The Weight of Feathers by Anna-Marie McLemore
Publication Date: September 15th 2015 by Thomas Dunne
Rating: 4 Stars
Genre: Young Adult, Magical Realism, Retelling.
Find: Goodreads | Amazon | Waterstones
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.
The Weight of Feathers is an imaginative re-telling of one of the most famous love stories of all time, Romeo and Juliet. The book utilises the dual narrative prose as a means of exploring the lives of two individuals hailing from rivaling family’s. It is through them we get to learn about the history of this long lasting feud and how a simple rivalry has slowly turned into pure hatred over the years.
I’ve said this before but I absolutely love a dual narrative and what made this method so engaging in The Weight of Feathers is this mix of Spanish and French language and cultures. At the beginning of each chapter we are treated to a French or Spanish quote. These quotes are an excellent way of enhancing the mysticism and the gentle flow of the writing and it also makes that transition from one perspective to the other a lot clearer.
What about our narrators? I can safely say I enjoyed reading both perspectives on the events of the book and I loved the character insights we are treated to. Both Cluck and Lace are quiet characters. They tend to be overshadowed by other members of their family but play an important role in the preparation and presentation of each family show. The two are very loyal to their family despite the mistreatment they face, especially with regards to the treatment Cluck receives as he suffers from both the physical and emotional abuse instigated by his own mother and brother. This abuse is no secret but they all turn a blind eye to this treatment. The only one that stands by Cluck and really nurtures him is his grandfather and I loved exploring the connection between these two souls.
Lace doesn’t receive such harsh treatment but she is often cast aside in favour of her older cousins. Her family’s treatment of her following the events that ultimately bring Lace and Cluck together was appalling as those superstitions regarding their rival’s leads to her alienation from the family.
I loved the connection between Cluck and Lace. The book doesn’t rush in to their relationship and the progression of the relationship felt very natural and genuine. The romance isn’t shoved in our faces and is subtlety woven into the story as the two begin to see past the hatred that fuels the rivalry and break down the superstitions that follow them. The heart of this story is not in the romance, it’s in the journey of Cluck and Lace learning to break away from the ties that bind them to their family and following their own path.
The writing in this book is mesmerising and addictive. I felt like I was stepping in to a dream. The imagery is vivid and the concept is definitely original. The only downside is that it took a while for me to understand the magic and superstitions but once things clicked together it made the journey all the more interesting.
For fans of magical realism I would definitely recommend you pick up this book. From the dreamlike writing, to the relationship between Cluck and Lace, and the hatred between these two families, The Weight of Feathers takes you on one captivating journey.