Book Review: The Weight of Feathers
Published By: Thomas Dunne
Publication Date: September 15, 2015
Page Count: 320
Source: Kindly Provided by Publisher
Audience: Young Adult - Magical Realism
The Weight of Feathers is a beautiful tale full of magical realism and contemporary issues. I was instantly drawn to this one the moment I saw the cover and I have been anxiously checking my mailbox waiting on my copy from the publisher to arrive. The moment this one was in my hands, I began to read, devouring every sentence as if it were creme brûlée. In many ways this novel mirrors my favorite desert. On the surface it is a forbidden romance, but when you crack the exterior, there is so much more lurking below. This is an immensely addicting read that has a literary flair that is all too often absent from young adult literature. The use of language, symbolism, and allusion would be welcome in any literature class.
The Palomas and The Corbeaus have been fighting for years. Each side thinks they know what started the feud and each side faults the other for its origins, but as is often the case, neither family truly understands the other. The Palomas have women that are born to swim; females are marked with a special birthmark that identifies them as a siren. They use their talents to attract tourists in a mermaid sideshow of sorts - albeit a complex and magical one. The Corbeaus also have a show for tourists, but rather than using the waters, they use the highest tree branches to show off their grace and poise. Rumor has it that The Corbeaus are a race directly descended from crows. Superstitions swirl about the families and conflict arises when they are in the same towns performing, but everything reaches an apex on the night of a town disaster on one of their tour stops. Lace Paloma is saved by Cluck Corbeau and a chain of events that neither could have predicted is unleashed upon the two star-crossed youths.
I loved the magical realism elements of this novel. It is mentioned that perhaps the scale like birthmarks and the feathers are simply random acts of biological mutations, but I prefer to believe that each family has a bit of magic. There are some moments when the magic outweighs the realism, but I liked that the novel begins with a more contemporary spin with hints of something mystical. It made me want more from the plot and the characters which kept me hooked.
In addition to the intensely atmospheric writing and the magical realism elements, I loved the diversity of these characters. Sure, there family's trait set them apart, but there are also Spanish and French influences. I found keeping Google translate handy was immensely helpful and allowed for a more enriching reading experience.
The Weight of Feathers is one of the most creative novels I have had the pleasure of reading. Anna-Marie McLemore has certainly broken the mold with this debut. This one is a 2015 favorite and I highly recommend it.
One Last Gripe: I was frustrated by the way Cluck's mother treated him.
Favorite Thing About This Book: The imagery and use of language is breathtaking and richly detailed.
First Sentence: The feathers were Lace's first warning.
Favorite Character: Lace
Least Favorite Character: Cluck's older brother
For twenty years, the Palomas and the Corbeaus have been rivals and enemies, locked in an escalating feud for over a generation. Both families make their living as traveling performers in competing shows—the Palomas swimming in mermaid exhibitions, the Corbeaus, former tightrope walkers, performing in the tallest trees they can find.
Lace Paloma may be new to her family’s show, but she knows as well as anyone that the Corbeaus are pure magia negra, black magic from the devil himself. Simply touching one could mean death, and she's been taught from birth to keep away. But when disaster strikes the small town where both families are performing, it’s a Corbeau boy, Cluck, who saves Lace’s life. And his touch immerses her in the world of the Corbeaus, where falling for him could turn his own family against him, and one misstep can be just as dangerous on the ground as it is in the trees.
Beautifully written, and richly imaginative, The Weight of Feathers is an utterly captivating young adult novel by a talented new voice.