Review: Crewel by Gennifer Albin


October 8, 2012 by Heidi

Crewel by Gennifer AlbinTitle: Crewel [Amazon|Goodreads]
Author: Gennifer Albin [Website|Twitter|Facebook]
Standing: First in the Crewel World series.
Young Adult, Dystopian/Post Apacolyptic
October 16th, 2012 by Farrar, Straus, and Giroux
Hardcover; 368 pages.
ARC acquired from publisher at BEA.
Debut Author Challenge

Incapable. Awkward. Artless.

That’s what the other girls whisper behind her back. But sixteen year-old Adelice Lewys has a secret: she wants to fail.

Gifted with the ability to weave time with matter, she’s exactly what the Guild is looking for, and in the world of Arras, being chosen as a Spinster is everything a girl could want. It means privilege, eternal beauty, and being something other than a secretary. It also means the power to embroider the very fabric of life. But if controlling what people eat, where they live and how many children they have is the price of having it all, Adelice isn’t interested.

Not that her feelings matter, because she slipped and wove a moment at testing, and they’re coming for her—tonight.

Now she has one hour to eat her mom’s overcooked pot roast. One hour to listen to her sister’s academy gossip and laugh at her Dad’s stupid jokes. One hour to pretend everything’s okay. And one hour to escape.

Because once you become a Spinster, there’s no turning back.

For years, Adelice has been training to fail.  She does not understand why exactly, only that her parents want no one to know of her gifts, and that the life of a Spinster is not the life she wishes to lead.  In Arras, reality is woven, changed, and cut by the Spinsters, a group of women who have the ability to work the threads of reality using looms.  They can dictate your world, all you see and all you consume.  They can control your very mind or end your life, all at the behest of The Guild.  Adelice, however, doesn’t need a loom.  She can see the golden threads of time and weave without any assistance–and if anyone finds out, she is in grave danger.

It’s crushing but beautiful that in the opening page of Crewel by Gennifer Albin, it is already too late.  Too late for Adelice to fulfill her parents’ wishes, too late for her to live a normal life, too late for everything.  Adelice has screwed up in her testing, and she knows they will be coming for her in the night.  They always come in the night.  What she doesn’t realize, is just how far her parents will go to keep her from the hands of The Guild.

Crewel is absolutely another one of those dystopian series.  You know those series.  They’re trilogies, they’re full of danger, distrust, rebellion, and love triangles.  I won’t lie to you and say Crewel breaks that mold.  I will, however, state most adamantly that this is one worth checking out.  Gennifer Albin’s writing is lyrical, poignant, and full of feeling.  Always there is an edge of sadness and despair, but with it an underlying sense of determination and stubbornness that made me love our heroine, Adelice.  The world building is stunning; at no point are there info-dumps or a complete revealing of the inner workings and development of Arras, and yet by the end I felt completely immersed in this world and fascinated by its structure.  Arras isn’t real, and yet, for those living there, there could be nothing more real.

Crewel addresses some fairly common issues in dystopias, but again, in a very well-structured way.  The Guild, a group of men, control everything, even the actions of the Spinsters who are the only women in Arras with power.  It is a society of the wealthy and men, where unspeakable things are done in the name of peace and security.  I love that along with a strong theme of feminism, Crewel also addressed LGBT issues, questions of poverty, power, and control.  The Guild succeeds in their efforts to control not only actions, but minds, and truly believe they are doing what is best for the greater good.  Throughout Crewel, Adelice is faced with a monumental decision–to do what she must for The Guild, in spite of them, or to take another path entirely.

