Title: The Weight of Feathers
Author: Anna-Marie McLemore
Publication: September 1st 2015 by St. Martin’s Griffin
Format: Advance Reading Copy
Source: Provided by the publisher via NetGalley
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.
I received a digital ARC of this book from St. Martin’s Press via NetGalley for my participation in this blog tour. By no means have my review been affected and/or influenced.
The Weight of Feathers is an exceptional read. It’s rare a find, I tell you.
The mention of “family rivalry” made me expect a story with a Romeo and Juliet-esque context but The Weight of Feathers is its own story. Cluck is a Corbeau, a family of travelling winged performers, while Lace is a Paloma sirena. The Corbeaus and the Palomas have been feuding over the years with a history of sabotage, bad rumors and death. Without knowing the each other’s real identity, a sudden spark formed between Lace and Cluck. But the undiscovered truth won’t stay hidden. Lace learns about Cluck being a Corbeau after an incident that changes their lives.
I was captivated by the story’s originality. It had a subtle hint of fantasy that added more charm to its own beauty. I’m also a fan of the writing style. I didn’t mind that it was narrated in 3rd person with alternating POVs, it was easy to follow and very engaging. I love the creativity with the chapter titles too. You’ll notice that if the chapter is in Lace’s POV, the title is in Spanish and French in Cluck’s. How cool is that?
Another are the characters that were new to me. Each of them have their own identity. They stood out and gave a lasting impression about that author’s character writing. I just love the variety of characters, I have those that I hate, I feel sorry for, and of course, those that I love.
This book tugged at my heartstrings. I stopped reading a couple of times just to gather my feels (not a bad thing). I felt for both Lace and Cluck. I rooted for them the whole time. Sometimes when they fight, I took sides and when they kiss, I just die. They’re one of the many reasons why really enjoyed this book.
Experience forbidden romance, surprising plot twist and a touch of magic with The Weight of Feathers, I highly recommend -no further comments. (Well, except if you want to fangirl over this book I might have a lot more to say!)
THE WEIGHT OF FEATHERS
by Anna-Marie McLemore
Copyright © 2015 by the author and reprinted by permission of Thomas Dunne Books / St. Martin’s Griffin
The feathers were Lace’s ﬁrst warning. They showed up between suitcases, in the trunk of her father’s station wagon, on the handles of came-with-the-car ﬁrst-aid kits so old the gauze had yellowed. They snagged on antennas, turning the local stations to static.
Lace’s mother found a feather in with the family’s costumes the day they crossed into Almendro, a town named for almond ﬁelds that once ﬁlled the air with the scent of sugary blossoms and bitter wood. But over the last few decades an adhesive plant had bought out the farms that could not survive the droughts, and the acres of almonds dwindled to a couple of orchards on the edge of town.
The wisp of that black feather caught on a cluster of sequins. Lace knew from the set to her mother’s eyes that she’d throw the whole mermaid tail in a bucket and burn it, elastane and all.
Lace grabbed the tail and held on. If her mother burned it, it would take Lace and her great-aunt at least a week to remake it. Tía Lora’s hands were growing stiff, and Lace’s were new and slow.
Her mother tried to pull the tail from her grip, but Lace balled the fabric in her hands.
“Let go,” her mother warned.
“It’s one feather.” Lace dug in her ﬁngers. “It’s not them.” Lace knew the danger of touching a Corbeau. Her abuela said she’d be better off petting a rattlesnake. But these feathers were not the Corbeaus’ skin. They didn’t hold the same poison as a Corbeau’s body.
“It’s cursed,” her mother said. One hard tug, and she won. She threw the costume tail into a bucket and lit it. The metal pail grew hot as a stove. The fumes off the melting sequins stung Lace’s throat.
“Did you have to burn the whole thing?” she asked.
“Better safe, mija,” her mother said, wetting down the undergrowth with day-old aguas frescas so the brush wouldn’t catch.
They could have cleaned the tail, blessed it, stripped away the feather’s touch. Burning it only gave the Corbeaus more power. Those feathers already had such weight. The ﬁre in the pail was an admission that, against them, Lace’s family had no guard.
Before Lace was born, the Palomas and the Corbeaus had just been competing acts, two of the only shows left that bothered with the Central Valley’s smallest towns. Back then it was just business, not hate. Even now Lace’s family sometimes ended up in the same town with a band of traveling singers or acrobats, and there were no ﬁghts, no blood. Only the wordless agreement that each of them were there to survive, and no grudges after. Every fall when the show season ended, Lace’s aunts swapped hot-plate recipes with a trio of trapeze artists. Her father traded homeschooling lesson plans with a troupe of Georgian folk dancers.
The Corbeaus never traded anything with anyone. They shared nothing, took nothing. They kept to themselves, only straying from the cheapest motel in town to give one of Lace’s cousins a black eye, or leave a dead ﬁsh at the riverbank. Lace and Martha found the last one, its eye shining like a wet marble.
Before Lace was born, these were bloodless threats, ways the Corbeaus tried to rattle her family before their shows. Now every Paloma knew there was nothing the Corbeaus wouldn’t do.
Lace’s mother watched the elastane threads curl inside a shell of ﬂame. “They’re coming,” she said.
“Did you think they wouldn’t?” Lace asked. Her mother smiled. “I can hope, can’t I?”
She could hope all she wanted. The Corbeaus wouldn’t give up the crowds that came with Almendro’s annual festival. So many tourists, all so eager to ﬁll their scrapbooks. That meant two weeks in Almendro. Two weeks when the younger Paloma men hardened their ﬁsts, and their mothers prayed they didn’t come home with broken ribs.
Lace’s grandmother set the schedule each year, and no one spoke up against Abuela. If they ever did, she’d pack their bags for them. Lace had watched Abuela cram her cousin Licha’s things into a suitcase, clearing her perfumes and lipsticks off the motel dresser with one sweep of her arm. When Lace visited her in Visalia and they went swimming, Licha’s two-piece showed that her escamas, the birthmarks that branded her a Paloma, had disappeared.
Lace’s mother taught her that those birthmarks kept them safe from the Corbeaus’ feathers. That family was el Diablo on earth, with dark wings strapped to their bodies, French on their tongues, a sprinkling of gypsy blood. When Lace slept, they went with her, living in nightmares made of a thousand wings.
Another black feather swirled on a downdraft. Lace watched it spin and fall. It settled in her hair, its slight weight like a moth’s feet.
Her mother snatched it off Lace’s head. “¡Madre mía!” she cried, and threw it into the ﬂames.
Lace’s cousins said the Corbeaus grew black feathers right out of their heads, like hair. She never believed it. It was another rumor that strengthened the Corbeaus’ place in their nightmares. But the truth, that wind pulled feathers off the wings they wore as costumes, wasn’t a strong enough warning to keep Paloma children from the woods.
“La magia negra,” her mother said. She always called those feathers black magic.
The ﬁre dimmed to embers. Lace’s mother gave the pail a hard kick. It tumbled down the bank and into the river, the hot metal hissing and sinking.
“Let them drown,” her mother said, and the last of the rim vanished.
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