Book Review: The Weight of Souls by Bryony Pearce

The Weight of Souls by Bryony Pearce

WeightofSouls

Book Summary

From Goodreads: Sixteen year old Taylor Oh is cursed: if she is touched by the ghost of a murder victim then they pass a mark beneath her skin. She has three weeks to find their murderer and pass the mark to them – letting justice take place and sending them into the Darkness. And if she doesn’t make it in time? The Darkness will come for her.

She spends her life trying to avoid ghosts, make it through school where she’s bullied by popular Justin and his cronies, keep her one remaining friend, and persuade her father that this is real and that she’s not going crazy.

But then Justin is murdered and everything gets a whole lot worse. Justin doesn’t know who killed him, so there’s no obvious person for Taylor to go after. The clues she has lead her to the V Club, a vicious secret society at her school where no one is allowed to leave… and where Justin was dared to do the stunt which led to his death.

Can she find out who was responsible for his murder before the Darkness comes for her? Can she put aside her hatred for her former bully to truly help him? And what happens if she starts to fall for him?

Review: 4 Stars

*I received this eARC from NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review. The expected publication date is August 6, 2013.*

First of all, can we PLEASE discuss this cover. The cover artist, Steve Wood, did an absolutely amazing job. Even before I read the book I loved it, but having read the book now I think it fits even more perfectly. I am going to have to track down a physical copy of this book once it comes out just to enjoy it in its full glory.

Now that we have that out of the way, let’s discuss the book itself. I thought it was a great read. The main character, Taylor, has a family curse that causes her to be able to see ghosts. Not only can she see ghosts, but if a ghost touches her who was killed in an unresolved way, then the ghost passes along a Dark Mark. Taylor has to find the murderer and pass the Mark along within approximately three weeks, then the Darkness will come for her instead. The unraveling of how her family got the curse in the first place is a fun part of the story, so I won’t spoil it here, but it originates in ancient Egypt and involves Anubis. If that doesn’t interest you, I really don’t know what more I can say.

As you can imagine, the curse makes it difficult for Taylor to have any true friends and high school is basically the worst. She is ignored by most, but mercilessly bullied by one group of students, led by a boy named Justin. She also has a bad relationship with her father, who does not believe that Taylor actually sees ghosts and is desperately trying to determine a cure for her hallucinations. Justin eventually dies and touches Taylor, passing on his Mark and linking the two of them together in a hunt for his killers.

Overall, I thought this book was very strong. The interaction between Taylor and the ghosts was interesting and believable and there was a great amount of backstory provided while still setting up additional conflict for what I assume is going to be the first story in a series. The picture of high school was all too realistic and the students were well drawn. The eventual relationship makes sense and is a slow burn, rather than a magical insta-love type of thing, which I always appreciate. I liked Taylor, understood her internal conflict and motivations, and am excited to read more of her story.

There were a few weak spots to me. The first was the character of Taylor’s dad. I understand being confused about the curse as an outsider, but since Taylor’s mom also suffered from the same curse, his reaction made him very unlikeable. I didn’t understand her desire to have any kind of relationship with him, to be honest. I also didn’t really understand Justin’s popularity or control over the main group of teenagers. And the name of “the V Club” made me think it was going to be about virginity… Just me? But those issues aside, I think this is a strong new series that I will for sure be following.

Bottom Line

This novel is a strong first entry in a series that shows a lot of promise. Taylor is an interesting protagonist and her development arc in this story is both believeable and entertaining. While there is some romance, it does not overtake the story and actually seems realistic in the context of the novel. There are undertones of greater themes at work – concepts of justice, true love, friendship and death. All of this and it’s funny and self-aware to boot – even referencing the quote that has to be on everyone’s mind when reading a modern ghost story. It stands alone well enough while leaving enough background conflict for those who choose to follow the series. It’s a great new entry into YA supernatural urban fantasy and one that I will certainly be following.

Book Review: The Rithmatist by Brandon Sanderson

The Rithmatist by Brandon Sanderson, illus. Ben McSweeney

rithmatist

Book Summary

From Goodreads: More than anything, Joel wants to be a Rithmatist. Chosen by the Master in a mysterious inception ceremony, Rithmatists have the power to infuse life into two-dimensional figures known as Chalklings. Rithmatists are humanity’s only defense against the Wild Chalklings — merciless creatures that leave mangled corpses in their wake. Having nearly overrun the territory of Nebrask, the Wild Chalklings now threaten all of the American Isles.

