The Weight of Feathers

The Weight of Feathers

4.6 9
by Anna-Marie McLemore
     
 

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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

Overview

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, Anna-Marie McLemore's The Weight of Feathers is an utterly captivating young adult novel by a talented new voice.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
06/29/2015
Like all Paloma girls, Lace was born with small escalas decorating her body, “a sprinkling of scales off a pale fish, a gift from the river goddess Apanchanej.” Life revolves around performing as sirenas in her itinerant family’s popular mermaid show, a tourist attraction rivaled only by that of their nemesis family, the Corbeaus, who have feathers instead of scales, and dance high in the trees. Superstition and a generations-old feud fuel hatred between the talented families, and when Cluck, a Corbeau, saves Lace during a chemical rainstorm caused by a nearby adhesive manufacturing plant, he unwittingly dooms Lace’s future with her family. McLemore’s prose is ethereal and beguiling, the third-person narration inflected with Spanish and French words and phrases that reflect the non-magical aspects of the Paloma and Corbeau heritage. The enchanting setup and the forbidden romance that blooms between these two outcasts will quickly draw readers in, along with the steady unspooling of the families’ history and mutual suspicions in this promising first novel. Ages 14–up. Agent: Taylor Martindale, Full Circle Literary. (Sept.)
From the Publisher

“Readers beguiled by the languorous language-a striking mix of French and Spanish phrases, wry colloquialism, lush imagery, and elevated syntax-will find themselves falling under its spell. The third-person narration alternates between Lace and Cluck, doling out twists and building to a satisfying, romantic conclusion. A contemporary, magical take on an ever compelling theme.” —Kirkus Reviews

“A gripping, beautifully rendered story with prose reminiscent of Eva Luna and a fantastical world as captivating as that of The Night Circus.” —Sabaa Tahir, author of An Ember in the Ashes

“Draws us into a world that's magical but still feels very, very real. The writing is beautiful, fluid, lyrical. I never wanted this story to end.” —Robin Talley, author of Lies We Tell Ourselves

“A gorgeous debut, lush and heart-tuggingly romantic, full of bittersweet magic.” —Jessica Spotswood, author of The Cahill Witch Chronicles

“An unmissable story... Will leave you enchanted till the last page. Beautiful.” —Emery Lord, author of Open Road Summer

“A dazzling debut full of imaginative flair, long-buried secrets, and hypnotic power. It drew me in with its gorgeous passages and left me reeling with a fantastical story about love and struggling against the confines of family and creating a life all your own.

” —Nova Ren Suma, author of The Walls Around Us and Imaginary Girls

School Library Journal
09/01/2015
Gr 7 Up—For almost an entire generation, the Palomas and the Corbeaus have been rivals in a steadily escalating feud that is fueled by hearsay and fantasized superstitions. Both families' livelihood is dependent on their itinerant performances, from one town to the next, and both family shows have turned competitive, with the Corbeaus performing tightropelike acts in the trees and the Palomas presenting mermaid exhibitions in the natural waterways. Members of the families are born with particular marks that brand them according to their lineage. The Corbeaus have a patch of feathers at the base of their hairline, and the Palomas have a series of patterned scales. No Paloma, under any circumstance, should dare touch a Corbeau, or vice versa, for fear that this simple act could cause a potentially fatal catastrophe. This mandate does not keep Lucien "Cluck" Corbeau from rescuing Lace Paloma from a chemical disaster. That fateful moment spurred the beginnings of their star-crossed romance and forever changes the lives of the two clans. In this tale of magical realism, the magic is so deftly woven into the fabric of the story, readers might overlook the more subtle moments. VERDICT Told with skillful poetic nuances, this Romeo-and-Juliet story of forbidden love will entice fans of Maggie Stiefvater's "Raven Cycle" (Scholastic) who wished for a little more romance.—Sabrina Carnesi, Crittenden Middle School, Newport News, VA
Kirkus Reviews
2015-05-12
The Palomas and the Corbeaus are more than traveling circus performers; the two families have magical bloodlines, and as with all magical acts, they have their secrets. The white-scaled Palomas bury their secrets deep underwater; the black-feathered Corbeaus send them flying up to the highest boughs. One thing that's not a secret: how much these two families hate each other. Lace Paloma and Cluck Corbeau first meet when she saves him from a beating at the hands of her cousins. After a chemical-rain disaster, Cluck repays the favor but ends up accidentally binding Lace to him and causing her exile from her family. Hoping to cleanse herself of Corbeau "black magic," she ends up working for them, growing close to the deformed, scarred Cluck. The fabric of lies woven by both their families becomes unraveled, untangling long-standing myths as their own stories entwine. It seems Lace and Cluck are destined to repeat history when an unlikely event leads to answers to questions long left open. Slow momentum early on makes it hard to form attachments to the characters, but readers beguiled by the languorous language—a striking mix of French and Spanish phrases, wry colloquialism, lush imagery, and elevated syntax—will find themselves falling under its spell. The third-person narration alternates between Lace and Cluck, doling out twists and building to a satisfying, romantic conclusion. A contemporary, magical take on an ever compelling theme. (Urban fantasy. 14 & up)

