The Weight of a Soul

Flux. Dec. 2019. 320p. pap. $11.99. ISBN 9781635830446.
Gr 8 Up–Viking Lena finds her sister, Fressa, dead after the girl touches a mysterious knife. Uncovering a dark enchantment, Lena strikes a deal with Hela, goddess of death: if Lena can find a soul to match Fressa’s greatheartedness, she can bring her sister home. Intent on saving Fressa, Lena finds herself on a path toward murder—and Ragnarok. Is Lena the savior of the world or a budding serial killer? This novel demonstrates that Vikings are ripe for fictional reconsideration. Lena and Fressa are strong young women; Lena is conscious of the tensions between Vikings and the Christian cultures her father invades, and the fact that Fressa’s boyfriend, Amal, was born in Baghdad gestures towards the reach of the Viking world. However, the difference between modern and Viking cultures generates some anachronism, such as widespread disapproval of raiding within a warrior culture. Similarly, historically, Amal would likely have come to the Viking village because of violence, even if he was later fully integrated. Exploration of Amal’s experience would add texture to a grief that is crucial to the story. Comparatively, Lena’s emotions are occasionally so fluid as to dislocate readers from time and place. The writing is strongest when rooted in Lena’s physical world and her mythologically-shaped perception, though occasionally clunky metaphors can distract from the exciting, engaging plot.
VERDICT This book will interest those seeking tales of sisterhood and Viking stories from a feminist perspective.

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