The Weight of Feathers is the story of two families of performers who hate one another and what happens when two of them fall in love.
Magical realism is a tough nut to crack. I either love it or hate it without any middle ground. I think that for me the whole story even the realistic parts have to have the feel of a fairy tale or the magical parts are a bit too jarring. The Weight of Feathers came in on the love side of the line.
It reminds me of that part in the movie Ever After: " A bird may love a fish, signore, but where would they live?" One family, the Palomas, are a family of "mermaids, " and the other, the Corbeaus are a family of "crows". The mermaids have scales to mark them as part of the family, and the crows have feathers mixed in with their hair. Both both of the families seem to live in a turn of the century circus lifestyle. There is some complicated history, and both families hate one another and believe that the other family is always hexing them.
Lace Paloma is one of many. Her Abuela rules their clan of mermaids with an iron fist and Lace has no thoughts of rebellion. Due to an accident, she is banished from her family and ends up trying to find her redemption with the Corbeaus. I found her a bit more abrasive than I usually like and some of her actions felt manipulative. However, however much I occasionally didn't like her, I understood where she was coming from and why she was doing it.
Cluck Corbeau is an outsider in a family that is on the outside. He is like the omega wolf in a pack. Last for everything, picked upon, and warned off everything. In a typical novel, this would make him a brooding, aggressive, and angry character. Cluck is anything but. He is gentle and shy, and I loved him. His close relationship with his grandfather is heartwarming to watch.
I thought that the use of language was particularly well done. Both families have a home language of their own. The Palomas speak Spanish, and the Corbeaus speak French. Their way of speaking among themselves sets them apart from the "regular" people that they perform for as well as from one another. However, the languages, like their respective talents are related and serve to highlight the similarities between the two families.
Star-crossed lover is a trope that I am attracted to while at the same time consistently disappointed by. Usually, at least one side of the households, if not both, is full of people who need to be cut out of the main characters lives for mental health reasons and I want to stage an intervention. In The Weight of Feathers, you understand Lace and Chucks need to remain with their families. They have grown up with no other sense of permanence, friends, or glimpse of another way of life. They also fear that giving up their families also means giving up what is special about themselves.
The Weight of Feathers is a beautifully written novel, and I will be looking into what else Anna-Marie McLemore writes.
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.