The Weight of a Soul
By Elizabeth Tammi
Release Date: December 3rd 2019
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Historical Fiction
When Lena’s younger sister Fressa is found dead, their whole Viking clan mourns—but it is Lena alone who never recovers. Fressa is the sister that should’ve lived, and Lena cannot rest until she knows exactly what killed Fressa and why—and how to bring her back. She strikes a dark deal with Hela, the Norse goddess of death, and begins a new double life to save her sister.
But as Lena gets closer to bringing Fressa back, she dredges up dangerous discoveries about her own family, and finds herself in the middle of a devastating plan to spur Ragnarök –a deadly chain of events leading to total world destruction.
Still, with her sister’s life in the balance, Lena is willing to risk it all. She’s willing to kill. How far will she go before the darkness consumes her?
“Knowing the basics of Viking mythology/lore.”
I ended up getting the idea for this story in a pretty convenient place—in class! Even though I’ve been intrigued by Norse mythology and Viking history for quite some years, it wasn’t until I had formal instruction in it that things started to click into place. That made research fairly opportune, because I had already done so much reading and writing on it for a graded essay. I’m an American university student, but in 2018 I was able to spend two terms at Oxford in the United Kingdom studying history and writing as a visiting international student. One week, my tutor assigned a unit in Viking history—I read just about everything I could find on the “Viking Age” in the Radcliffe Camera and wrote an essay about the impact of their raids. After discussing the essay in my tutorial with my professor, I felt reaffirmed in my interest in this era.
The characters and storyline for The Weight of a Soul followed shortly after. In terms of Norse mythology, this isn’t a direct retelling or reimagining of any existing myth (unlike my debut novel, “Outrun the Wind”, which is a reimagining of the story of Atalanta from Greek mythology). The gods exist and inform the culture in which this story’s village resides, but they also don’t have enormous roles or “screen time”. Thankfully, there’s a wealth of literature and retellings of Norse myths out there, and I already knew the basics just from colloquial knowledge and, of course, from loving the Magnus Chase trilogy by Rick Riordan as a teenager. But I did read excerpts from the Prose and Poetic Eddas to get a better sense of the personalities and priorities of some of my story’s main players.
I think the main myth from the Norse that influenced this story was definitely Baldr. He was the god of light, and when he died, he was mourned intensely—even to the point where Hela struck a bargain. She would release his soul if every living being wept for him, and all did, excepting one single giantess (who some allege was disguised Loki). The deal fell through, but something about this story—particularly Hela’s apparent willingness to strike this deal, and to keep it to the strictest of terms—resonated with me, and definitely inspired moments in Lena’s journey in The Weight of a Soul.
Above all, I do want to emphasize that this story is labelled as historical fantasy—with a huge emphasis on fantasy. I know there are definitely some anachronisms present in this book, and though I tried to incorporate and understand as much about the time period’s history and mythos as I could, there is simply too much left unknown by this largely illiterate culture, and with so much inconclusiveness and contradiction, I oftentimes followed where I wanted the story to go, and made the history and mythology bend to meet that. I think that’s mythology’s best quality, though—its fluid and slippery nature make it so exciting to return to time and time again as an author, and I love that it’s something that’s been passed down through so many generations, but also has a living, breathing aspect that allows for new growth and possibilities.
About the Author
Elizabeth Tammi was born in California and grew up in Florida, but is currently double-majoring in Creative Writing and Journalism as an undergraduate at Mercer University in Georgia. When she’s not writing, you can probably find Elizabeth at work for her university’s newspaper and literary magazine. Her other interests include traveling, caffeinated beverages, and mythology. You can find Elizabeth online on Tumblr at (annabethisterrified), Twitter at (@ElizabethTammi), Instagram at (elizabeth_tammi), and at elizabethtammi.com.
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