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Dos Familias, Égales en Noblesse

A forbidden flirtation is forged from feuding families in Anna-Marie McLemore's The Weight of Feathers.

Dos Familias, Égales en Noblesse

BOOK REPORT for The Weight of Feathers by Anna-Marie McLemore

Cover Story: Be-Leaf It Or Not, They're Walking On Air
BFF Charm: Eventually and Let Me Love You
Swoonworthy Scale: 5 (... ish)
Talky Talk: Two Households, Both Alike in Dignity
Bonus Factor: Travelling Performers
Ambivalence Factor: Feuding Families
Relationship Status: It's Not You, It's Me (... But Also a Little Bit You)

Cover Story: Be-Leaf It Or Not, They're Walking On Air

This is one of those instances in which judging a book by its cover turned out to be pretty accurate for me. In theory, I should like it: it's illustrated, and it uses elements from the story. But aside from allowing me to make a great/terrible music pun, I find the cover kind of boring.

The Deal:

As families of travelling performers, the Palomas and the Corbeaus are bound to cross each others' paths once in a while. But not if either of them can help it, 'cause T-Swizz ain't got nothin' on the bad blood brewing between these clashing clans.

All her life, Lace Paloma has been taught that the Corbeaus are magia negra and must be avoided at all costs. But when her life is in danger, she ends up being saved by a Corbeau, of course -- Cluck, the black sheep of his family. And once Lace and Cluck enter each others' lives, neither will ever be the same again.

BFF Charm: Eventually and Let Me Love You

I respect Lace's dedication to her family, but her own personality is initially overshadowed by her learned prejudices against the Corbeaus. And I get it; undoing a lifetime of inherited hatred is not a quick process. But Lace makes for better BFF material when she stops drinking the Kool-Aid -- and her makeup skills totally work in her favour, too.

In addition to being saddled with a bad nickname, Cluck has long lost full range of motion in three fingers of his left hand, causing them to be permanently curled up, and he routinely gets treated like shit by his own mother and brother. Obvs, I felt for the guy. He may have been raised to hate his family's rival, too, but being the receiving end of so much ostracization has made him less judgemental than Lace starts out as.

Swoonworthy Scale: 5 (... ish)

It takes some time for Cluck and especially Lace to look past the baggage of their families' history to make way for the swoon. But then there's a WAIT discovery that the story acknowledges, too. (Skip the rest of this section to avoid vague spoilers.)

It's clearly a deliberate choice, but also a curious one; the story has to reassure the reader that everything's still above-board with the relationship, even if the characters treat this new information as an afterthought.* As inconsequential to the romance as it might be, I understand why this can't be easily removed from the story. I'm glad the book at least addressed this elephant in the room, since I was definitely wondering about it.

*I'm probably sensitive to this peculiar and specific trope, due to recently reading another book that went to great lengths justifying why its couple is still allowed to be horny for each other, despite the circumstances that might suggest otherwise.

Talky Talk: Two Households, Both Alike in Dignity

Coupled with a touch of magical realism, the timelessness of this book makes it feel immensely dreamy. But it's also dreamy in the not-so-good way, i.e., it's a bit snoozy, both in pace and ability to retain my interest.

Consistently narrated in the third person, the chapters switch between following Lace and Cluck, with a phrase in either Spanish (for the Mexican-American Palomas) or French (for the Romani Corbeaus) to indicate the character. As someone who's bilingual-ish, I always love the inclusion of other languages in books. However, the insta-translation that this one often uses grew tiresome. It's important for all readers to understand what's going on, but I'd take context clues over insta-translations any day. 

Bonus Factor: Travelling Performers

Do small-scale travelling performance troupes still exist? Like, not a circus with multiple acts, but just one style and nothing else? In any case, those are the types of shows that the Palomas and the Corbeaus put on. (The Corbeaus' treetop performances are actually more prominent than the Palomas' mermaid exhibitions, but I will use a Pushing Daisies photo whenever I can.)

Ambivalence Factor: Feuding Families

The cause of the rift between the Palomas and the Corbeaus is unfortunate -- both for the characters, and as a plot reveal that I don't much care for. I can't really explain why without giving it away, but I wish the Romeo and Juliet dynamic was based around something -- anything -- else. Or went full Shakespeare and not have it explained at all.

Casting Call:

Younger version of Gina Rodriguez as Lace 

With the Spanish-speaking Palomas performing as mermaids, I couldn't not think of Jane the Virgin's star as Lace.

Cluck, on the other hand -- I have no idea whom to cast, since Hollywood isn't exactly teeming with young Romani actors. Authentic representation is always important, but even more so for a group as marginalized as the Romani.

Relationship Status: It's Not You, It's Me (... But Also a Little Bit You)

This premise sounded too good to resist, but I quickly discovered that its execution wasn't quite my style. Nevertheless, I kept hoping to be swept up by the sumptuous beauty that was promised. And I just... wasn't. But even if I was a better match for this book, I still don't think I could overcome my issues with it.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received my free review copy from Thomas Dunne Books. I received neither money nor froyo for writing this review (dammit!). The Weight of Feathers is available now.

Mandy Wan's photo About the Author: Residing in Edmonton, AB, Mandy unabashedly loves YA lit, frozen desserts, and terrible puns.