When Lena's younger sister Fressa is found dead, their whole Viking clan mourns—but it is Lena alone who never recovers.
Partial synopsis provided by Goodreads.
The Weight Of A Soul
Author: Elizabeth Tammi
Publication Date: December 3, 2019
Page Count: 320
Genre: Historical Fiction, Mythology, Young Adult, Fantasy
Cover Artist: -
My Rating: ★★★1/2
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 received a copy of this book from the publisher, Flux Books via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! In no way does this affect my rating or review.
All included quotes have been taken from an ARC and may not match the finished publication.
Content Warning: Death, Murder, Conspiracy, Arranged/Forced Marriage, Assisted Suicide
Lena realized that just as she had always expected the summer to stay, she had always expected her sister to be at her side. Because for her whole life, the summer meant sunlight–always–with no unexpected night cutting through it. Her sister had fallen asleep each night across from her, and Lena assumed she would wake with her each morning.
How do you like your Norse stories? I like mine hearty. The Weight of a Soul is certainly that. It delivers a tale of young love, Norse gods and goddesses, and fate with strong allusions to impending doom.
The story centers around two sisters who are daughters to the clan chief, Fredrik. Magdalena (Lena) and Fressa are sisters, as well as best friends. Lena is the eldest, and has studied all her life to become the next town healer and eventual leader. Fressa, conversely, has been brought up with the blade, and is known to be very skilled with it.
Fressa, young and in love with Amal, is found dead shortly after her father returns from one of his year-long raids. The unhappy reunion proves even more bitter, as their father denies Fressa’s engagement to Amal, revealing that Amal was betrothed to Lena since the moment he arrived in the clan from Baghdad. Lena, Fressa, and Amal are all crushed by the news. Lena certainly doesn’t want to marry a man whom she sees as a brother, and one who is already, in his heart, devoted to her sister. After the engagement is broken off, Lena finds Fressa dead in the woods. As her world turns upside-down, Lena realizes at the loss of her dearest companion that there are larger forces at play, and each have a stake in what develops in the lives of these villagers.
Only one thread of thought allowed itself clarity within her, and it was the knowledge that Fressa’s death had coincided with the alarming occurrences. The blade and the darkness were tied to her sister, somehow. Lena knew it. A blade of light, a sky of black. And her sister, between them–dead.
From the moment Lena discovers her sister’s body, she knows that something is amiss. The oddities began when their father gave Fressa a blade after he returned from his raid. The blade, which seemed no more than ordinary, transformed in Fressa’s hands. Little did Lena know that this blade would lead her down a dark path to strike a deal with Hela, the goddess of death, in order to restore her sister back from the dead. Lena, desperate to return balance to her world, begins living a second life in order to appease the goddess’ demands. Through these escapades, Lena discovers that she isn’t alone, and is being watched.
Lena nodded, urging him on. Her chest thrilled at the reminder that Fressa’s capability with this blade marked her as different–she was either blessed or cursed by their gods, and she had not lived long enough to find out which one it would be.
After Fressa’s death, Lena and Amal’s mothers see no point in delaying the marriage between her and Amal. Desperate to stop the amalgamation, Lena begins to enact Hela’s plan, and therefore, forsakes herself in doing so. The further Lena travels down the path to regain her sister, the more she loses herself, and the truth that she does matter.
But remembering what the initial intention had been for Lena and Amal, and knowing how hard Amal had recoiled and raged against it, all without Lena ever knowing…it hurt. Deep, penetrating, and almost tender in its unexpectedness. She had never wanted Amal. She certainly did not want him now.
As their wedding day approaches, Lena spirals into despair. This portion of the story is where the only major hiccup occurs in this book. While the plot moves along steadily for the first third of the book, the middle slows down extremely. This is mainly due to the fact that it reflects the tone of Lena, and what she is going through. The entire tone of the story shifts into a heavy-ladened monologue of Lena’s suffering through this difficult situation that her station is forcing her into.
They have made you a murderer.
While I didn’t exactly connect with any of the characters, I connected with Lena’s deep emotions throughout this entire story. The choices she made, however very wrong, I could understand the place where she was at and the exacerbation she felt. (I would NEVER condone murder, so don’t misunderstand me, here!) Caught between her despair and loneliness, she does everything she can to appeal to Hela, and virtually sacrifices her sanctity to do so. Her character reflects a sort of martyr–not in the definition, but more in the sense that she’d sacrifice everything for her sister. This show of devotion to her sister is touching, despite the terrible choices she makes in the pursuit.
I didn’t like that Lena never actually emerges from her dreary state. She continues to spiral downwards until she is basically put out of her misery by another. It is until this point that she fails to notice that she has any self-worth, and is where the story “lost” my ardor. While this aspect was lost on me, I still appreciated the process, and the insight into Lena’s experience even while she chose the dangerous and damaging path that she did.
There was another topic touched upon that I really appreciated, which was the inclusiveness upheld within the clan itself. Amal, being an “outsider” at birth, has and is treated as an equal to those who were born into the clan. Several times, this statute is cleared noted, and those who do not agree with accepting others would be punished for disagreeing.
You know well enough that clans are not of blood, but of chosen and championed bonds. Many of us come from lands far from this valley, found from trade or family or travel. The sole thread weaving us is the choice we made, and continue to make each day, to each other. If you feel otherwise, we will certainly be glad to discontinue your rations.
Despite what I discussed about Lena’s character, I did like this book. I liked how real it felt, even if it was Lena’s desperate despair that I sensed. In all honesty, I ached for her character, and wished Because she never really grew from that, I’m only rating this 3.5 stars. I was rooting for her to, despite the inevitable pain, grow through her experience. Instead, she continued down a destructive path until someone literally made her stop upon her own request. It was at this point that she realized that she had some value–more value than she ever realized.
Sexual content: There is a scene where Lena plans to sleep with a man (not really) so that she can kill him, but her plan almost goes awry and he almost succeeds.
Violence: Moderate, surrounding the topics listed in the content warning above.
My Rating: ★★★1/2
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Elizabeth Tammi was born in California and grew up in Florida, but is currently double - majoring in Creative Writing and Journalism as an undergraduate at Mercer University in Georgia. When she’s not writing, you can probably find Elizabeth at work for her university’s newspaper and literary magazine. Her other interests include traveling, caffeinated beverages, and mythology. You can find Elizabeth online on Tumblr at (annabet histerrified), Twitter at (@ElizabethTammi), Instagram at (elizabeth_tammi), and at elizabethtammi.com.
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