Friday, August 9, 2013

{Blog Tour: Guest Post + Giveaway + Excerpt} The Weight of Souls by Bryony Pearce

I am so excited to be hosting a stop on the blog tour for The Weight of Souls by Bryony Pearce, which was released by Strange Chemistry just this Tuesday. It's an exciting novel mixing urban fantasy with Egyptian mythology and ghosts, and it couldn't be a more exciting read. Today I've got a guest post from Bryony herself about how Egyptian mythology plays into The Weight of Souls. It's quite the fascinating read, especially if you love mythology like I do. :)

(Stick around past the post because I've also got an excerpt from the book AND how you can win a copy, plus a few other goodies! Hint: You might want to pay attention to the underlined sentence...)

About the book:

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?
Author info: Website | Twitter | Facebook
Buy the book: Barnes & Noble | Amazon | The Book Depository

Egyptian Mythology in The Weight of Souls

It appears to the casual observer that my writing varies hugely.  My first (unpublished) novel was set in a post-apocalyptic America.  My second novel (first published) Angel’s Fury, is magical realism, combining reincarnation and fallen angels.  My third novel, The Weight of Souls (published in August 2013) is set in modern day London, but combines Egyptian mythology and ghosts.  The book I am working on presently is based on Homer’s Odyssey and blends multi-universe theory and the Christian creation story.

On closer inspection it is clear that I have certain commonalities running through everything I write.  I like to explore the concepts of good and evil and, ultimately, redemption.  My main characters are all on the dark side, struggling with internal shadows in order to understand who they are and who they could be and my world-building always uses existing mythology.

I am a huge fan of the mythologies of different countries and using their myths as if real gives my work an epic element that I consider vital.

When I was coming up with The Weight of Souls I did not want to reuse Christianity as my focus (after all I didn’t want to write the same book twice), so I thought about other world myths I loved as a teenager.  I have been a huge fan of Mayan, Nordic, Greek, Roman and Egyptian mythologies and as a young adult I was particularly interested in the so-called ‘curse of Tutankhamen’, so it seemed natural that I chose Egyptian mythology as the basis for The Weight of Souls.

As with all world religions, Egyptian mythology is vast.  My interest however, was particularly focused on the lord of the dead lands, Anubis.

Anubis is the Greek name for a jackal headed god associated with mummification and the afterlife in ancient Egyptian religion.  He is the son of Set and the brother of Horus.  The oldest known mention of Anubis is in the old Kingdom Pyramid texts where he is associated with the burial of the pharaoh.  At this time he was the most important god of the dead, but he was replaced during the middle kingdom by Osiris.

He is also known as he who is in the place of embalming and, like many deities assumes different roles.  He also attends the weighing scale in the afterlife during the weighing of the heart.

The Ancient Egyptians believed that when you died, you traveled to the Hall of the Dead. There Anubis weighed your heart against the feather of Ma’at.  If your heart was lighter than the feather, you lived for ever.  If your heart was heavier than the feather then your soul was eaten by the demon Ammit, the Destroyer.

The distinctive black color of Anubis did not have to do with the jackal but with the color of rotting flesh and with the black soil of the Nile valley.  In later times, Anubis was merged with the Greek god Hermes.  The centre of this cult was in the "city of dogs".  Although the Greeks and Romans typically scorned Egypt's animal-headed gods (Anubis was known to be called "Barker" by the Greeks), Anubis was sometimes associated with Sirius in the heavens, and Plato has Socrates utter, "by the dog" (kai me ton kuna), "by the dog of Egypt", for emphasis.

So how did I use the story of Anubis in The Weight of Souls?  
First of all, I created a back story.  I used my interest in the curse of Tutankhamen to make up an expedition that took place 200 years ago to locate (and plunder) the tomb of Nefertiti (which remains undiscovered to this day).

The expedition finds the tomb, ignores the curse carved under an image of Anubis and breaks in.  What they find there is not a slow burning retribution like that of Tutankhamen, but their immediate slaughter.

As with my last book, Angel’s Fury, I took a world myth and played with it.  In my version of mythology Anubis has developed a rivalry with his brother, Horus.  The priests of Horus succeed in trapping him in Nefertiti’s tomb during the embalming process.  Anubis is unable to leave unless freed by certain, very specific circumstances.  Even when the tomb is opened by the Professor, the diminished god is unable to find his way out.  Driven to insanity and rage over the centuries of his incarceration, he kills the intruders.

