Did you just see Frozen II and are looking for another story of sisterly love to fill that empty void in your heart? Elizabeth Tammi’s The Weight of a Soul might be just the book you’re looking to read. The story opens with two sisters, Lena and Fressa, daughters of their Viking clan leader, who share a close bond between themselves and with Amal, the healer’s son, who is also engaged to Fressa. Only pages into the book, Lena finds Fressa mysteriously dead in the woods and immediately knows that she would do anything, anything, to get her sister back.
She finds an answer from the goddess Hela, who tells her that her sister’s soul has gone to Valhalla, and if she can just find and kill someone with a soul the same weight as her sister’s, then they can make an exchange. Lena doesn’t even hesitate before agreeing to do this, but instead immediately starts looking for someone who fits the description. Everyone around her is moving on, trying to adjust to a world without Fressa, but Lena longs to cry out, “No! Stop it! She’s still coming back!” Now that Fressa is gone, her parents drop a bombshell on her — they want her to marry Amal. Lena tries to fight it, but with Fressa dead, even Amal has come to accept this fate. Time is running out for Lena, the walls closing in around her faster than she can handle. Can she find the right soul in time and bring her sister back before there’s nothing to come back to?
I really wanted to like this book. It’s an amazing concept on so many levels, yet at every step of the way, the potential falls flat on its face. I loved the idea of a love triangle between Lena, her dead sister, and her dead sister’s lover, made all the more interesting because Amal and Lena are best friends. They love each other and they carry each other through their grief, only to find that they must both betray Fressa’s memory by wedding.
I also loved the idea of a story that focuses on sisters and the lengths we will go to save someone that we love. But unfortunately, these characters just did not compel me enough to care. Fressa is only on the page for a brief scene before she dies, so we know nothing about her personality. Amal has no personality apart from his grief for Fressa, which is understandable, but I still wanted more from him. And Lena, despite being our main character, made me feel nothing. She had no distinct qualities or personality traits that stood out to me and made her interesting. Even when she was grieving her sister, I felt like I was watching her from a distance instead of being right there inside her head, feeling that awful pain with her.
The idea of souls having weight and having to kill one person to bring back another is also intriguing and prickling with moral problems. Lena had never killed someone before, yet over the course of the novel, she kills multiple people quite easily and she never once grapples with the morality of her actions. On one hand, it shows her devotion to her sister, which I appreciate, but on the other, it just didn’t seem realistic and it missed out on an opportunity for huge depth, which the novel so desperately needed.
Overall, reading this book made me a bit sad, because I felt like it held a lot of potential, but was just extremely underdeveloped. There was a fair bit of Norse mythology, which I enjoyed and would love to see more of, but even that was underdeveloped. Ultimately, I think it was a story that deserved telling, it just deserved to be told better.
That being said, this is all my own opinion. If you are looking for a book that includes Norse mythology and a Viking aesthetic, or a sweet sister story to make you feel all warm inside, this could be the book for you.