#Review: The Weight of a Soul by Elizabeth Tammi #YAFiction #YAFantasy #NorseMythology

Today I am delighted to be sharing a review for Elizabeth Tammi’s second Norse inspired novel The Weight of a Soul. This daring play on Loki, Hela, and the dawn of Ragnarok is a dark and heady read, but it offers so much to think about. This may not be the read for you if you crave an upbeat adventure with a happily ever after, but if you enjoy tension, drama, and a complex new plays on classical mythologies this might just be the one for you.


43517326Title: The Weight of a Soul

Author: Elizabeth Tammi

Publisher: Flux

Publication Date: December 3, 2019

Genre: YA Fantasy, YA Fiction

Themes: Family, Arranged Marriages, Betrayal, Mythology

Features: N/A


My Rating: 4/ 5


Synopsis

Taken from Goodreads…

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?


My Review

I’ll be upfront in stating that this book is not some happy, exciting adventure where the reader walks away feeling joyous and entertained at the end. Instead, it’s the type of book that dives head first into the deep end with some weighty issues such as loss, grief, murder, and healthy dose of mental instability. Tammi doesn’t pull any punches when she goes down the dark and twisty road, with the overall feeling of the novel mimicking the cold and oppressive trappings of Helheim. But with so much YA giving an issues-lite reading and a guaranteed HEA, I honestly didn’t mind the ominous tone.

I appreciated how honest Tammi is with her manipulation of classic Norse stories, claiming that at the heart of these stories is contradiction which leaves room to play. The core elements of Loki as the trickster, Hela as the goddess of death, the Valkyries as warriors, and Odin as the all-father are tactfully maintained while new layers of character and depth are created to suit the story. It is clear from the outset that Lena, Fressa, and everyone in the their village are nothing more than pawns in the gods master plans, and it’s difficult to watch them try and change their fates when there areas many factors beyond their control.

I enjoyed the depth of the bond shared by Lena and Fressa, and the lengths that Lena was willing to go in order to preserve the life and immortal soul of her sister. My only real complaint with their relationship is that a little bit more time could have been spent building Fressa up before her death as there wasn’t around long enough to really get attached to her and feeler loss as a character. Had this happened, it wouldn’t have taken anywhere near as long to get behind Lena’s mad-cap agreement with the goddess of death to retrieve her sister’s soul.

With that being said though, Lena’s grief and denial read as absolutely authentic. We’ve all done some pretty illogical things in the wake of a loved one’s death, it just so happens that Lena’s actions are in keeping with with viking setting and the prevailing beliefs of the time. Her descent into darkness is the kind of gradual that you don’t notice until she’s doing some absolutely horrible things, and all the while you can’t help but pity her and hope that she succeeds.

Amal too is an easy character to like. And maybe it was because Tammi made a point of acknowledging the diversity of Viking trade routes, and the reality of ethnic diversity during these times, but I instantly appreciated his presence in the story. He is calm, respectful, and overly logical about almost everything. His approach is the exact opposite of Lena’s which makes him an interesting ally in her quest and a subtle balance to her overwhelming grief. I really wanted him to fight more against their parent’s desires, but at the same time I understand and appreciate that my desires in this regard are not necessarily the reality of their situation.

Dark and gritty, the slow-burning action will carry you to other worlds and beyond. Lena’s world is magical, mystical, and meticulous wrought with details that you don’t want to miss. Guard you hearts though, because this is an emotionally brutal read that leaves little in the way of warm-fuzzier at the end. But, and I say this with great joy, this has all the makings of an incredible series with so much more left to come.

Would I recommend this book? Absolutely! But maybe not when you’re looking for a pick-me-up experience…


Many thanks to NetGalley for providing a copy in exchange for an honest review.

#SeriesReview: The Nevernight Chronicle by Jay Kristoff #Fantasy #Nevernight #Godsgrave #Darkdawn

Thank you, my lovely book community, for pointing me towards the Nevernight Chronicles by the amazing Jay Kristoff. It is, by far, the BEST fantasy recommendation I have ever received. I was only half-way through Nevernight when I knew without a question that I would be buying Godsgrave and Darkdawn in short order. And it was not much longer after that I was getting quotes from the books tattooed on my arm. Talk about immediate impact. Wowza!

