry Robot imprint)
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. 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 Justin and his cronies, keep her one remaining friend, and persuade her father that she’s not going crazy. But then Justin is murdered and everything gets 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 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?
The Weight of Souls starts off as an intriguing paranormal mystery about a prickly Asian-British heroine with a curse rooted in Egyptian mythology, her 'mission' to track down murderers and deliver revenge and redemption on behalf of their victims, but the book falls flat, weighed down by repetition, a backstory with complicated flashbacks, and an overall depressing tone.
The book starts quickly, the first chapter is rather fast-paced and is filled with conflict. Then the second chapter comes in and mixes Taylor's curse and the need to keep it secret with the fellow classmates that bully and verbally abuse her. But then the story slows, held back by Taylor's father voicing the same concerns over and over. The scenes between the two are often the same, often contain the same arguments, and it was hard for me to see either of them moving forward during those chapters.
Taylor doesn't have a lot to be happy about. She's hated at school, feared by her father, used by ghosts, and frightened of the Darkness coming after her and swallowing her whole. She hates the ghosts that come at her, touching her without a thought or care. She's trapped by the curse passed down to her through her mother. There's potential solace in her friend Hannah, but Taylor's curse constantly drives a wedge between them. And so Taylor's often left to struggle and search on her own.
I found the romance to be very problematic. As Taylor spends time with Justin's ghost, as they work at uncovering the truth behind his death, she starts to like him more and more. It's more than the fact that he used to bully her, that he used to put her down. He's also dead, as in not coming back to life dead. He's trapped by unfortunate circumstance, as is she because of the nature of her curse, and I don't see their relationship progressing.
The curse that afflicts Taylor (and her mother before she died) is confusing. It's Egyptian in origin but it passed down through one of Taylor's mother's Chinese ancestors. The old family story about the first family member to be cursed is told to readers as flashbacks, perhaps relied on too heavily at times. I wanted more Taylor, more of her searching and hunting around, more of her figuring out what to do, more of her growth as a character.
Taylor challenges bullies, challenges a secret group, and challenges a curse, but she's overshadowed by a rather somber mood and an overwhelming darkness. Those, plus the repetition, the somewhat confusing backstory, and the unfortunate romance kept me from enjoying the book.
(I received an e-galley of this title to review from Angry Robot through NetGalley.)