YA Weekend Audio: The Weight of Feathers by Anna-Marie McLemore

A review copy was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

The Weight of FeathersThe Weight of Feathers by Anna-Marie McLemore

Genre: Fantasy, Romance, Young Adult

Series: Stand Alone

Publisher: Audible Studios (11/10/15)

Author Information: Website | Twitter

Mogsy’s Rating (Overall): 4 of 5 stars

Narrators:  Kirby Heyborne, Cynthia FarrellLength: 8 hrs 59 min

Lately, most of my audio listens have been on the darker and heavier side, so when I was given the opportunity to review the audiobook of The Weight of Feathers, it didn’t take much convincing to give this lighter, more romantic title a try. Magical realism can be hit or miss with me, but even though I hesitated over some of the mixed reviews I’ve seen for this book, ultimately the theme of forbidden love won me over.

With shades of Romeo and Juliet, this novel tells a tale of two feuding families of traveling performers, the Palomas and the Corbeaus. The Paloma family’s claim to fame has always been their underwater attraction, with their women dressing up like mermaids to swim in elaborate dance routines, while the Corbeaus strap feathered wings to their bodies and put on tightrope acts and other feats of acrobatics high up in the treetops. Their competing exhibitions have always made them rivals, but twenty years ago, something happened between them to turn them into full-blown enemies. Since then, children of both families have been brought up to believe the worst of the other, adding superstition and lies to the flames of mutual hatred.

While the two families travel all across the country, every year they cross paths in Almendro, taking advantage of the large crowds drawn there by the annual Blackberry Festival. So it is there where Lace Paloma first meets Cluck, youngest son of the Corbeau matriarch. When disaster strikes the small town, Cluck rescues Lace from certain death, mistaking her for a local. Horrified that she now owes her life to the enemy, and cast out by her own relatives for being “cursed” by the Corbeaus’ black magic, Lace tracks down Cluck and inadvertently gets caught up in his family’s business. Not surprisingly, our two young protagonists end up falling in love, but the beginning of their relationship also sparks a mission to unravel the truth of what really caused the rift between their families all those years ago.

All told, I think I ended up liking this book a lot more than I thought I would, but it wasn’t all smooth sailing. Before I start singing its praises, I want to get the negatives out of the way first: for one thing, I had a seriously rough start with the first few chapters. Anna-Marie McLemore appears to trip up on the same hurdle that traps so many other talented but inexperienced authors, weighing down her writing with an overkill of flowery words and phrases. The thing about purple prose is that it is a lot more obvious in audio. The spoken words gave the impression of the writer trying too hard, with absolutely no subtlety or attempt to dial back at all.

But just as I was starting to regret my audiobook choice, the story started to grow on me. At first, I worried that the magical realism would hinder my enjoyment, since those aspects can sometimes get in the way of meaningful character development. Instead, I found the opposite. There’s no doubt that the romance between Lace and Cluck is the central focus, with magic being more of a background element and even downplayed. In truth, The Weight of Feathers is rather light on fantasy, with the exception of the ending and little smatterings of details here and there—like the fact members of the Paloma family bear birthmarks on their skin that look like fish scales, while those in the Corbeau clan grow feathers near their hairline. Even so, to me this is more about symbolism than magic. This book is filled with all sorts of opposing themes and imagery, contrasting the Corbeaus and Palomas: crows vs. doves, black vs. white, birds vs. fish, sea vs. sky, etc.

Strip that all away though, and the plot itself is actually very straightforward. It’s a love story, pure and simple, with a bit of family drama thrown in. I’ve seen people compare The Weight of Feathers to The Night Circus, but I really don’t see it. This one is much better in terms of featuring a more passionate and developed romance with a pair of lovers with whom you can feel more fully connected and engaged, relative to my lukewarm experience with Erin Morgenstern’s novel. I also highly recommend the audiobook, with Kirby Heyborne and Cynthia Farrell narrating Cluck’s and Lace’s chapters respectively. The two of them did a great job bringing the characters to life.

Ultimately, once I learned to look past the affectations in the prose, it was the simplicity and elegance of The Weight of Feathers that appealed to me. The plot and pacing was nice and tight with just the right amount of twisty familial relationships to keep me interested, and once I got caught up in the story, it was damn near impossible to break free from its spell. A quick and very enjoyable listen!

Story: 31a55-new4stars | Performance:  31a55-new4stars| Overall: 31a55-new4stars

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16 Comments on “YA Weekend Audio: The Weight of Feathers by Anna-Marie McLemore

  1. I’ve seen this one around but I hadn’t paid much attention to it thus far. I was curious to see how you made out with it though! Considering I haven’t read The Night Circus yet, I have to say that the comparisons you speak of make me want to read both of these, just to compare XD You’re issues with the purple prose at the beginning will be helpful when I do read this one – I’ll know to move past it and stay patient until the story picks up! All in all, I do enjoy magical realism and I could go for a good romance so I’ll be checking this one out^^ Lovely review Mogsy 🙂

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    • The purple prose was perhaps more obvious to me because I listened to the audio, but I typically don’t pick it up as much when I’m reading, so I hope it’ll work out for you if you try this one. If you love magical realism, I think this one will be a real treat!

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  2. I really loved this, but I did “read” it so I didn’t have any issues with the prose being too purpley. I can see how the audio might be different though. One of my favorite parts of the story was the French family versus the Spanish family, and all their traditions and superstitions.

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    • Yeah, I love audiobooks but sometimes there is the downside of noticing more “flaws” in the writing. I thought the French versus Spanish family and the language quotes at the beginning of each chapter were really cool too!

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  3. This one is on my wish list, and I can’t wait to read it. I may borrow the audio from my library, instead of the ebook. I swear that I had a dream about this book. I was either reading it or discussing it on a blog, but I swear it really happened. Great review!

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  4. I wonder if the author of “The Weight of Feathers” was inspired by Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet? There does seem to be quite a number of different versions of this famous play

    Andrea
    (Author of Fantastica – Surreal Prose & Poetry)

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  5. Yay! I’m glad you enjoyed it too, Mogsy. And like Tammy, I had also enjoyed the French and Spanish elements of the story, from the bits of language woven in, to the proverbs that “titled” each chapter. Nice review, too, btw. 🙂

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    • Yeah, those quotes were really cool! They helped marked the chapters in the audiobook, and I couldn’t help but wonder if the narrators’ accents were accurate. Well, they sounded authentic to my inexperienced ears anyway 🙂

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  6. I’m really glad you enjoyed this. I often wonder how the audio version of a certain book would sound and here I guess you’re right – the prose was pretty flowery 😀 It didn’t bother me as much in the written form, though. I really liked Cluck, he was a sweet boy. And yeah, it’s basically just a star-crossed lovers romance – but I liked that it was slow-burn. I also like the fact that it’s a standalone! 🙂

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    • Flowery prose and exposition don’t typically hit me as badly when I’m reading, so yeah I might not have noticed it if I had the print book of this. It’s funny how audio can bring out the best or the worst in an author’s writing 🙂

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  7. Pingback: Audiobook News & Reviews: 12/31-1/12 | ListenUp Audiobooks

  8. Pingback: Mogsy’s Bookshelf Roundup: Stacking the Shelves & Recent Reads | The BiblioSanctum

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