At the last minute, however, Anubis allows a single worker to live: a Chinese archaeologist named Oh-Fa.  He permits him to go free on condition that he commits his family to the service of Anubis for the rest of time.    

Anubis wants to restore his strength.  With an army of murderers he will have enough damned souls to frighten the world into worship and ultimately pay Ammit for his restoration.  He needs only to wait for circumstances to bring about his freedom.

Oh-Fa is granted the power to see victims of murder.  When they tell him who killed them, he uses the Mark they pass onto his skin to call The Darkness, Anubis’ servant in the real world.   The Darkness then takes the murderers to Anubis.

My story is set in the modern day and is about one of Oh-Fa’s descendants, a half-Chinese Londoner who resents the power with which she has been cursed.

How else do I use the myth?  
Certain elements of the Anubis myth appear throughout the book, from the title, which obviously refers to Anubis’ role in the weighing of souls, to my use of dogs as a motif.  Often, when something important is about to happen, Taylor will hear dogs barking, or see dogs, or foxes (clearly a link to Anubis’ jackal-headed nature).  For example:  
"I took a backwards step and a dog howled in the distance. “I’d better go. Thanks.” The crew watched me retreat until I reached a rusted Toyota Corolla boosted up on some bricks. I was steeling myself to turn my back on the pack when quiet dropped like a guillotine and cut the howling dog off mid-note."

“I only had to pass nine houses by myself. I could hear the rumble of the underground line and a dog barking in someone’s garden. Then I heard those damn shoes...”
“Outside the church a dog yipped, but Tamsin never took her eyes off me.”
James and the rest of the gang who bully Taylor are often likened to dogs:
“Dog-like pants moistened my forehead as James leaned in, excited. He narrowed his eyes at Pete. “Do it,” he snapped.”

““You don’t have to,” I snarled. “You just point the dogs in the right direction. It’s always been that way.”
In the science museum Taylor and Justin visit the Egyptian section, there they notice that Anubis is missing from the display, as he has lost his place in the pantheon of Gods.

The Darkness itself is black as pitch and therefore representative of Anubis himself (who is black as rotting flesh, or the soil of the Nile valley).
“Pitch black surrounded me like oil in a barrel. I couldn’t breath, I could only whimper in bursts of terror that brought in no air, only soot, and filled my lungs, coating them with darkness, until there was only the dark outside and pitch inside and I couldn’t see a thing.”
When Taylor finally finds the souls that Anubis has incarcerated she finds them essentially in a state of living embalming.
“He was posed like a Greek statue, not a hair out of place. Only his eyes burned with hatred deeper and stronger than a black hole. Abruptly I jumped back, almost afraid of being sucked inside.
He didn’t chase after me. He was awake and I was certain he was aware, but something was holding him in place.”
The key theme of The Weight of Souls is redemption: the Weight of one’s soul.  I deal with murderers, with a girl who is losing her humanity, with a father who is losing his ability to offer love, with bullying school children, a controlling society and guilty act upon guilty act.

Anubis is key to my book, to the story, to the imagery and to the theme.  At the end of the day not one of the characters would have been considered light of soul; they would all have been eaten by Ammit. Throughout the book they work towards truth and redemption.   Not all of them get the chance.

And just to prove that my books really are connected, here is the final paragraph of Angel’s Fury (pre-Epilogue).
For long moments I stared at the sky; if Azael really was joining his brother, tonight it would be changed.  Bravely I weaved my fingers through Seth’s.  Now we had to go and tell the others what happened.  Somehow we’d have to find out which of them needed to forgive and which needed forgiveness.  We’d finally have to hear one another’s stories.  Then, somehow, we’d have to track down the rest of Shemhazai’s children and explain it all to them.  Explain that hatred and pain led to an endless cycle that could only be broken in one way: by redemption.


In celebration of the blog tour, Bryony is giving away a HUGE prize! It includes a signed copy of The Weight of Souls, a signed WoS postcard, a signed copy of her first, out of print, novel Angel's Fury, a Ouija board necklace, and a handmade ghost charm (which is absolutely adorable--I have one, and I love it!) See? To enter, you have to answer a few questions from the tour posts. Hence why I called your attention to that underlined sentence. :) So head on over to Bryony's site to find the rest of the information!


And finally, I have a excerpt from the book to share with you! (I know, it's a lot of stuff, right?)

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