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781250058652
Publisher:
St. Martin's Press
Publication date:
09/15/2015
Pages:
320
Sales rank:
52,525
Product dimensions:
5.60(w) x 8.40(h) x 1.20(d)
Lexile:
HL730L (what's this?)
Age Range:
14 - 17 Years

Read an Excerpt

The Weight of Feathers


By Anna-Marie McLemore

St. Martin's Press

Copyright © 2015 Anna-Marie McLemore
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4668-7323-0



CHAPTER 1

Una golondrina no hace verano.

One swallow does not make a summer.

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.

Her mother spit out the words like a bad taste, but Lace couldn't blame her. The Corbeaus would've let a Paloma drown any day. Eight years ago, Lace's older cousin Magdalena got caught in a fishing net the Corbeaus had set in the lake. She would've drowned if her novio had not seen her stuck in the nylon threads and pulled her out of the water, half the net still tangled around her costume tail.

The Corbeaus had been setting nets to trip them up for years, and the sirenas learned to spot them and get out of them, the same as colanders. But the one that got Magdalena was nylon, not rope. The dark water made those thin threads and tight knots invisible.

Lace's father had filed a police report about what happened to Magdalena. The report went nowhere, but it had scared the Corbeaus off nylon nets ever since.

Lace went to break the news about the tail to her great-aunt, but Tía Lora had already seen. Lace found her watching from the motel window.

"Which one?" Tía Lora asked.

"The blue one," Lace said. "One of the new ones." She waited for sadness to wash over her great-aunt's face.

Tía Lora showed little more than a wince. It crept into the muscles around her mouth, but barely reached her eyes. "It's okay. We'll make another."

She accepted it with such quiet. This was her work, every stitch born from the pain in her fingers. Lace could help, but she didn't have Tía Lora's years and instinct. Even with her eyes going, Lora Paloma's sewing by touch came out better than Lace's by sight.

They were lucky Tía Lora had stayed with them. No one had been so good with the costumes since Lace's great-grandmother died. Four years before Lace was born, Tía Lora had every reason to leave. The Corbeaus had killed her husband, the man who had given her his name and made her a Paloma.

But Tía Lora stayed, and Lace's grandmother made sure the whole family knew they would not leave her alone and widowed by Corbeau hands. That Tía Lora had no Paloma blood meant nothing. The Paloma name she had fastened to herself on her wedding day was still hers.

"Lo siento," Lace told her great-aunt.

"I'm used to it." Tía Lora turned her face from the window and smiled. Light gilded her brown cheek. "Every year your abuela brings us back here and pretends we can keep the feathers away."

Lace gave her great-aunt a smile back. A few weeks earlier, Lace's grandmother had drawn the family's route on an age-softened map of California, announcing they would set up in Almendro even earlier this year.

