The Weight of Souls mixes three strands of story together, centred on Taylor Oh, a teenager struggling under the triple burden of school, home, and a truly testing birth-right. Ancient mythology and ghost whispering bump up against systematic school bullying to make Taylor’s life downright miserable. The only light in an otherwise pretty bleak day-to-day life is her best friend Hannah, but even she has her limits to how many times Taylor can ditch her for ‘family reasons’.
It wasn’t always this way; Taylor used to have friends and a home life. But since her tenth birthday things have gone downhill, starting with the clown ghost waiting outside the school gates. I feel fully justified in my hatred of clowns! It turns out that Taylor has inherited her mum’s ability to see dead people in need of vengeance before they finally leave the earthly plane. Once she is touched by one of these ghosts she has a finite amount of time to track down the person responsible for the untimely death and transfer the Mark. There’s no choice in the matter, because the Darkness will come for whoever carries the Mark.
Life was just about bearable until the accident that killed her mother and left her dad partially paralysed. Since then she’s had to deal with all the crazy on her own, including her dad’s attempts to find a cure for her condition. His persistence left me feeling a bit creeped out initially, especially all the blood tests. It looked a bit obsessional to me, but I think his drive to ‘fix’ his daughter comes from a good place. It’s certainly understandable that he struggles to believe in the curse.
Taylor’s gift is literally a curse, handed down through the generations and stemming from an excavation in Egypt that roused something that should have remained slumbering. We find out more about the dig and the curse through extracts from a journal, The Tale of Oh-Fa. There is more to the story than is first apparent, and it only gradually becomes clear just how grave the initial disturbance could be. Of more immediate concern to Taylor is staying out of the reach of passing ghosts and the school bully pack. The bullying also has hidden and sinister depths that throw Taylor into even more danger.
There is a love story nestled in the book too, a starcrossed love/hate affair that brings together Taylor and her tormentor. It’s the old theory that if a boy pulls a girl’s pigtails in the playground then it means he actually likes her – but on a whole new level. I’m not completely sure it’s a good move for Taylor, but I suspect it’s fated by powers greater than we yet know. What I am a huge fan of is big powerful beginnings, and that’s what I got here. The opening scenes set up Taylor’s power, her reluctance to use it and the danger it puts her in. She doesn’t enjoy what she is compelled to do and takes no pride in settling a score; she cowers from the results and runs from those seeking her. The events in the story change Taylor, and despite the things she discovers she has a chance of a happier life. There are just a couple of little things that need sorting out first…
The Weight of Souls is out now in paperback and as an e-Book. Thank you to Strange Chemistry for giving me an eARC via NetGalley. You can read a guest post by Bryony Pearce on my blog here.