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.
CW: child abuse, domestic violence, fatmisia, g*psy slur, racism, rape mention, miscarriage
Short Review: The Weight of Feathers is a magical realism story about love and self-discovery. I want to emphasize here magical realism, and I don’t mean the sort that publishing has been pushing (i.e. The Raven Cycle), but real, true cultural magical realism. If you’ve never read a magical realism story before, you’re in for a ride, and I’d highly recommend this read to you, but keep in mind that it won’t be what you’re used to.
Long Review: Warning – May Contain Spoilers
This story is beautiful. I’ve seen a lot of reviewers comment on the writing, but I’d argue that the beauty comes from the tale itself. It’s fanciful like a fairytale and follows a true, magical realism style of world-building and resolution. The entire thing reads like an extended metaphor, a floating cloud of actions, romance, and imagery that never keeps you too firmly on solid ground.
The characters are lovely. Lace and Cluck are adorable, and (per my taste) tragic. They’re mature, strong-willed, and quite believable despite their extraordinary life circumstances.
The writing is extensive. There’s a whole page dedicated to describing how Lace’s great aunt is dressed, and this is really just a blip on the map. The story doesn’t even really start until thirty pages in, and there is a TON of overwriting. That’s just really not my thing.
The euphemisms at the start of each chapter are cute, but the translations were kind of awkward to me. I know there was a lot of idiosyncratic translating and relating them to “English” phrases, but they seemed unnecessarily off to me and just drew too much attention.
The plot twist near the end was, well, definitely not my cup of tea. I won’t spoil this one though.
I didn’t realize just *how* magical realism this book would be going into it. If I had, I would have been able to better prepare for what I got. There’s really no exploration of the rules of magic in this one, which leads to some wonky, unexplained happenings. In accordance with magical realism, though, this really isn’t bizarre at all, but I was expecting a YA urban fantasy so this completely threw me.
We have the g*psy slur thrown around time and time again. Ordinarily, I wouldn’t consider a slur that is challenged on page to be particularly problematic, but the problem is that the slur gets challenged early on, but then continuously used afterwards. Admitting that something is wrong doesn’t really count if you’re going to keep doing it.
There’s a lot of body shaming in this book, particularly when it comes to Lace’s figure. The context is abusive, so it is mostly challenged on page, but it doesn’t seem like she ever overcomes (or acknowledges within herself) how much of this body-shaming ideology she’s internalized.
Finally, there’s a lot of association of the color black with evil. We keep hearing about each family have black magic, and there’s the Corbeau’s black feathers, and the association that the only decent Corbeau has feathers that aren’t entirely black. This one, again, lines up with the methodology of magical realism, so I won’t hark on it too much, but I think it’s important to keep in mind that the association of white as good and black as evil has also contributed to the oppression of people of color for centuries.
The Weight of Feathers is a beautiful book filled with culture and intrigue. What the story lacks in action and plot, it makes up for with metaphor and fantasy. Don’t read this book for what you think a fantasy should be, but rather for what the Latinx culture behind magical realism has to offer and you’ll find it’s a unique experience for young adult readers.