Now Abuela sat in the motel parking lot with her coffee, smug smile ready to greet the Corbeaus' Shasta trailers when they realized the Palomas were already here.

What she was hoping for, waiting out there with her Styrofoam cup of Folgers and powdered creamer, Lace didn't know. A good brawl, maybe, between the Corbeau men and Lace's cousins. A shouting match, Abuela screaming in Spanish, Nicole Corbeau shrieking in French.

Either way, her grandmother was disappointed. Lace's cousin Matías brought her the news that instead of taking a block of rooms at the River Fork, the Corbeaus had rented a run-down house, like they knew the Palomas had gotten ahead of them.

"Where?" Abuela demanded.

Matías told her it was somewhere near the campground, if he could even call it that. Five years ago the state had cut the funding to keep it up. Now it was just a cluster of fire pits, the root growth of porcelain vine and wild roses turning over the earth.

"At least they'll be out of the way," Lace said.

Matías folded his arms. "I don't know what they're doing. That house is only half as big as they need for all of them."

"I bet they make their children sleep outside," Abuela said. "Los gitanos and their trailers."

Abuela drained the last of her coffee and crushed the cup in her hand. She tossed it over her shoulder, knowing Lace would throw it out.

This was her grandmother's pride. If she wanted Lace's father and uncles to make the aguas frescas, she would pelt them with lemons until the mesh bag was empty. Instead of asking for la Biblia from her trunk, her brown, ring-covered hand pointed until the nearest grandchild obeyed.

Lace bent toward the asphalt. If Abuela left her coffee cup on the ground, any Paloma daughter knew enough to pick it up.

CHAPTER 2

Volez de ses propres ailes.

Fly with your own wings.


A knock shook the trailer door.

"Ten minutes," Cluck said, scrambling to replace a broken wire. During the season, fixing wings was a full-time job. His mother's qu'il pleuve ou qu'il vente policy meant they performed through every summer storm, rain damaging the feathers and wind warping the frames.

"Five," his mother said. Her shoes crunched the ground outside.

He tied his hair back. Pépère hated when he did that. He thought ponytails were odd on both boys and girls, something strange and American. He'd fluff the back of Cluck's hair with his hand and say, "What is this?"

But Pépère was already down at the show site, checking Cluck's work. Without the wings, there was no show.

Chemical smells blew in through the window. Boiling water. Rusted metal. Hot adhesive in the nearby plant's mixing tanks. Reminders that his grandfather used to check the temperature and pressure gauges, the pipe-washing logs, the vent gas scrubbers.

That was twenty years ago. Now the plant ran so hot the smell of plastic and ash blew clear to the highway. One day the whole system would overheat and shut down like a fried car engine, his grandfather said. The owners hadn't replaced the old overflow tank, just to save a hundred thousand dollars. And the plant's trainings didn't even cover how workers shouldn't wear cotton near the tanks. Last year, a pipe burst, and a spray of cyanoacrylate burned through the shin of a man's jeans.

Cluck's mother kept the show coming here because of the Almendro Blackberry Festival. Each year the town celebrated a variety of blackberry first cultivated by a local fifty years earlier. It was a point of pride around here, the berries growing so easily in backyards and ceramic planters that the brambles trailed on brick walkways and crabgrass lawns.

The festival brought in enough tourists for a quarter of the season's ticket receipts. But if it were Cluck's call, they'd go west to the coastal forests, or north and east, where wildflower fields fringed the groves of trees. They'd never stop in the town that had turned on Pépère.

A pebble bounced off the trailer's window. "Cluck," one of his cousins yelled through the pane.

Cluck cut a few feathers. He wished all his fingers worked. He'd gotten used to three being nothing but dead weight, but when he had to rush, he missed them.

"Did you go back to France to get the feathers or something?" Cluck's cousin laughed at his own joke. A few of his younger cousins gave him an echo.

