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.
Title: The Weight of a Soul
Author: Elizabeth Tammi
Publication Date: December 3, 2019
Genre: YA Fantasy, YA Fiction
Themes: Family, Arranged Marriages, Betrayal, Mythology
My Rating: 4/ 5
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?
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.