Monday, February 1, 2016

The weight of feathers by Anna-Marie McLemore

For as long as Lace can remember her family, the Palomas, have loathed and hated the Corbeau family. She knows how it started, the death of one of the Palomas, and each season when the families come together there are petty fights and squabbles between the clans.  But Lace knows it is their fault and that the feud only continues because of the regular acts on the part of the Corbeaus.  Cluck also knows who started the feud, like any good Corbeau he knows it was the Palomas that started the feud and they must pay, even if he is not the one who usually takes part in the fighting.  Neither Lace nor Cluck would dream of talking to a member of the other family - until a fate filled night when a siren pierces the air and a deadly rain falls across the town.  Lace is badly injured and is left with a taint that drives her from her family and into the path of Cluck and the rest of the Corbeaus.  

It is a foreign world in more ways than one, the Corbeaus show is in the tree tops while the Palomas flit through the water, the danger to the Corbeaus is slippery and treacerous branches, while the Corbeaus must watch for nets in the water that can suck the unwary into a watery grave.  As she learns more about the Corbeaus Lace buries who she really is behind half truths and avoided answers, because if Cluck figures out who she really is then all bets are off and she may never be able to return to her own family.  But secerts are difficult to keep, even secrets that everyone seems to know, because a secret always wants to come out and be free.  As Lace fights against decades of hate and prejudice she can only hope that her developing feelings for Cluck will help both of their families break free of the hate that drives them and keeps them apart.

The weight of feathers is a difficult book to review without giving away too much of what happens, the little twists and turns that make the story so interesting and engaging.  This is not the kind of book that I would normally read, the whole idea of star crossed lovers like Romeo and Juliet just seems so far fetched in a modern world - but Anna-Marie McLemore has taken that theme and created a rich and wonderful world that sucked me in from the first chapter and refused to let go until I had reached the end of this chapter in the lives of the Palomas and Corbeaus.  It seems to start simply enough, rival families of performers that come to the same town each year, rubbing open the wounds from years past on both sides.  Each family has their own special performances, and their own secrets - for Palomas the birthmarks like fish scales, and for the Corbeaus the feathers that grow from their hair.  There are secrets and magic in both their families, and through Lace and Cluck we discover the multifaceted world of complicated relationships, petty acts of vandalism against each family that have the potential to be deadly, and the ignorant bliss of not knowing that someone is your mortal enemy simply because of the family they were born into.

Lace is in many ways the main character of the novel, with Cluck being the (slightly) more secondary character.  Their worlds are strictly controlled by the matriarchs of their families, and while they are both reaching adulthood they are both very much children within their families, trusted to do their part and no more.  When Lace is forced out of the family her reaction is that of a child seeking forgiveness so she can return to her family, but over time she develops a greater understanding of the world around her - and she comes to understand what love is and what it can drive people to do.  In some places the story was a little disjointed and felt a little less polished than I was expecting, but this is a startlingly original story that takes something that was rather far fetched and dull (Romeo and Juliet) and turns it into a modern story in a world where magic is possible.  It will be interesting to see how McLemore follows on from this amazing debut novel.

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Reviewed by Brilla

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