The Palomas and the Corbeaus were once rival families of traveling performers until a tragedy claimed members of both families and turned them into bitter enemies, starting a war that erupted over the course of 20 years. The Palomas with their escalas glide through the water like mermaids while the Corbeaus with their heads graced with feathers, who are traditionally tight-rope walkers, rule the sky with their death-defying act as they climb and dance through the trees. Each family passes down legends and folk lore about the other, ensuring that they never mingle. Every Paloma grows up knowing the poison and black magic of the Corbeaus’ feathers, and the certain death that will come with their touch. Corbeaus are warned that any interaction with the mermaids will cause them to be excommunicated from the family.
When tragedy befalls the town where both families are performing, Cluck, a Corbeau boy, saves the life of Lace, a Paloma girl. What results leads to an attraction that causes both of them to risk their lives, the respect of their families, and everything they’ve ever known.
If, like me, you were lucky enough to receive an advanced copy of this novel, please stop reading for a minute and commence your happy dance. There were just so many things in this novel that I couldn’t get enough of. The imagery, the
story, the language; it was all just absolutely breath-takingly beautiful.
One of the things that immediately attracted me to this novel was the language. Not only was the prose lyrical and otherwise wonderful in every way, but the novel integrated a lot of French (for the Corbeaus) and Spanish (for the Palomas). As somebody who understands a good bit of both, I enjoyed this completely on a personal level. However, I also think it added a great authenticity to the story, even for somebody who doesn’t speak a lick of either. The smattering of the two languages not only made for a believable story on the surface, but I found myself even reading the English dialogue among the characters in an accent matching the language of their family. I don’t know if this happens to a lot of people, or if I’m just weird, but I really liked it.
The language and prose of this novel doesn’t mean a thing if it doesn’t have a good story to back it up. This story, while touted as a modern adaptation of Romeo and Juliet, is really its own special brand of perfection. I’ve read a lot of fantasy, from Eragon, to Twilight (don’t judge me), to Harry Potter, but I’ve never read anything quite like this. This novel was not
out-right fantasy like those I just mentioned, but it does have it’s own fantastical elements. True, the Palomas aren’t
actually mermaids, nor are the Corbeaus actually human-crow hybrids, but as you read the novel, the little bits of true magic make you feel like the bigger pieces really could be true as well.
And, OHHH the characters. I found myself falling into a bit of insta-love with both Lace and Cluck, both because of and in spite of their flaws. As the novel progresses, the reader gets to know both families inside and out and grows to love and/or loathe the characters as though they are real people. I felt intense anger, profound sadness, and an over-arching sense of hope as I rooted for Cluck and Lace to be together in spite of the feuding of their families and the traditions with which they had each been raised.
The Weight of Feathers is a magnificent debut novel for Anna-Marie McLemore. I really believe it could be this generation’s West Side Story. This will be one of those novels that I shout from the rooftops, tell everyone I know about, and one of the few I will likely reread 4543095 times. Don’t let the “Young Adult” label throw you off. It is worth the read…and a reread or ten. I recommend it to absolutely anybody and everybody. It’s got some grit for the guys, a love story for the gals, and family relationships that just about everyone can connect with in one way or another.
Seriously, this novel came out yesterday. Fly, swim, or do whatever you have to do to get your hands on it. You won’t regret it!