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The Weight of Feathers: A Novel Hardcover – September 15, 2015
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From School Library Journal
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
"The Weight of Feathers is one of the most stunning books I have read in years, and one that I desperately wish I had written. Equal parts heartbreaking, insightful, and charming, it's a truly unforgettable read. McLemore's gift for finding perfectly unique turns of phrase astounds, but equally important is her ability to bring to life fully-realized characters that you'll want to live with long after you turn the last page of this exceptional debut." ―I.W. Gregorio, author of None of the Above
“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
"Lush, elegant language, peppered with Spanish and French phrases, lends this romance an ethereal feel well suited to the book's magical elements." ―The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, STARRED REVIEW
"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." ―Publishers Weekly
"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. Told with skillful poetic nuances, this Romeo-and-Juliet story of forbidden love will entice fans of Maggie Stiefvater’s “Raven Cycle” who wished for a little more romance." ―School Library Journal
"You’ve never read a love story quite like this… Anna-Marie McLemore has created in entirely imaginative world and rich characters that will pull you in as if she's spinning magic herself." ―Bustle
"McLemore’s prose is vivid, with carefully chosen, colourful details giving readers a clear sense of place and character. An air of mysterious fantasy enshrouds the whole book, pulling the reader through it as if in a spell. McLemore is a writer to watch." ―The Guardian
“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
"Scales and feathers touch and burn in McLemore’s stunning debut. The beauty of the language wraps around you, not letting go until long after the final page.” ―Jaleigh Johnson, New York Times-bestselling author of The Mark of the Dragonfly and Secrets of Solace
“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
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Top Customer Reviews
This is the first year Lace Paloma will get to wear a tail and perform with her cousins in the show. She doesn't want anything to mess up this chance, she's been dreaming about it forever. But when disaster strikes the small town of Almendro where the families are performing, Lace's life is saved by one of the very people she's been warned away from.
Cluck may be a Corbeau by name, but he's treated like le diable by most of his family. Not being allowed to perform in the trees with his brother and cousins, Cluck contributes by making their beautiful wings. When he saves Lace, he doesn't know at the time that she's a Paloma.
When Lace figures out the boy who helped her was a Corbeau, she's cast out of the family. Trying to get back in the Palomas' good graces Lace sends up incorporating herself into the very family she's been taught to hate. In doing so, Lace begins to question the very superstitions that reign supreme within both families.
Magical Realism is one of my favorite sub-genres of fiction. I love fantasy and paranormal stories to the extreme, but sometimes the subtlety of magic that just is can be so wonderful. Magic that just shows up in everyday life, no rhyme or reason. Anna-Marie McLemore pulls this off wonderfully with the Palomas and the Corbeaus all while mixing in some classic feuding families.
I loved the subtle commentary about grudges and superstitions. While reading, we are constantly reminded why each family feels the way they do about the other. The wrongs and heartache both families have suffered at the hands of the other. We're learning this from Lace and Cluck's POVs. Two characters who weren't even alive when the slights were committed. I remember thinking how confusing each claim was, how blurred they seemed. The minute changes in each retelling of each blight. But I think that was supposed to be that way. Cleverly stating that, over time, the point of these feuds become lost and muddled until someone is angry only because they are told they should be angry.
I loved Lace and Cluck. Together, by themselves. They were great characters. Both respecting the superstitions put upon them by their families, but never letting these superstitions completely close them off from what they know is right. Lace might believe the Corbeaus have black magic and touching one can put a deadly curse upon you, but she still doesn't want actual conflict with them. Until she's forced into their presence, her solution is to stay away from them. She doesn't encourage the fighting that some of the others in her family are prone to.
In his own way, Cluck tries to avoid conflict too. Even though the violence Cluck has to endure comes from his own family. He doesn't encourage it by fighting back. He never fights back with his fists, but never once did I take this as weakness on Cluck's part. On his side, Cluck holds no love for the Palomas either, but he also feels the skirmishes between the families need to stop. Cluck fights simply by opposing his brother's penchant for bringing harm to the other family. True, this brings more harm upon Cluck's shoulders but he doesn't stop.
Of course, all their beliefs are pretty much thrown out the window once Lace and Cluck get to know one another. Their burgeoning relationship was really sweet amid all the vileness and hatred.
Anna-Marie McLemore has truly written a beautiful tale about seeing something with your own eyes and not letting anyone else have influence over it.
This will definitely be a story I reread over and over. There's a timelessness about it that I absolutely loved. I look forward to reading more stories by Anna-Marie McLemore in the future.
But, oh, this book. This book was as luscious as butter, almost as deliciously bitter and melancholy as the darkest chocolate, and the strangest thing happened-- I had to read slowly to savor it. I didn't want it to end, to come to the inevitable conclusion Hatfields/McCoys, Montagues/Capulets stories bear as their burden of humanity's twin coins of love and hate.
The language enfolds you in this Chocolat/Isabel Allenda/Garcia Marquez like story of Lace Paloma, la sirena, and Cluck Corbeau, la cygnon. It enfolds you and you drown in scents, flavors and sadness:
"She'd told Lace about dyeing Eugenie's hair red, teaching the blonder Corbeaus to coat their feathers in cake flour, showing Violette and Margaux how to bleach their freckles with salt and lemon juice. And now she kept on her way down the hall, taking out her earrings, gliding by the room where one of her sons was beating the other?"
For Lace belongs to the Paloma family, a side-show attraction family who entertain folks as mermaids; stopping in the small town of Almendro for the Blackberry Festival and to one-up their mortal enemies-- the Corbeaus, who don wings and climb trees as if they were fairies. One Spanish, one French, twined together in hatred over an incident from twenty years ago when the river rose up and drowned a Paloma man, and a Corbeau man was fired from the local chemical plant.
Both sides blame the magia negra of the other side.
Lace and Cluck are just bit players in their families' dramas, until one day, Almendro's chemical plant explodes and they are caught in the chemical rain that follows-- burning Lace and making her outcast from her family. She has nowhere to turn, except to the family of her mortal enemy.
The prose is sensual, the story slightly dreamy and blurry-plotted some times, but I didn't care one whit. I just never wanted it to end. This is probably one of my most favorite books of the year.