"We didn't wear wings in France, crétin fini," Cluck said under his breath. In Provence, the Corbeaus had been les fildeféristes, tightrope walkers. They'd moved from town to town, fastening their ropes to church steeples. Onlookers swore les Tsiganes had sold their souls to the devil so he would take from them their fear of heights.

Now the Corbeaus were a tentless circus, performing anywhere they found enough trees. Their fildefériste blood had thinned out enough that they now walked branches, not tightropes.

Cluck came out of the costume trailer, arms full of feathers and wire, and put the repaired wings on the last few performers.

He had to dodge to keep from bumping into anyone. The ring of travel trailers was busy as a yellow jacket's nest. Performers cycled through the pink Airflyte to get iodine for their feet. Cluck's mother and Yvette kept the books, receipts, and maps in a half-white, half-red 1962. Lights and cables came out of the aluminum 1954 Cardinal. Anyone with a twisted ankle or a cut palm waited for Georgette in the 1956 Willerby Vogue with the melamine-green underbelly. And a 1963 Airstream was the junk drawer of the trailers, half schoolroom for the younger Corbeaus, half workshop when Pépère and Cluck needed the extra space.

Cluck watched Clémentine and Violette skip off into the trees, carrying burlap bags of petals. Each night they refilled them with cornflowers and seven-sisters roses that grew wild in the woods, the same kinds they wove into flower crowns.

They looked like wood fairies, their wings made of forest and sky colors.

His mother snatched the spare feathers from his hands. "What were you doing, trying to grow wings yourself?" She followed after the performers, her shoes clicking on the rocky ground. Only his mother would wear high heels in the woods.

Cluck got to the show space in time to see the performers taking their places in the boughs. The wings drew the audience in, but they made the performers' jobs harder. It took years for a Corbeau to learn to wear them without knocking the wide span into branches or snagging them on leaves.

Cluck knew. His grandfather made him climb trees wearing a set of wings when he was fourteen. Cluck had been scrambling barefoot up maples and oaks since he was old enough to walk, hiding in the higher branches Dax couldn't get to. But his first time up with those wings took him twice as long. The weight pulled him back or pushed him forward. Hitting the outer wires on the boughs made him fight to keep his balance. "If you've been up there wearing them, you will be better at making them," Pépère had called up from the ground.

Now Cluck only went up into the show's trees twice each run, once to hang the glass chimes and once to take them down. In each town where his family stopped, he had his own trees, always far from the show space.

Pépère found him and put a hand on his shoulder. "Good work."

"Yeah, tell that to my mom," Cluck said.

It was Pépère and Cluck's job to make getting up there easier. For the climb, the wire frames folded against the performers' backs like lacewings or stoneflies. Once they reached a high branch, a few tugs on two ribbons or cords opened the feathered span.

Thanks to the width his mother and aunts insisted on, the wings, once open, acted as sails. They caught all wind. If a performer didn't have the strength and balance to fight the pull, they fell. A generation before Cluck was born, a sudden gust knocked a great-aunt from a silver maple, and she fractured two lower vertebrae. She walked again, but never climbed.

"Don't worry about my daughter," Pépère said just when Cluck thought he hadn't heard him. "She doesn't like to see you do anything better than her precious vedette de spectacle." He moved a few trees away to light up a cigarette, far enough that the wind wouldn't bring the smoke to the audience.

Cluck smiled. Only his grandfather could call Dax the star of the show and make it sound like an insult.

He watched the trees. The performers let themselves be seen, looked as though they meant not to. They leapt onto lower branches. The strongest ones, like his brother, pulled up the lightest ones quick enough to make them look like they were flying. The women danced as if the thin boughs were wide as the sky. The men stood as their partners, lifting them, offering their hands, and hoisting themselves higher up so easily it looked like their wings had done it. The more graceful of his cousins ventured far onto the boughs of valley oaks, their weight bowing the wood.

