By Bryony Pearce
Available now from Strange Chemistry (Angry Robot)
THE WEIGHT OF SOULS does not suffer from a lack of ambition. Main character Taylor Oh has one of those superpowers that really sucks. She gets Marked by the murdered dead, then has to find and Mark their killer in turn or be dragged into the Darkness herself. It's also killer on her social life.
I found the bullying to be a bit too much in the earlier chapters. James, the ringleader, is cartoonishly malevolent. Also, I am apparently not up on current racial slurs, but I'll just take that as a good thing. The bullying drops off, thankfully, but I think it's to prevent it from being too obviously tied to the murder mystery plotline. Because, you see, Taylor's latest Mark comes from Justin, one of her bullies. Even worse, he has no idea who killed him. He didn't even know he was murdered.
THE WEIGHT OF SOULS combines two common plots: the murder mystery involving a secret club (a la THE LIAR SOCIETY) and paranormal girl meets boy and further discovers her powers (a la ANNA DRESSED IN BLOOD). It's a lot for a relatively slim novel, but Bryony Pearce makes it work. It helps that both plots work together to move each other along.
It also helps that Taylor is a terrific heroine. She's a girl at the end of her resources, but she's still fighting. She's trying to go it on her own, but it's no wonder that she doesn't trust her friends. After all, her own dad thinks she needs help. The scenes between Taylor and her dad are really tough, since he obviously loves her and wants to keep her safe and healthy, but he just doesn't get the truth. Those scenes ring painfully true in a way the bullying doesn't. (Although the bullying does result in a cameo by the world's best bus driver.)
I thought THE WEIGHT OF SOULS was a standalone, but there's definitely room for a sequel. In fact, there's room for a whole series if Pearce intends to write more. The secret society still exists, and there are more questions about the origins of Taylor's family curse than ever. I'd definitely be willing to read more books about Taylor chasing down murderers against the clock.