Title: The Weight of Feathers
Author: Anne-Marie McLemore
Genre: YA Fantasy
Received for review from Audible
Summary (from Goodreads)
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’ll admit. I was totally sucked in by the cover on this one. But look at that thing – simple, striking and gorgeous.
So I didn’t really know what to expect when I started to listen to this. At first, dealing with the French and Spanish language bits was a little tricky. I learned both at school, but it’s been a while since I’ve used either, and I was never much use in the first place. School French teaches you such useful things as how to say ‘ostrich’ (autruche, if you’re interested) and ‘open the window’ (oeuvre le fenetre, probably with a hat on one of those letters). Needless to say, I wasn’t best equipped to start listening to and understanding some of the terms thrown in. Had I been reading, I doubt it would have even bothered me, but because I was listening I did notice more than I otherwise would have.
But by the end I loved the cultural flavours brought by the language and the history of the characters, so it was definitely worth the initial disorientation. I really liked how McLemore used the cultural differences and the enmity between the two families to create them as these two very different groups, then introduced similarities – in their languages and the stories they tell – to bring the reader back round to the message that, actually, we’re all the same.
The story takes a little while to indicate where it’s going. A bizarre set piece near the beginning feels so out of place, but later becomes integral to the plot. It’s very much a mish mash of elements in the beginning – it’s difficult to tell if it’s a contemporary or fantasy story with the subtle magical realism threaded throughout the narrative – but if you just accept and go with it, you’re rewarded with a whimsical and lovely story about young love and old betrayal that I listened to in pretty much one sitting.
The Audiobook version, as I said, does take a little tuning in to, but the rich vocal performances by the two readers really bring the language elements to life, and I particularly loved listening to the female narrator read the sections in Spanish.
Overall, a really interesting read that I’d recommend to anyone who likes a bit of whimsy, magic realism and romance.