He would've loved to see any Paloma try it.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from The Weight of Feathers by Anna-Marie McLemore. Copyright © 2015 Anna-Marie McLemore. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

ANNA-MARIE MCLEMORE was born in the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains and grew up in a Mexican-American family. She attended University of Southern California on a Trustee Scholarship. A Lambda Literary Fellow, she has had work featured by the Huntington-USC Institute on California and the West, CRATE Literary Magazine's cratelit, Camera Obscura's Bridge the Gap Series, and The Portland Review. The Weight of Feathers is her first novel.

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The Weight of Feathers: A Novel 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 9 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I highly recommend this book, and I will definitely be reading more from this author!
sdanielw More than 1 year ago
In one word, this book is lovely. All of the details, from the escamas of the Palomas and the feathers of the Corbeaus to the French and Spanish sayings at the beginnings of the chapters, create a beautiful, if deeply imperfect, world to get lost in. It has an almost fairy-tale like quality reminiscent of Bone Gap or Wonders of the Invisible World that left me delighted and somewhat wistful. This is a perfect book to savor over a long afternoon, lingering to appreciate the beautiful sentences and imagery, the gorgeous interweaving of French and Spanish with English, and the delightful characters.
TheNotSoPublicLibrary More than 1 year ago
In a modern setting with magical overtones, The Weight of Feathers is a Romeo and Juliet themed romantic story of a boy and a girl in separate travelling circus-like acts and rivals save each others, and being to fall in love. Both sides hate each others guts, curse each others names, and believe the other family to be evil. With barriers like that, will their love survive? As I was reading, I found myself a wee bit confused with the theme-ing of the story. It seemed to be a modern romance, but there were parts of the story that hinted at actual magic, therefore confusing me as to what was actually going on with the families. The story was sweet and emotional, with minor moments of danger mixed in to keep interest. The plot seemed a little chaotic and unorganized, but overall was not that bad. There were some characters that could have been a bit more developed for sure, but for the two main romantic leads, I felt they were very diverse and developed characters. Overall, The Weight of Feathers was a sweet story, but it was not amazing or awe inspiring. I give it the medium rating of THREE OUT OF FIVE STARS!
MissPrint More than 1 year ago
Lace Paloma is the youngest mermaid in her family's show. Her dreams of swimming in their underwater performances are cut short when disaster strikes and she falls victim to what seems to Corbeau black magic. After all, every Paloma knows that the lightest touch of a Corbeau feather is poison. Cluck Corbeau has always been an outsider. Especially in his own family. While the other Corbeaus take to the highest trees for their winged feats in each show, Cluck remains on the ground and in the background. An afterthought. He doesn't believe the stories that Paloma scales are poison but he is certain that Paloma malice ruined his grandfather's life. When Cluck saves a girl in the woods, he doesn't know he's saving a Paloma or bringing her into his family's inner circle. Lace and Cluck have every reason to hate each other, every reason to be afraid. But they also understand each other and what it means to be cast out by the people who should hold you the closest. Twenty years ago something terrible happened in Almendro when the Palomas and the Corbeaus came to town. The sour memories and bitter rivalries still linger when they return each year. As Lace and Cluck learn more about their families, and themselves, they might learn enough to end the feud between their families once and for all in The Weight of Feathers (2016) by Anne-Marie McLemore. The Weight of Feathers is McLemore's first novel. Her debut was also a finalist for the 2016 William C. Morris YA Debut Award. This novel is written in close third person narration which alternates between Lace and Cluck. It is also very grounded in the cultural identity of each family--Spanish for the Palomas and French (particularly Romani) for the Corbeaus--with proverbs and sayings at the start of each chapter section (Spanish for Lace and French for Cluck). Words and phrases in both Spanish and French are peppered throughout the dialogue and narrative as well (thought it is worth noting that a style decision was made to italicize these words). The real strength of The Weight of Feathers is in McLemore's strong characterization and the