Feathertide by Beth Cartwright
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
One girl was born to be different…
Marea was born to be different – a girl born covered in the feathers of a bird, and kept hidden in a crumbling house full of secrets. When her new tutor, the Professor, arrives with his books, maps and magical stories, he reveals a world waiting outside the window and her curiosity is woken. Caught in the desire to discover her identity and find out why she has feathers fluttering down her back like golden thistledown, she leaves everything she has ever known and goes in search of the father she has never met.
This hunt leads her to the City of Murmurs, a place of mermaids and mystery, where jars of swirling mist are carried through the streets by the broken-hearted. It is here that she learns about love, identity and how to accept being that little bit different.
Feathertide is a coming-of-age story with fairytale vibes; there is magic, sure, but it is about our protagonist finally being okay with the fact that she is different. Marea grew up isolated in a brothel, where she was told to keep herself hidden due to the fact that she had feathers growing on her body, and later on, because she was a girl, and only gets to go out on her birthday, also hidden. Very curious about the outside world and feeling drawn to the birds, her mother finally relents and gets her a tutor who will bring the outside world to her. Said tutor tells her about a city across the sea where magic is real, and where she might find answers about her father. When she grows up, she sets out alone to find her father.
Marea’s initial stay in the City of Murmurs is mostly her discovering the magic in the city. She lives with a witch who offers her housing in exchange for walking her dogs daily, during which she explores the city. She finds a mysterious girl who used to be a mermaid, and who is her first love; their relationship is a bit complicated in that the latter always yearns for the sea so Marea isn’t sure if they have a future. She also gradually stops hiding her feathers, where once in childhood she had tried to remove them. The other person she meets in the city is an ornithologist who has a lead to the tribe that her father belongs to, a race of birdmen that occasionally come into the city, bringing the magical mist of their floating island along with them.
The plot plays with the themes of acceptance, longing, growing out of relationships and moving on. The first half is probably more magical because of all the things it introduces us to, the magic of the city, the magic of its inhabitants – it evokes Venice very well. The second half is where the emotional weight of the story is felt, as Marea struggles with missing her mother and family back home, to the uncertainty of love, and all the complicated feelings with it, as well as the anticipation of meeting her father. The writing is quite flowery, and while sometimes it can enhance the fairytale nature of the story, sometimes it did slow down the pace too much. Still, on the whole, an enjoyable read.
Is it diverse? Bi/pansexual protagonist; sapphic romance
Received an advance reader copy in exchange for a fair review from Del Rey, via Netgalley.
Releases on May 14, 2020