The whole series is imaginative, intense, and utterly gripping. Kristoff’s writing is witty, engaged, and hilariously self-deprecating as the series progresses. If you crave fantasy that is free from the eight-instalment world building slog and is most definitely written for an audience other than teens, then The Nevernight Chronicle is like winning the freaking lottery. I can’t recommend these books highly enough.


Untitled designSeries Title: The Nevernight Chronicle

Author: Jay Kristoff

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

Books: Nevernight (2016), Godsgrave (2017), Darkdawn (2019)

Genre: Fantasy, High Fantasy

Themes: Revenge, Murder, Assassins, Family, Love, Loyalty


My Rating: 5+/ 5


Synopsis

Taken from the publisher’s website:

In a land where three suns almost never set, a fledgling killer joins a school of assassins, seeking vengeance against the powers who destroyed her family.

Daughter of an executed traitor, Mia Corvere is barely able to escape her father’s failed rebellion with her life. Alone and friendless, she hides in a city built from the bones of a dead god, hunted by the Senate and her father’s former comrades. But her gift for speaking with the shadows leads her to the door of a retired killer, and a future she never imagined.

Now, a sixteen year old Mia is apprenticed to the deadliest flock of assassins in the entire Republic — the Red Church. Treachery and trials await her with the Church’s halls, and to fail is to die. But if she survives to initiation, Mia will be inducted among the chosen of the Lady of Blessed Murder, and one step closer to the only thing she desires.

Revenge.


My Review

Pardon me while I try to articulate my feelings to towards as series that has legitimately left me speechless and sobbing on so many occasions.

OH. MY. GODS.

So much love.

The whole series is high-impact, meticulously wrought, and utterly irreverent. And it has footnotes. No, seriously, it has lots of them. At first I was all WTF am I doing reading something loaded with footnotes that isn’t an academic monograph, couldn’t Mr. Kristoff just include these little tidbits into the story like any normal human being? But then I came to realize that these asides were 1) hilarious and often the highlight of the page and 2) the most ingenious method I have ever seen for bridging the narrator’s voice between the prologue and epilogue. I ended up loving them, and often found myself skipping ahead to see what delights these sarcastic, self-reflexive, and self-deprecating asides had to offer.

Footnotes aside, the world Mr. Kristoff creates is a beautiful and terrifying blend of realistic details and exceptionally imagined monsters and magic. Each and every element has meaning, purpose, and and comes together into the best damned finale that us mere mortals could ever image. The series takes the reader on a journey of growth, not just as Mia progresses through the Red Church, but also as a person. We see meaningful change in every sustained character that is in line with the events and circumstances taking place. The result is a plot-driven (sex enhanced) extravaganza with well-rounded characters that are dangerously easy to get attached to. I say dangerous because neither working as an assassin or partaking in a supernatural war has a particularly long life span attached. So guard your hearts my friends… and keep the tissues nearby.

Take Mia for example, despite the fact that she is a chain smoking, ever-cussing, master murderess she is one of the most interesting and likeable heroines I have come across in a good long time. She is bitter, vengeful, and terribly flawed but she is also human, real, and plagued by a tenderness that gets her into more trouble than it’s worth. I loved her sass, her unwavering determination, and the extreme loyalty that she shows towards those she’s come to love. And then there’s the absolutely ace set of supporting characters including Tric, Ash, Mercurio, and so many more. Each and every one them is clearly defined with their own story, quirks and personalities. And we can’t forget Aelius, our delightfully dead librarian, who has given me new aspirations in my own career – to live forever, tied by dark magic to the lives of my books and herder ravenous book worms.