emotional tension at the heart of this story. While readers do not get a lot of explanation for how the Palomas have scales for birthmarks or what the Corbeaus grow feathers in their hair, it largely doesn't matter. Lace and Cluck are real enough and authentic enough that the details of their backgrounds pale against the scope of their current story and possible romance. The Weight of Feathers combines a heady blend of magic realism and romance in this story of mysterious performers, a small town, and a forbidden love reminiscent of Romeo and Juliette. Recommended for fans of magic realism and introspective novels with strong, subtle characters. Possible Pairings: Wonder Show by Hannah Barnaby, The Game of Love and Death by Martha Brockenbrough, The Accident Season by Moïra Fowley-Doyle, Blackfin Sky by Kat Ellis, We Were Liars by E. Lockhart, The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson, Bone Gap by Laura Ruby, Black Dove, White Raven by Elizabeth Wein, Illusions of Fate by Kiersten White, Paper Valentine by Brenna Yovanoff *A copy of this book was provided by the publisher for review consideration*
LKlein More than 1 year ago
Others have provided synopses, so I'll start by simply saying that this is a stunning book. Highlights: The language is rich and dense; the author expects you to work for the payoff. Even as McLemore cultivates a strong sense of place in her atmospheric narrative, the novel could almost be placed anywhere in the last sixty or so years. Despite the somewhat large number of supporting characters, the author ensures you have a strong emotional sense of each. I never found myself scrabbling to recall, "Now *who* was that again?" The elements of magical realism are skillfully woven into the plot, shifting and deepening the texture of each scene. It's not until nearly the end (the climax, as well as a slightly earlier scene in a hotel room) that McLemore lets the magic loose, exploding the possible and impossible in stunning imagery. At the end, Cluck, Lace, and we the readers are left with an invitation to follow this gorgeous impossibility into uncharted territory...and I desperately wished to go along on the ride. If I were to wish for anything more in this book, it would be a little something more from Lace and Cluck. They each have a particular feel and heft, but I never felt I knew them intimately. Even without that familiarity, however, they snared me. This is one of those books I will be shoving into friends' hands for a long time, like The Time Traveler's Wife, I'll Give You the Sun, and The Night Circus. A stunning, atmospheric debut.
NeverendingTBRlist More than 1 year ago
McLemore's debut novel definitely lived up to the hype. I couldn't wait to read it after hearing so many authors online gush about how much they loved it. The book immediately captivates you and holds on to the last word. Told in third POV, this magical realism YA novel follows the journey of two members of rivaling performers. Lace Paloma belongs to a family who performa mermaid shows. Cluck Corbeau belongs to a family of tight rope walkers. The two families believe that just by touching each other can bring sickness and danger. So when disaster strikes at one night while the families perform at the same town, Cluck saves Lace without knowing who she is. Scarred by a feather that bears the mark of the Corbeaus, Lace is exiled from her family and tries to erase the mark by earning Cluck's forgiveness. As the two get to know each other better, the story becomes a classic star-cross lover tale with a touch of magic. What I loved best about this novel is the voice. McLemore's writing style is beautiful and lyrical. The characters pop right off the page. When reading this, it may help if you have Google Translator close by if you are not familiar with French or Spanish. It definitely helped me with some of the phrases I wasn't sure of. Five stars for a beautifully written nove
JessabellaReviews More than 1 year ago
The Weight of Feathers was everything I was hoping it would be and more! From the plot to the characters to the writing...everything felt so effortlessly brilliant in the best possible way. As if this story had been floating somewhere out in the universe...just waiting for the right author to capture it. I know it has some hints of Romeo and Juliet, with the feuding families and forbidden romance. The thing is, I never even thought of any of that while I was reading. This book stands on it's own in such a magical(literally and figuratively) way! McLemore hits all of the right notes with just enough fantasy in a contemporary world. McLemore's writing...I mean...it is lyrical and whimsical and just fit the plot like a glove. I don't speak a lick of French and know maybe ten words of Spanish; but I didn't have to look up one word to understand the words and phrases thrown in throughout the book. The two main characters were filled