October 8, 2012 by Heidi
Title: Crewel [Amazon|Goodreads]
Author: Gennifer Albin [Website|Twitter|Facebook]
Standing: First in the Crewel World series.
Genre: Young Adult, Dystopian/Post Apacolyptic
Published: October 16th, 2012 by Farrar, Straus, and Giroux
Format: Hardcover; 368 pages.
Source: ARC acquired from publisher at BEA.
Challenge: 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.”