Hello everyone, and welcome back!
I decided to kick off 2018 with some more magical realism and some more Anna-Marie McLemore. I don’t think I liked it more than When the Moon Was Ours, but then, it’s an earlier book than that, so I’ll have to see how I feel about her newer release, Wild Beauty.
Buuut I’m definitely going to read it. And in any case, let’s talk about this book!
The Weight of Feathers by Anna-Marie McLemore
This cover is pretty on point, by the way, in terms of capturing some of the imagery in the book. And design-wise, it’s pretty nice. Not the best of the year, but above average. (Maybe I should best-covers in 2018.)
So this is a magical realism novel and a bit of a Romeo and Juliet situation. Cluck and Lace are from travelling performing families who are bitter rivals and who come to the same town once a year for a blackberry festival. Cluck’s family, the Corbeaus, performs winged, in the trees; Lace’s family, the Palomas, performs in mermaid tails in the water.
The book is about the two falling in love as well as the deep rivalry between the two families, with the backdrop of performing life, deeply superstitious and close-knit families (along with some family jerkwads), and dazzling performances.
There are definitely some common points between this and When the Moon Was Ours. The family histories are secretive and rooted in trauma, the book is largely driven by character arcs and description, and there’s definitely some angst embedded in the protagonists choosing one another.
I found the description here to be stronger than in When the Moon Was Ours in terms of creating vivid imagery of both families’ performances, although a little weaker in terms of establishing the setting of the town, which did turn out to be somewhat important (although less so than it was in When the Moon Was Ours, so overall I feel like the descriptiveness here was just more useful).
But I found the romance in this one somewhat less compelling? It follows a pretty established pattern of mistaken and hidden identities, forbidden romance, and so on. The two characters see the good and beauty in one another, but they seem to do so mostly because they are kind to each other at times when others are cruel; the relationship doesn’t seem to be built on a foundation of who they are so much as a need to feel accepted. It doesn’t feel as if they’ve really gotten to know each other by the time they’re in love? Which is fine and realistic in terms of first-love romance, but doesn’t feel as compelling to root for as when two people clearly fit together.
Sam and Miel in the other book have an established friendship and status quo of interaction before their relationship, and their getting together is more compelling because the barriers they face re: being together are internal and more unique, but a reader can also root for them getting together because it’s already established how good they are for one another.
(Internal conflict in relationships is often just so much more compelling than external forces keeping people apart, generally, because in romances it’s obvious the way the conflict will be overcome in the latter case: the couple will decide to ignore what other people think, say, or do or what happens and will try to be together anyway, probably after a short period of being bitter and missing each other. Getting over internal conflict can have more varied solutions, I think.)
Aaaanyway, that huge rant aside? This was a book I enjoyed, but I’m not sure I got to know the characters beyond Cluck and Lace well enough to become really embroiled in all of their drama. This was the kind of book that felt like an ensemble cast kind of story, but stayed very much with its protagonists at all times. And Cluck and Lace were likable enough as characters, but their dreams and personalities felt a bit vague?
This author has some definite strengths in terms of lyrical and flowing writing and a sense of magic that’s never explained but never really goes over the top, and I appreciate the diverse characters she writes and the values of her protagonists. I think she definitely improved from book one to two, though, except in that I think the descriptions of performances in this one really outstripped the descriptions of most things in the second book in terms of being much more concrete.
Do you usually find that you enjoy an author’s second book more than their first? Or are there cases where you love the author’s earlier work and not so much their newer novels? Let me know in the comments, and I’ll speak to you again soon!