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The Weight of Souls (Strange Chemistry) Paperback – 1 Aug 2013
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"Angel's Fury is a breath of fresh air, an original and intriguing take on angels and nephilim. Compelling, haunting and heart-pounding, Angel's Fury will satisfy readers with its smooth plot, strong heroine, psychological touch and its tale of cycles, hope, and redemption." - Fragments of Life "Angel's Fury is confusing, creepy and utterly compelling! It may well be the best YA paranormal fantasy book I read this year!" - Teen Librarian "Angel's Fury is a greatly entertaining novel written in an easy but solid style. And I definitely want to read on!" - Thirst for Fiction
About the Author
Bryony Pearce completed an English Literature degree at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge in 1998 and afterwards worked in the research industry. After a while she moved to a village at the edge of the Peak District and went freelance so she could devote more time to writing. She is now a full time mother to two children, writes as much as possible and enjoys doing school visits and events when she can fit them in. Her first book, the award winning Angel s Fury, was published by Egmont in 2011.
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Taylor Oh is cursed... Her mother is dead, her father is convinced both she & her mother are mentally ill and spends his days trawling the internet looking for 'cures' and her best friend is one cancelled get-together/ditched school day away from disowning her because Taylor, in what she thinks is a bid to protect those closest to her, can't be honest and tell her the truth. This is both a weakness and a strength for Taylor, she does herself no favours by closing herself off or denying herself normal every day things like best friends, boyfriends and a social life and it only makes her more vulnerable. On the other hand she starts to realise that behaving this way is not good and she finds the strength to pull herself out of this mindset - eventually! Throw in secret societies with both unexpected and influential members and bullying from what feels like every student at her school certainly makes life difficult for Taylor. After discovering that the secret society, the V club has its roots in her school and is some sort of extreme 'truth or dare' group who had involvement in Justin's death, with members including including Justin's girlfriend and best friends. Taylor becomes determined to get to the bottom of his murder, not only for him but for the sake of her own sanity too. Thanks to Justin having given her his Mark the hunt for his killers turns into an exhilarating race against both time and the Darkness.
The supporting characters in the Weight of Souls are a varied bunch. I really loved Hannah - the best friend - who was there for Taylor as much as she was allowed to be, until pushed away once too often. Hannah gives Taylor every opportunity to be honest but of course she doesn't do this until it's pushed their friendship beyond breaking point. I wasn't a huge fan of Taylor's father to start with, he seemed set on there being only one possible explanation for Taylor's ability to see ghosts and the Mark on her hand and that is mental illness, the same mental illness that caused his wife's death and the one responsible for causing the accident that led to him being wheelchair-bound. I thought it was quite significant when he finally accepted that neither his wife or daughter were mentally ill and that in actual fact the Oh family curse is very real, especially after he see's Justin in all his ghostly glory! The biggest change in character of course is in Justin, who goes from alive & bullying to dead & apologetic for everything that went before. Justin admits that he could well have been able to stop at least some of the devastating bullying that went on, having had a crush on Taylor from the day he arrived as a new student he found it easier to be nasty to her after she showed no interest in him and unfortunately the other members of the V club picked up on this. This was the only bit of the story I found a bit difficult to believe, having gone through almost constant bullying from Justin and his friends I found it hard to believe that Taylor would forgive & forget so quickly, even if Justin was dead.
The action in the story was fast paced and well written, especially in the second half as more & more secrets are revealed and challenges are made. The ending was suitably both resolved and left hanging, I can only hope this means there will be a sequel of some sorts as I want to know more! This is the second novel I've read by Bryony Pearce, the first was Angel's Fury which was also her first novel published, and I sincerely hope we get to read something else from her soon!
Due to Taylor's heritage - she's of Chinese descent - there are some Chinese elements to the mythology of the story, but the largest mystical influences are Egyptian. The Oh family curse was set by a dark entity, thought to be Anubis, imprisoned in what is supposed to be Nefertiti's tomb. Consequently the place the murderers Taylor catches go once the Darkness takes them isn't your conventional heaven or hell; at least not literally, it is an after-life, just not one we know. I really liked this version of a ghost story and helping them pass on to the Great Unknown. Despite the curse of necessity taking such a central place in her life, Taylor tries not to let her life be defined by it and tries to hang on to her friends. She's a lovely protagonist, funny, sarcastic, and caring, I really liked her.
Part of the Oh family curse is that they are guaranteed to find their one great love. And fate has a sense of humour in Taylor's case, as her One True Love seems to be the boy whose murder she needs to avenge. While this concept left me rather dubious to begin with, to Pearce's credit she actually sold me hard on this pairing. I loved the development of the rapport between Taylor and Justin. The way one little incident when they first met influenced everything that came after - Justin's seeming dislike of Taylor and his bullying of her together with his group of friends - was well-conceived and felt plausible. Even though it seemed completely impossible that something lasting might come of it, the author had me rooting for Taylor and Justin to make it.
Besides Justin, Taylor has two more really important relationships in her life, the ones with her father and with her best friend Hannah. Taylor's relationship with her father is rather strained. Mr Oh doesn't believe in the Oh family curse - Hannah inherited the curse from her mum - he believes, he needs to believe, that Hannah and her mother just have a really strange medical or psychological condition and that she can be cured. It's what made his marriage to Taylor's mother troubled and the fact that he doesn't believe in her hurts Taylor deeply. But Mr Oh is very much the involved parent, no absentee parenting in this story, a fact I appreciated a lot. Taylor's friendship is just as strained as her relationship with her dad. Taylor's continual disappearances and the flimsy excuses she gives for having to cancel on Hannah again and again are wearing this friendship down and Hannah is slowly losing her faith in Taylor throughout the novel. However, Hannah's readiness to forgive Taylor shows just how good of a friend she is in the end.
The secret society at school that Taylor comes across is fascinating and frightening. I do wonder how much of these sorts of 'old boys' clubs' at school are culture-based, at least at a secondary school level. I think there might also be a class element to it, as you often find stories about them set at public schools, such as Eton or Winchester, but the fact that they are set at secondary school is strange to me. As far as I'm aware here in the Netherlands they are far more common at the university level and beyond. But I also always like the secret society as a plot device, so I enjoyed it in The Weight of Souls as well.
Bryony Pearce's first - and hopefully not last - book with Strange Chemistry was an enjoyable and interesting story. The Weight of Souls has an interesting premise and a great protagonist in Taylor. The book ends with this book's mystery solved, but with a great big plot hook in place for a possible sequel, which I hope we'll see announced soon. In the meantime, if you're looking for a fun and at times dark paranormal YA mystery, The Weight of Souls is just the ticket.
This book was provided for review by the publisher.
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