As the son of a lowly chalkmaker at Armedius Academy, Joel can only watch as Rithmatist students study the magical art that he would do anything to practice. Then students start disappearing — kidnapped from their rooms at night, leaving trails of blood. Assigned to help the professor who is investigating the crimes, Joel and his friend Melody find themselves on the trail of an unexpected discovery — one that will change Rithmatics — and their world — forever.

Bestselling author Brandon Sanderson brings his unique brand of epic storytelling to the teen audience with an engrossing tale of danger and suspense—the first of a series. With his trademark skills in world-building, Sanderson has created a magic system that is so inventive and detailed that that readers who appreciate games of strategy and tactics just may want to bring Rithmatics to life in our world.

Review: 3.5 Stars

Sanderson is quickly becoming one of those authors that I absolutely must read, no matter what. The Mistborn series is one of my absolute favorites, and both The Way of Kings and Warbreaker were right up there as well. All that said, I thought this novel suffered a bit from “dumb it down into YA” syndrome. The characters were predictable and somewhat, if you’ll excuse the pun, two-dimensional. The relationship between the two main characters was more twelve-year-old than sixteen-year-old. And while the world of the school seemed very well-developed, the overall universe was barely explored. But for a map inside the cover of the book, I don’t think I even would have understood the concept. Aditionally, there was a lot of talk about a place barely explored in this novel, and while that does leave a great deal of interest for a sequel, I was left feeling a bit let down that I didn’t get a better picture of the larger forces at work here. We caught glimpses of that complexity, but were not really let in on the whole story here.

However, as usual Sanderson’s strengths lie in his magic system creation and he did not fail us on that one. This magic is like nothing I’ve seen before. The Rithmatists battle using chalk drawings on the ground, using combinations of circles, lines, waves, and little creatures (“Chalklings”). Each chapter began with an illustration and description of a different Rithmatic schema. Since the entire magic system was based on drawings, the illustrations of the novel become an intrical part of the story, and I found myself flipping around in the book to see the various moves being discussed in the book. Because of that, this might be a great entry into reading longer novels for the young teen boys in your life who are into graphic novels.

Bottom Line

While the plot and characters had so much potential, when it came right down to it I didn’t feel like Sanderson’s first entry into YA was as excellent as his other novels. On the plus side, Sanderson’s magic system was, as usual, completely novel and well-developed. The story kept me engaged throughout and had a few interesting twists and turns that I didn’t quite see coming. On the negative side, the main characters had promise, but fell a bit flat. The world of the school was well-developed, but the overall universe left me scratching my head a bit. And overall, it seemed to follow the well-worn path of many YA novels before it of “gifted children at magical boarding school encounter supernatural foe and win against all odds.” I will continue on with this series in the hopes that Sanderson finds his stride and a more unique voice within the YA world, but I am hoping for much more in the next installment.

Waiting On Wednesday (1): The Girl Who Soared Over Fairyland and Cut the Moon in Two

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Breaking the Spine and is a chance for us to gush over those books we wish were already released!

Fairyland

Title: The Girl Who Soared Over Fairyland and Cut the Moon in Two

Author: Catherynne M. Valente

Expected Publication: October 8, 2013 by Feiwel and Friends

Description from Goodreads:

“One of the most extraordinary works of fantasy, for adults or children, published so far this century.”—TIME Magazine, on the Fairyland series

September misses Fairyland and her friends Ell, the Wyverary, and the boy Saturday. She longs to leave the routines of home, and embark on a new adventure. Little does she know that this time, she will be spirited away to the moon, reunited with her friends, and find herself faced with saving Fairyland from a moon-Yeti with great and mysterious powers.

Why Am I Excited?

If you’ve read any of the other Fairyland books, I’m assuming you’re not asking this question. These books are absolutely magical.  It seems pretty expected to compare them to Alice in Wonderland, but that’s about the best I can do.  In this series a young girl, September, finds herself whisked away to Fairyland where she goes on all varieties of adventures.  With a great main character and strong supporting cast, this series has some of the absolute best world-building I’ve ever experienced.  Much like September at the end of each book I am longing to get back to Fairyland and am counting down the days for this next installment.  (And if you haven’t read the first or second books in this series, stop what you are doing now and GO!)