Title: The Weight of Feathers
Author: Anna-Marie McLemore
Publication: September 15th 2015 by Thomas Dunne
Genre: YA, Romance, Fantasy
Pages: 320 pages
Format: Library book
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.
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So here’s the alphabetical run down:
I absolutely loved the two main characters, Lace and Cluck. They are both so flawed in such real and tangible ways that you can’t help but empathize with them. The Romeo-and-Juliette-esque feud that their families have going on really sets the stage for some interesting secondary characters. Cluck’s grandfather is such a dynamic, layered character that you slowly get to know throughout the story. Without telling too much more of the storyline, it’s hard to get into details about other characters, but none of them felt lacking in any way. Every family member who was mentioned was given a history that was important to the plot.
I have loved this cover since the moment I picked up the book. The title “growing” out of the branches, the red tipped feathers and the silhouette of the couple at the top, I just love it. Honestly, it’s not bright or overly eye catching, but it fits the quirkiness of the story just perfectly.
If you are going into this book for the fantasy, you will probably be disappointed. The fantasy element doesn’t play a huge part in the book. Both families are highly superstitious and occasionally their superstitions seem to come true. The Palomas family are not actually mermaids, but the women do have scale-like birthmarks. The Corbeau family are not actually birds, but they do grow feathers in with their hair. Besides branding them as part of the family, these genetic abnormalities do not give them any magic. The story lends itself almost more towards a romance with some magical realism. This, however, did not disappoint me at all. I love a good romance with a little magic.
The story is quirky and whimsical in just the best way possible for me, but I can see where this would not suit everyone. The writing is absolutely superb. The detailed descriptions of how things felt, smelled, or tasted made it feel like I was being immersed in the book instead of just reading it. Also, the Palomas family is Spanish and the Corbeau family is French and there is quite a bit of both languages throughout the book, largely untranslated. Adding this detail, along with the amazing quality of the writing gave the book a maturity that sometimes seems lacking in YA fiction.
The plot twist is refreshingly unexpected. It may not be to everyone, but for me, I definitely didn’t see it coming and it completely changes the direction the story takes.
“In this light, standing like he was, he looked like an old sepia photograph, with his brown hair and eyes, his white shirt and brown pants. It made him seem printed instead of real, like Lace could reach out and crumple him, let the wind take him.”
“He left the taste of black salt on her mouth. The woody flavor of charcoal. The sugar and acid of citrus peel. The soft metal of iron.”
“His own words hovered in the air like dragonflies. Even when he went out the back door to hang up his shirt, he could hear the humming of their wings. He had no way of knowing if she wanted to swat them away or open her hands to let them land.”
I don’t give five hearts lightly. They are saved for only those books that have a certain epic quality to them. But looking back on this book, there is absolutely nothing I would change about it.