Books, YA Fiction

The Weight of Feathers, by Anna-Marie McLemore


4.5 Stars

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.

This isn’t what I normally read, which is why I hesitate to recommend it to others, but surprisingly, I liked it. Really liked it, enough to put aside preparing for finals in order to finish it, which now that I think about, may not have been the best life choice. Anyway, let me make clear to you particularly why I liked this book.

The Weight of Feathers is a Romeo and Juliet-like story, where Lace Paloma and Cluck Corbeau are caught in the middle of a bitter feud between their families, where each blames the other for a disaster 20 years ago resulting in a death from both families. This concept isn’t particularly original, which is why I wavered on picking this up in the first place, but McLemore makes up for it with fantastic prose and beautiful characters.

The writing is one of the strongest points in this novel, with a beautiful writing style reminiscent of The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender, another feather-themed, family-based story. McLemore crafts her story with beautiful precision so that the mood created is perfectly suited to the book. The inclusion of many Spanish and French words only added to the beauty of the writing, and although I generally feel that a third-person POV takes away from involvement in the story, this wasn’t a problem here.

The other major strength is the characters, and as I am a character-based reader, this is a major sticking point for me. On one side, we have Lace Paloma, a mermaid for the Palomas’ performances, until a disaster gets her kicked out of the family and looking to the Corbeaus for a chance at redemption. She’s strong, but feminine, and although not kick-ass at all, she has a sort of mental strength that made me grow to adore her. Her love for her family and need to belong somewhere made her an extremely likable and flawed character.

My favorite character was most definitely Cluck(yes, Cluck) Corbeau, an outcast in his own family, bullied and hated by his own brother and mother. Cluck is very emotionally and physically damaged, but still maintains a charm that make you love him in a lost-puppy sort of way. His relationships with his family, and his one positive relationship with his grandfather, are fascinating to read about.

The other side characters are numerous and not as well developed, but the strong main characters more than make up for it.

However, this book is far from perfect, and I understand that, despite what my rating might suggest. My main problem with this novel lies with the fantasy elements and the setting. The Weight of Feathers is a fantasy novel, and the main “fantasy” thing in this book is the fact that the Corbeaus have feathers growing out of their head under their hair and the Palomas have scales. We never really get any explanations for this phenomena, and it also serves no purpose other than to identify each member of a family. There’s also this concept of “black magic” each family thinks the other possesses, but this makes only one appearance and is just as unexplained and pertinent as the birthmarks. As this novel takes place in modern day, I feel this book would have done much better without the magic to make it more realistic and believable. I will admit, however, that it gives the whole book a rather ethereal feel to it.

The romance was the main focus of the novel, other than the feud between the families, and I did like it. It was a little cheesy for my taste, so I would not recommend this book if you are not a fan of romance. I however, still enjoyed it immensely.

Overall, The Weight of Feathers is a beautifully written and enjoyable novel if you are in the mood of a sweet but powerful romance. I definitely liked it, and will be on the lookout for more of McLemore’s works.