The Weight of Souls by Bryony Pearce

(8.5/10) A fun and easy read, and even easier to recommend.

The Weight of Souls by Bryony Pearce is a YA novel set in modern London, complete with ghosts, Egyptian mythology, and secret societies. It is a fast paced book, easy to read, and it provides plenty of promise for what might happen next.

The story follows Taylor Oh, a sixteen year old highschooler who has been ostracised by the popular crowd. She only has a couple of friends left, but because of a recent spate of acting out and other inconsistent behaviour, she is slowly pushing those friends away too. The reason for this, the first problem, is that Taylor can see ghosts. The second problem is that these ghosts are able to employ Taylor, against her will, to get vengeance on their murderer and safely pass through to the afterlife. When a ghost touches Taylor, she receives a black mark, and she only has three weeks to transfer the mark to the murderer otherwise she will be claimed by the Darkness instead of the murderer. It is a hard life, and when she is unexpectedly marked by a student from her school, it only gets harder.

I had a really fun time with this story, and I managed to plough through it in only a couple of sittings. It is short, it’s easy to read, and the plot is not all that deep, but there is a lot going on with a lot of separate threads that weave in and out of the overarching narrative. What I also enjoyed was the way that Pearce managed to increase the tension as the book progressed. Having the three week time limit was probably part of it, but Pearce did a great job of making the risks and the consequences more and more severe as the book went on. It was a great way to keep me turning page after page.

It is hard to like Taylor, and seeing as she has barely any friends and is busy pushing away what friends she has left, it seems like other people find her hard to like too. She is flighty, abrasive, secretive, unreliable and makes poor decisions, a persona that is partly who she is and partly crafted as a means of keeping other people safe. This rough exterior is in conflict with the Taylor you see on the inside, which makes it hard to empathise with at first. But as the story starts to progress you start to see more and more of the real Taylor, all the crappy things that have happened to her, and slowly but surely the empathy builds. The real Taylor is smart, brave, loyal, and constantly conflicted, and you just want her to show everyone else the side that we get to see. The story is told from Taylor's perspective, so a lot of the character building happens with Taylor, but most of the other characters do feel like real people, with only a couple of characters feeling like stereotyped cut-outs.

Strange Chemistry continues to prove that they are leading the way in the field of YA Science Fiction and Fantasy, and they have fast become a publisher whose books I will trust sight unseen. The Weight of Souls was a fun and easy read, and even easier to recommend. I can’t wait to see what happens next.

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