Review | The Weight of Feathers by Anna-Marie McLemore

The Palomas and the Corbeaus have long been rivals and enemies, locked in an escalating feud for more than 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 since 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.

I’m a girl of simple tastes: “if you liked The Night Circus” will get me to read a book every time, but the high expectations that phrase gives me almost always does the new read a disservice. In this case, as is true of many others, the comparisons to The Night Circus were inaccurate; sure, The Weight of Feathers involved circus acts, star-crossed lovers, and beautiful writing, but it was unable to capture the vivid imagery and overall feeling of beauty that The Night Circus provides.

Despite this initial misgiving, I really enjoyed The Weight of Feathers. Anna-Marie McLemore has quite the way with words; I was mesmerized from the first few sentences of The Weight of Feathers and found myself wishing the train ride to work was even longer so that I wouldn’t have to put it down.

As with When the Moon Was Ours, the magical realism in The Weight of Feathers was incredibly well-done. I love how McLemore creates worlds that have a subtle sort of magic: they feel like something that would be seen in our own world, infusing their stories with both a sense of familiarity and a sense of wonder. I especially loved the inclusion of mermaids in this one, as I’ve always wanted to go to one of those “mermaid classes” where you get to wear a tail and swim around (apparently it’s good exercise!). That said, I would have loved more in the way of backstory: where did the magic come from? What do the mermaids’ birthmarks actually do?

The Weight of Feathers is a slower sort of novel. There wasn’t a lot in the way of plot beyond the star-crossed lovers – while I typically prefer more substance, this worked surprisingly well here because the slower pace let the characters drive the story. It also allowed for a poignant examination of prejudice, reinforcing the old adage that there are two sides to every story.

That said, I wasn’t enthralled by the romance – something that caused The Weight of Feathers to drag on at times, given that the star-crossed lovers are at the centre of the narrative. While I was able to buy into the notion that these two broken outsiders could provide each other with a sense of belonging, the speed with which the relationship occurred and the way in which it took over the plot made the second half of The Weight of Feathers fall flat for me.

Overall, The Weight of Feathers was a beautifully-written read filled with subtle magic. It’s an incredibly impressive debut, and I can’t wait to read more of McLemore’s works.

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  • Ooh this isn’t one I’ve come across at all, but the premise is really intriguing. I really like character-driven stories, even if they’re a bit slower/less plot driven so that’s a useful thing to know. I’m not sure about the romance-side of things, but at least if I do end up picking it up I’ll know what to expect! It sounds like I’d like McLemore’s style of writing though, so maybe I’ll start with When the Moon Was Ours, as you preferred that.

    • Her writing is gorgeous so I definitely recommend checking out her work. When the Moon Was Ours was is one of my favourites from this year – I hope you enjoy it! Happy reading, Faith! 🙂

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