September 15, 2015
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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.
"A bird may love a fish but where would they build a home together?”
-Fiddler on the Roof
I almost didn't request The Weight of Feathers because it was the end of August and I had several September books to review. I could not pass it up though. (it had been on my to-read list for a while and then glimpses of reviews like this one how could I not read it?).
The quote on the cover, from An Ember in the Ashes author Sabaa Tahir, calls The Weight of Feathers, "as captivating as The Night Circus." I have read what seems like a lot of books that are somehow likened to The Night Circus. This is the first one where I really came to that conclusion, that feeling, all on my own. Something about the narration, about the story from the very start gives that magical, captivating feeling.
From the very first page you are in this story.
While it does have some elements of magical realism - playing into the families' acts, their talents and appearances - it is more like a contemporary romance than a fantasy tale.
The Weight of Feathers is a what a lot of 'warring families,' 'Romeo-and-Juliet romance,' books try to be. The feud between the families is something bigger than the characters. Who or what started it and what the why even was, are forgotten. The Palomas know the Corbeaus are evil and dangerous and the Corbeaus know the Palomas are the wrong, dangerous ones.
It is the sort of rivalry and feud that you don't question. Yet, there is understandable worry, enough threat that you can understand the fear and why they keep their distance.
It also makes for a fantastic foundation for Lace and Cluck, him saving her life and all that follows. You feel that threat that they feel, the fear of what the other could do to them, what could happen to them, and what their families would think and do. This isn't a story where you think they're foolish or naive to worry over their families finding out.
From the black magic to physical violence to banishment, there's a lot of potential for bad.
But, oh, does Anna-Marie McLemore make me love then. They're called Lace and Cluck for goodness sake and even that is somehow perfect. From their initial meeting to why they see each other again, it is full of creativity, chemistry, intrigue, humor, tension and something very, very special. (I want to say more, be more specific but that would involve spoilers and I am not doing that to you with this one; it would be incredibly unfair.)
This book has beautiful writing. Some books you marvel over the world and the characters the author created. This is one of those books. Even better, it's one of the books where I look at the writing, the phrasing, the descriptions, the metaphors and wonder how someone thinks, let alone writes like that.
From the description of the Paloma's mermaid tales:
"They all wore tails bright as tissue paper flowers. Butter yellow. Aqua and teal. The orange of cherry brandy roses. The flick of their fins looked like hard candy skipping across the lake." pg 14to statements that are succinct, but so impactful
"...had both been beaten by [someone] who decided that the only things worth less than their souls were their bodies." pg 285to the one that is probably my favorite line in the book, but may be (?) spoilery:
mouseover for itI absolutely adore McLemore's writing, the characters she's created, their relationships - both between individuals and the family units - the magic and lore and everything that happens. This is a book I am not going to forget and I absolutely want to read more from this debut author.
digital copy received for review, from publisher, via NetGalley