As a fiber nerd, I actually loved the selection of the word ‘Crewel’ for the title of this book, and found it apt, though I’ll admit ‘Crewel World’ as a series name is just a bit too terrible for me.  I greatly enjoyed the story of Crewel, but it wasn’t without its flaws.  I did question the convenient placement of two young, available, and attractive men in the home of the Spinsters.  It seemed to me that Jost and Erik were both too young to have risen as high in the ranks as either of them were, but there were some reasons given for this, and I was largely able to let it go.  The love triangle in Crewel isn’t overbearing, in fact, in my mind it’s near non-existent.  Sure, there are two young men interested in Adelice, but Adelice only ever really has feelings for one of them.  My hesitation for this set up is that I’m certain in book 2 this will all be destroyed and boy 2 will be thrown back into the mix because that’s what always happens (please, Gennifer Albin, prove me wrong!).  I also questioned the relationship development between Adelice and her two “closest” female companions, Enora and Valery.  I wish we had gotten to see more development of these relationships, as I felt Adelice reacted to them as if they had incredibly strong bonds, but I didn’t see a foundation for this.  So much so with Valery, in particular, that I wasn’t sure who she was when she was brought up at one point in the book as someone Adelice “relies” on.  There is, of course, a possibility that this development has been worked into the final copy.

I would love to go into further detail about the intricacies of Arras and the plot, but I feel to go too in depth with this review would cause spoilers.  So I’ll leave with stating that if you can stomach just one more dystopian, I believe Crewel should be it.  It is unique, well written, and the start to a series that is full of potential. Crewel hits readers with a powerful message: Never forget who you are.

“Did you do it?” she asks in a breathless voice, skipping ahead of me.

I hesitate for a moment.  If anyone will be happy about my mistake, it will be Amie.  If I tell her the truth, she’ll squeal and clap.  She’ll hug me, and maybe for a moment I can leach her happiness, fill myself up with it, and believe everything is going to turn out fine.

“No,” I lie, and her face falls.

“It’s okay,” she says with a resolved nod.  “At least that way you get to stay in Romen.  With me.”

I’d rather pretend she’s right, to allow myself to get lost in the twelve-year-old’s gossip, than face what’s coming.  I have my whole life to be a Spinster, and only one more night to be her sister.  I ooh and aah at the right times, and she believes I’m listening.  I imagine that the attention builds her up and completes her, so that when I’m gone she’ll have enough not to waste her life searching for it.

Amie’s primary academy lets out at the same time as the metro’s day shift, so Mom is waiting when we get home.  She’s in the kitchen and her head snaps up as we enter, her eyes rushing to meet mine.  Taking a deep breath, I shake my head, and her shoulders slump in relief.  I let her hug me as long as she wants, her embrace flooding me with love.  That’s why I don’t tell them the truth.  I want love–not excitement or worry–to be the lingering imprint they leave on me.

Mom reaches up and brushes a strand of hair from my face, but she doesn’t smile.  Although she thinks I failed at testing, she also knows my time here is almost up.  She’s thinking that I’ll be assigned a role soon, and married shortly thereafter, even if I won’t be taken away.  What’s the point of telling her she’ll lose me tonight?  It’s not important now, and this moment is what matters.

Likelihood that I’ll be back for more: 100%, absolutely!  This is the kind of series I don’t normally read until it’s all published because I hate books being dependent on sequels and having to wait, but Crewel will be an exception.

Recommended for:
Readers who can stomach just one more dsytopia, those who enjoy strong female characters, particularly fans of The Hunger Games and Divergent.  I do, however, recommend you check out some of the reviews below–this seems to be a love it or hate it read even among my bookish buddies with the most similar tastes!

Real life repercussions of reading this book:
How badly do I want to try weaving?  The answer?  Pretty badly!  Some of you may know, I’m a big knitter, and I also love needlepoint, and quilting, but I’ve never tried weaving.  I do have a beautiful woven scarf a relative made, and I’m pretty sure I’d like it.  Do any of you weave?  It seems like an expensive hobby to get into…

Get a second opinion:
Teen Librarian’s Toolbox – “Although there are elements of the story that will make you go “this seems familiar” (and how can it not with the overabundance of dystopian fiction out there right now), in the end this is a really unique world with an interesting reveal.
Pocketful of Books – “While this book may be about weaving, the story and characters are no rich tapestry.”
Ivy Book Bindings – “If you haven’t read a lot of dystopian or science fiction novels in the past, I think this will blow you away, but if you have, this might just wind up being another typical dystopian story for you.”
Janicu’s Book Blog – “The mix of fantasy and dystopia in the concept of Spinsters and their abilities made a lasting impression, but the rest didn’t really resonate.”