Sec and blood and swearing aside though, this series tackles some pretty big issues like hypocrisy, the abuse of power, the lasting impact of colonial empires, slavery, gender fluidity, and the value/ power of libraries and librarians. That last one may not seem like much, but in a world where access to knowledge and information is becoming increasingly controlled, it was refreshing to see a librarian represented as a centre of rebellion and resistance rather than as nothing more than an aged, bespectacled, keeper of books. Mr. Kristoff’s style is such that you can read it face value for an exhilarating experience, or take your time and unpack some seriously deep layers of meaning. They’re the kind of books that you can read over and over again and find something new in them each and every time.

I strongly encourage anyone with an interest in badass heroines to read this series. You won’t regret following Mia on journey from the Godsgrave to the Silent Mountain, and from the fighting pits to Old Ashkahi and back again. Mr. Kristoff’s quirky and irreverent style will draw you in, and the characters will you trapped until the very end (and maybe even for a while after).

Ace tip: Read all three back to back… and then plan for some recovery time afterwards.

Nevernight, Godsgrave, and Darkdawn are my tops reads of 2019, and if you’re up for it, they can be yours too!


I purchased these books as a result of blogger reviews and recommendations. All opinions are my own.

Lessons from November – #NaNoWriMo Edition

Okay, so I’m going to go off the beaten track a little bit with this post because… I didn’t read a single book in the month of November. Shocking, I know. I even went through withdrawal, but it was an interesting experience. Why didn’t you read a single book, you might be asking. It’s because I decided to participate in NaNoWriMo for my very first time. I’ve been circling the periphery of NaNo for years – feeding friends who are participating, arranging write in spaces at the venues where I worked, cheering peoples on, etc – but had never joined in as a writer. So, this year when work said they would give me time every Friday to host in our library on the condition that I also write (leading by example for the students and all) I jumped on the opportunity. And while I didn’t quite make the 50k word count (I came in at 45k) I came away from this month with some lovely insights.

1. Writing every day is HARD. Like holy shit balls hard. It’s like life demands far more of your time when you’re trying to be creative than when you’re trying to relax. Got a great idea? Bring on the snow storm of the century that will leave you plowing for days.

2. Having a daily goal forces you to move post those plot holes. I’ve dabbled in creative writing in the past, but whenever I hit a plot hole/ writer’s block I would always end up walking away because I couldn’t figure out how to move past the issue. With the subtle pressure of NaNo’s imaginary deadline I simply plows through, and in most cases the issue resolved itself later on. I now have about 40 notes throughout my document on stuff I need to fix. And I’m actually looking forward to the revision process.

3. What you produce is likely going to be a burning trash heap of words that needs the intervention of the gods. And that’s entirely okay. It’s also why in the day’s following wrap up you see all these lovely tweets about ‘don’t query your baby-fresh mess now, fix that shit first’. It’s true. So, so true.

4. The writing community on Twitter is freaking AMAZING. As a first time NaNoer, having some pretty successful authors comment on your nobody account and cheer you on gives you the goosebumps. I’m kind of in love with the community that springs up out of this monthly touch of magic.

5. I will likely never publish my little trash pile of words. And I am at peace with that. Also, this is not a bad thing. I didn’t go into this with the desire to write a publishable piece. I went in wanting to put on paper a story that had been bouncing around my brain for years. I did that, and I am delighted with the process. *pats self on back*

6. The target is helpful, but not worth the stress. Seriously. I’m wasn’t getting paid to go through hell, I had no hard deadline from a publisher to meet. I fell 5,000 words behind, so what? I can write the rest of them whenever I want. And maybe it’s because this was my first NaNo that the experience and community seemed to be more important than the final product. But unless you’ve got a good (legally binding) reason to drive yourself into the ground, it’s not worth burning yourself out.

7. Finally, my respect for writers has increased tenfold. I’ve always valued and adored authors for their ability to craft a story and make me want more, but right now that awe is insanely amplified. Seeing how things start out, the creative energy it takes to see these things through, and the amount of work that goes into polishing said trash pile of words is just insane. Thank you writers, for being brave and determined, because this writing thing isn’t for the weak of heart.

Thank you to everyone who cheered me on throughout the month, and to those lively book bloggers who checked in to see if I was still living when I wasn’t sharing reviews, you are freaking fabulous.

Regularly irregular reviews will now resume.

J.