Review: Feathertide - Beth Cartwright
Genre: Fantasy, Magical Realism
Published: Del Rey Publishing, July 2020
Rating: 4/5 stars
“A place full of memories can never be completely empty”
A strange baby-girl is born in a whorehouse, covered in the feathers of a bird. Her father is a mystery, that came from the mist and worshiped the sky. Growing up in the whorehouse, away from the prying eyes of strangers on her feathers, Marea has always felt a deep feeling of displacement: she doesn’t belong here. On her eighteenth birthday she leaves her sheltered life behind and sets off to the distant City of Murmurs, hoping to track down her father and the answers she’s looking for.
Most of my anticipated releases for a new year are the ones by authors that I’ve read and loved before, but every now and then a debut comes by with a premise and set-up that intrigues me so that I anticipate it even more than my favourite authors new release. Feathertide was an example of such a debut. I actually made a little jump of joy when my request for an ARC got excepted by publisher Del Rey. Teetering between magical realism and fantasy, centring around a coming of age story in a mysterious and atmospheric Venetian inspired city ánd being recommended for fans of Erin Morgenstern and Katherine Arden: this was going to be great! And it was.
As much as I think the “for fans of”-comparison often does a disservice to both parties (especially when comparing debuts to works by very celebrated authors), I can see where the publishers were coming from. Feathertide has many of the same selling-points as the works of the aforementioned authors: stunning writing style, a rich and vivid setting and an atmosphere fogged in magic. It’s the kind of worldbuilding where, even if not everything is explained in detail to you, you can feel the depth of the world the author created behind it. Where the City of Murmurs is a beautiful set-piece that feels almost like a character, the characters that inhabit it conversely feel more like set-pieces themselves. They lack depth, and although it fits the “modern-fairy-tale”-style, I often found myself wanting to know a bit more about them, outside their main quirk and role in the plot. I’m honestly not sure if that was a bad thing, as the only reason I wanted to know so much more was because they were so incredibly interesting in set-up.
Whether you will enjoy Feathertide largely depends on if you typically enjoy this genre. If you don’t like these kind of modern fairy tales, hate magical realism or need a fast paced plot to keep you interested: this book probably won’t convince you otherwise, as it’s not a ground-breaker in its genre. If you, like me, do love this type of book, are willing to get lost in the atmosphere and don’t mind the slower pace: Feathertide is one you shouldn’t pass up.
Personally, I loved my time with Feathertide and I look forward to more by the author. I would also very much welcome a return to this world, as I feel there is so much more beauty to be explored here.
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