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  1. I keep hearing great things about this book! But I am in the camp that is worried about starting another dystopian series. I have begun to take time to think through what books to start and what books to wait until the next one is published. Honestly, it’s the possibility of a triangle that makes me think that I might be better off waiting until the next installment to fully invest.

    But this world does sound interesting and I like the idea of her secret having already been discovered when the book begins, as well as the fact that her parents are actively trying to protect her. Whether they show up a lot in the series, I like that her parents have been active in her life until this point.

    Is this girl kickass like Tris and Katniss? I see you’ve compared the book to their stories, but this herione sounds a bit different in your review.

    • Heidi says:

      Yes, honestly, I think if you’re a bit burned out on dystopians and worried about the potential development of a love triangle (I’m terrified it’s going to happen), I’d hold off until the next book to make sure it isn’t one of those book 2s. No, Adelice isn’t strictly kick ass in a phsyical sense, but she’s incredibly determined on keeping her sister safe and protecting those she loves in whatever way she can. She kind of emerges as stronger toward the end of the book when she better understands her own abilities and the world she’s in.

  2. […] reviews: Bunbury in the Stacks – “this is one worth checking […]

  3. janicu says:

    Very nice review Heidi! I think we saw some of the same things in this book even if we ended up with different final scores. Something like that. :)
    I didn’t know you were that into the fiber arts! I learned to knit but after making 2 scarves that was the extent of it. I think my preference is for embroidery – I’m sorta learning from my mom when she visits the U.S. (she’s a part time sewing teacher right now, which I find rather cool).

    • Heidi says:

      I agree! I do think we saw the same things, I think the things that bugged me just bugged you more, and the things that didn’t bug you I enjoyed more.

      I am into fiber arts! I knit quite a bit, and used to cross stitch a lot though I haven’t in some time. I do teach some knitting classes and spend a couple of days a week helping out in a yarn shop! So of course I agree that your mom is rather cool. 😀

  4. elena says:

    I’m very curious what I will think about this! I’ve heard mixed things but the premise really intrigues me. I’m glad that even though there are some questionable things, the world building was stunning! I hope she does prove you wrong in book two because it is annoying when it regressing only for book three to magically solve everything. Fantastic review, Heidi!

    • Heidi says:

      Mmhmm, that’s precisely why I’m starting to hate on trilogies–it seems to happen constantly. This is definitely one of those books that I think your enjoyment depends on how much of it has been ‘done before’ for you. I really liked the world, and so that overshadowed the lack of character development for me, but there are weaknesses in that area for sure.

  5. Haha oh god look at me with my lame one-liners. Thanks for including me- we had completely different opinions on this book which is unusual, but reading this review made me feel like I want to re-read it and see where you’re coming from. x

    • Heidi says:

      Yeah, the thing is, I really see the problems everyone’s had with it, they just didn’t bother me so much. I keep wondering if I reread it if I’d dislike it! Maybe I just picked it up at the perfect time. 😛

  6. Holly says:

    Hmm, Heidi, you make me reconsider my decision to not pick this up anytime soon. I still think I might stay away. :)

    • Heidi says:

      Yeah, I did feel it was decent, but I’d also recommend to approach with caution and maybe wait to see how the 2nd book goes over before you rush out to pick this one up.