with such beauty and pain, each for their own reasons, your heart can't help but ache for and love them. Like our own family, they have flaws yet we love them, and that is what makes them feel so real. This book had everything...family secrets, rivalries, love, hate, pain, beauty. McLemore did such a phenomenal job of showing how people can be so different, and still so much alike. How we can exist in this world thinking certain things about other people and never knowing they think the same things about us. This book is a wonderful work of entertaining fiction, and it is so much more. I will not soon forget The Weight of Feathers. I'm so glad that I read it and I hope you all will too! I promise, this is one that you do not want to miss....
mfu11 More than 1 year ago
Two proud families with strong values and individual travelling shows have a long history of rivalry. The sequinned Palomas swim wearing mermaid tails and the winged Corbeaus walk along the branches of the tallest trees. Both families shield their secrets and project their hostility and, as time passes, rivals become enemies, and the feuding families spiral down a path of fistfights, sabotage, and superstition. When a life-threatening accident brings Lace Paloma and Cluck Corbeau together, the only life they’ve known is about to fall apart. With a Romeo and Juliet vibe, competing circuses, and a contemporary setting laced with quiet magic, this is one of the most gorgeous books I’ve ever read. The writing was breath-taking at times, carrying rich description and characters to fall in and out of love with. An achingly beautiful story of forbidden love, the dangers of falling, and the beauty of breaking the surface.
HeresToHappyEndings More than 1 year ago
This review has been slightly edited due to character limit. Review originally appeared on my young adult book blog, herestohappyendings.com. This review is going to be very difficult to write. Not because the book was bad, or had anything wrong with it (in fact, I hadn’t come across a single problem with this book, which is rare), but it’s difficult to write because this book is perfect. Yes, it really is. This book is absolutely beautiful. From the cover, to the pages, to the chapter titles, to the story itself, everything about this novel is completely stunning and delightful. I can’t remember the last time that I sat down to read a book and was so captivated by the story like I was with The Weight of Feathers. The characters are so well written and well developed, and they actually show personality (which is something that characters in a lot of YA books, especially romance books, are lacking). We have our two families – the Palomas and the Corbeaus. They have been enemies and feuding for a very long time now, and their children have been warned to stay away from the others. They are both performing families; the Paloma females dress in beautiful mermaid tails and frolic in the water for the local audience, while the Corbeaus wear gorgeous wings and leap around in the trees. They have rules against touching members of the opposite family – they have their beliefs about the horrors that touching them will bring…except for fighting. They are allowed to hurt members of the other family through physical fights, because this will not cause any harm to the person inflicting the damage. So the families tend to stay away from each other, except for the few times that they try to hurt each other – the Palomas putting petroleum jelly on the tree branches before the Corbeaus’ show, for instance, and the Corbeau family placing nylon nets in the river for the mermaids to get stuck in and cause them to not be able to resurface for air during the shows. One night, one of our main characters, Lace Paloma, gets stuck in one of these nets during a performance. Because she is stuck in the net and struggling to get out, it takes her longer to get out of the water, so she doesn’t hear the warning sirens from the adhesive factory nearby, which has had a malfunction and causes chemical rain to come down upon everyone in town. This chemical rain causes severe burns on Lace’s body, until she is saved by our other main character, Cluck Corbeau. Neither of them are aware who the other is, and Lace doesn’t find out until later, when she is in the hospital. Because she comes back from the hospital, she has a feather-shaped burn on her arm from Cluck saving her, her family turns their backs on her and tells her that she needs to leave. Lace sets out to get Cluck to “remove” the burn from her arm with his forgiveness, so she agrees to work as a makeup artist in the Corbeau’s family show. Since no one knows she is a Paloma, she and Cluck start to fall for each other. But eventually they will find out who Lace really is, and then they to decide whether or not their love is worth fighting for. Note: I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.