Thursday, 13 March 2014

Feather Bound by Sarah Raughley


 
ARC provided by Strange Chemistry through Netgalley


TW: sexual abuse, torture, forced prostitution, human trafficking, mentions of rape


I absolutely hate to write bad reviews, but this one... ugh, it was infuriating!

First of all, false advertising can do nothing but harm a book.
In this case the blurb tells us this story is "reminiscent of Gabriel García Márquez's A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings"... If you are going to compare something to Gabriel García Márquez's writing be aware you are setting VERY high expectations. 
If your book is a YA retelling of the Swan Maiden with a bit of Cinderella thrown in the mix, with a poor virginal Mary-Sue protagonist who meets a rich hot guy, comparing it in any way to Gabriel García Márquez's work is absurd and will make any readers drawn to the book by the blurb actually feel cheated and angry.

But even if I hadn't gone in with such high expectations the rating I gave this book wouldn't have changed.

The protagonist's life in her own words:  "dead mother, deadbeat but well-meaning father, lazy middle sister, trophy-wife eldest sister."

First of all, the book starts off in the midst of chaotic preparations to attend the funeral of Ralph Hedley, who used to be Deanna's father's friend, and was a rich asshole who enslaved his wife (more on that later).
The author does a perfect mess of introducing the characters. There are three sisters and it's never clear who is exactly who until the second chapter. They are all addressed by their first names and nicknames, never settling for one. Throw in an avalanche of fake celebrities whose names are mentioned, plus the names of fake socialites, and it made the whole thing very confusing, even while taking notes!

So we have:
  • Deanna/Dee: Mary-Sue, youngest sister, pretty, hard-working, is the responsible one and main contributor to household finances.
  • Ericka: the trophy-wife eldest sister, who has a baby, and a lawyer husband who refuses to let her help (not that it's ever clear she really insists) her family because hand-outs only make them lazier.
  • Adrianna/Ade: works on the weekends as a telemarketer, but doesn't help with house expenses because she spends her money on clothes and designer bags instead of food.
  • Dad: Alcoholic gambler, just to make things more tragic.
  • Hyde Hedley: Deanna's friend from when they were children who was presumed dead, but was in fact alive and now has come to take control of adoptive father's company.


The first mention we get of the whole swan thing is during Ralph Hedley's funeral, when a woman strips naked and shows her swan feathers, reveals Hedley's wife was a swan, and calls for swan rights.

The swan aspect of the book was extremely frustrating. We know very little about it.
We're told some things, how "almost three percent of the world’s population are or will become swans during their lifetimes", how between "the age of ten" and "the age of eighteen" you get a backache then excruciating pain and then voilà! you have a cape of swan feathers hanging limply from your back.

Whomever steals your feathers (it's never really clear whether it's the whole feather cape which needs to be torn out, or loose feathers, or what) has absolute control over the "swan". 
So there are a lot of forced labourers and sexual slaves who are, in fact, swans.

Are swans the only fairy tale creatures around? How were they first discovered? Where is this book's world building?!

The writing is mediocre. Admittedly, I went in expecting something of Gabriel García Márquez's calibre, but even setting those expectations aside, there are many odd syntactic choices and the writing is often awkward. 
Some examples:
"Hers had been a winter funeral; her casket lowered under metric tons of snow. Today was way nicer."
"A better liar and a worse liar all at the same time."
"They came out all at once, the feathers. It was messy, slow."
It doesn't help that, besides being boring, the plot is very unevenly paced and bogged down with useless fake celebrity gossip.

But on to the plot. 
Deanna/Dee, the Mary-Sue, turns into a swan. Hyde, her childhood bff is back from the supposedly dead and is now a millionaire. Anton, Hyde's cousin, blackmails Deanne/Dee into destroying Hyde. 
How? Did he steal her swan feathers? No. He threatened to"out her" making her a target for human traffickers. 
What guarantees does she have that he won't do just that once she's outlived her usefulness to him? None, thus branding her as tstl.

Hyde, by his own admission, is "more of a stalker than friend-material" - but he's the love interest, regardless. 

To borrow the book's style: it's too much (drama, tstl moments, absurd events), and too little (world building, character development, an interesting plot).

I think that this line from the book sums up the whole thing perfectly:


"None of it makes sense because none of it is supposed to."


Sarah Raughley's official blog

Buy Feather Bound
@ The Book Depository (with free worldwide delivery!)


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