The Weight of Feathers Tour: Review + Excerpt + Giveaway
Hey y'all!Okay, so I found out about this book way back in the spring. By then, it had a cover and a comparison (hello, YA version of The Night Circus) and so I immediately spotlighted it on my Waiting on Wednesday post and had this inkling it would be a favorite.I am more than happy to be able to say that I was completely right. I savored this book. The language is poetic and soft; it's dreamy, with substance. I jumped at the chance to be able to spotlight it (and an excerpt on the blog.) So without further ado, here's one of my favorite books of the year!
The Book (& My Thoughts)
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, The Weight of Feathers is an utterly captivating young adult novel by a talented new voice.
There are a lot of books that claim to be Romeo & Juliet. There are a lot of books that claim to be inspired by the story as well. But I haven't read a book that came this close to the mark in a long time. It has the same quick, all-encompassing romance, the same family tensions, that same elevated drama. Even the lovely prose kept it somehow rooted in the past and present, an intoxicating mix of details that swept me away.There's something impeccably refreshing about opening a book and recognizing from the first page that the very cadence of the language will be entirely different from anything I knew. It's invigorating to immediately notice the breadth of detail - the colors and anecdotes scattered throughout the narrative - as well as characters that I wholeheartedly fell for.I wasn't sure that I'd connect to the third-person but I immediately loved the narrators and the shifts in perspective. First off, if you're looking for books that draw upon culture, this is a great one. Although Anna-Marie McLemore uses it to distinguish between the Corbeaus and the Palomas, she uses French and Spanish to do so. As a language nerd (not just restricted to English), I was stunned. Plus, the characters still felt vulnerable and dimensional.Cluck is sweet. Anna-Marie McLemore immediately painted this picture of this disabled young man who got along well for himself, who wore his hair in a low ponytail and climbed trees and spoke rapid French. I loved his quiet, unassuming nature and how it reflected in how he treated Lace. Lace was also subtle, but in a way that was much warmer. Her influences were Spanish, and both lovers' perspectives came from a fierce sense of independence and a connection to their families. Both were welcoming and equally prevalent - a tricky balance that was successfully achieved.The romance of it is just prime. There are lush scenes, like those detailing the elaborate routines of the mermaids and the birds. There are realistic scenes - like walking to convenience stores and being in the hospital. There are touching, sensitive scenes that struck me with authenticity and a piercing sense of bewilderment. I was blown away.I shamelessly used this book as a reward for everything that I had to get done during the week. Every page was a treasure, and I can't wait to reread it after I push it in the hands of everybody I know. I appreciate the timelessness, the fairy-tale feel, the realism of this book. Magical realism at its finest. And voice at its most compelling. It feels rare.Don't believe me? Read the excerpt.
THE WEIGHT OF FEATHERS by Anna-Marie McLemore. Copyright © 2015 by the author and reprinted by permission of Thomas Dunne Books / St. Martin’s Griffin.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.
I have CHILLS. I love this book. Hello, Best of 2015 list. You can join me in gushing by possibly winning a copy! St. Martins Press has been gracious enough to offer a SIGNED (!!!) hardcover. Even the cover is beautiful so enter to win. It'll end in a week (the 25th at 12 A.M.) I'm sorry, but it's U.S. only!