  7. Fantastic review, Heidi! Yeah, the dystopian overkill is starting to get to me to a bit, but I really enjoyed Crewel nonetheless. I LOVE the concept behind it, and the feminist LGBT themes too. I agree that the love triangle was pretty one sided but yes, I unfortunately could see that changing in Bk #2 just as you mentioned. Let’s hope Gennifer Albin breaks with the norm:)

    And like you I loved the MC Adelice. Plus the ending was something I didn’t see coming AT ALL. I’m definitely going to be reading the rest of the series!

    I think it is WAY cool you are into fiber arts, Heidi. When I worked as an associate curator we hosted a show of art quilts and it was AMAZING. Such an underrated medium:) I read a book called Solstice Moon, by Patricia McKillip that actually had to do with Faeries yet had a very cool ‘weaving/ quilting/ stitching’ plot thread to it. Crewel reminded me of that book a little.

    • Heidi says:

      Yeah, I think I had just NOT read a dystopian for so long before this one that it didn’t seem so eye rollingly done that I couldn’t kick back and enjoy. I’m glad to hear I’m not the only one who liked Adelice! Most reviews I’ve seen have nothing but scorn for the girl, but I didn’t really have a problem with her. I felt like her sister’s safety was in the foremost of her mind and that she wasn’t brushing off what happened to her family. She had to work within what confines she has.

      It’s SO CRAZY that you mentioned Patricia McKillip! I’d never even heard of her until a couple of weeks ago and am now convinced I need to read just about every book she’s ever written. They all sound so freaking good–glad you enjoyed Solstice Wood (I checked, it’s wood and not moon :P). It’s the second in a series though, is it not the type of series where it matters if you’ve read them all?

  8. Aaah I missed this somehow! So sorry! I’m usually one of the first people to comment on your blog (I may or may not stalk you…I’ll let you figure out which!(; ), but I guess I’ve been so busy I missed commenting on this, so sorry about that. BUT, I love your review. In fact, I feel like re-reading this one and wishing I could love it as much as you did, Heidi. I can’t wait to see what you think of the sequel though because if anyone can convince me to return to this series, it’s you. Beautiful review, dear! :)

    • Heidi says:

      Bwhahaha, it’s cool. 😛

      I’m actually so so nervous about the sequel. I hope that I enjoy it just as much and that it doesn’t go down hill–I’ll certainly be letting you know!

  9. Charlotte says:

    This is on my stack–I’m glad I should continue to antipate, hopeing, for course, to be one of the ones who love it!

    I especially want it for my list of textile fantasy books–I love fiber arts in my fiction!

  10. VeganYANerds says:

    Heidi, I am so happy to hear that you liked this, even though it is just another dystopian! Also, yay for the love-tri not being too annoying. I’ve had a copy of this from netgalley for months, I really need to get to it.

    • Heidi says:

      I did like this! I think it’d been so long since I’d read a dystopian that it didn’t bother me, though I can see how others may be annoyed. The love triangle isn’t bad in Crewel at all, I just worry about the sequel!

  11. Cassie says:

    Thanks for the review. I’m curious about this book since it was mentioned on crunchings & munchings yesterday. Did you see that article on gender in dystopian novels? Anyway, I think I’ll read just to see what the controversy is about.

    • Heidi says:

      I did read the Crunching and Muchings article, and I think it made some really excellent points. I don’t think that Crewel was necessarily the focus, so much as the most recent example in a trend. I do understand the criticisms of this one, but I think because it’d been so long since I’d read a dystopian, I was able to set many things aside and enjoy it. :)

  12. TheCertifiedBookaholic says:

    I wasn’t going to read this book but you’ve convinced me :) :)

  13. […] the second book in her genre-bending, fiber-crafting, mind-twisting dystopian series, Crewel.  I really enjoyed book one last year, it hit me at just the right time, and while I’m only halfway […]

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While the source for each book I review is posted within its review, please assume unless otherwise stated that books reviewed on Bunbury in the Stacks were received free from the author or publisher in exchange for an honest review.