Crewel – Gennifer Albin

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For a book about weaving, the collected elements don’t stitch together very well. Ha ha. See what I did?

Enter a tangled world of secrets and intrigue where a girl is in charge of other’s destinies, but not her own.

Sixteen-year-old Adelice Lewys has always been special. When her parents discover her gift—the ability to weave the very fabric of reality—they train her to hide it. For good reason, they don’t want her to become a Spinster — one of the elite, beautiful, and deadly women who determine what people eat, where they live, how many children they have, and even when they die.

Thrust into the opulent Western Coventry, Adelice will be tried, tested and tempted as she navigates the deadly politics at play behind its walls. Now caught in a web of lies and forbidden romance, she must unravel the sinister truth behind her own unspeakable power. Her world is hanging by a thread, and Adelice, alone, can decide to save it — or destroy it

Crewel has a promising start; the story punches straight to the heart of the matter, asks lots of questions, and poses a foundation for an interesting dystopian setting. I expected something a little different; the notion of fantasy elements inside a traditional YA dystopia is something I hadn’t come across before. The ratio of these ideas, again, begins well, driving a compelling parallel between what the weavers do and their milieu. Unfortunately, somewhere past the first quarter the action dies, the tension drops, and the reading gets dry.

Personally, I really hated the protagonist. Adelice is unrealistic. Albin puts a lot of effort into ensuring her lead is never truly at fault and constantly plugs the notion that Adelice is talented at what she does without ever really showing it. She’s a tad ‘Mary Sue’ for me. Men fall at her feet for no reason, women become jealous and spiteful towards her with little provocation, and she’s constantly told how beautiful and talented she is. None of the characters really did it for me; the male leads are dull stereotypes and often inconsistent, and otherwise, not enough time is spent developing either the antagonists or the sides. Again, it’s a shame, because there’s real potential to create complex characters given the female oppression. However, Albin’s characters often don’t sit well with their environment; for a girl who has grown up in a world where women can only hope for menial work and marriage, Adelice sure is shocked by female oppression. And considering they’ve been segregated from boys, the girls of this novel sure are confident when it comes to flirting and manipulation of the male gender. It could have been so strong, you can see the threads (unintentional pun) of potential inside what’s happening, but it’s never realised.

On the surface the notion of a fantasy component in a dystopian setting is intriguing, but the result is incomplete and clumsy. Neither the mystical tangents nor the oppressive setting get much explanation creating somewhat of a jumbled mess. There are some really creative ideas – the notion of weaving as a mode of transport for one – but these are over-shadowed by common-place dystopian aspects. There’s nothing reviving about the novel, nothing you can’t find in most other YA dystopia, and for a book whose popularity stemmed from its promise of weaving, there really isn’t much weaving going on. It’s such a shame Albin chose to focus on the elements she did; I would’ve loved to have seen more of the Spinsters world. There is (of course) a love triangle, and it’s as clichéd and unrealistic as any, bringing with it all the lame related dialogue and poor characterisation you’d expect, and culminating in a predicable ‘plot twist’ which is groan worthy at best. Later exposition is more complicated than it need be, and there are last minute subplots with little to no build-up and development.

In the context of the story, most of the dialogue is well written, and, like I said, there are some colourful ideas.  The style isn’t bad, and the story flows well enough for what it is, but there’s not much emphasis on character or world building, and after the first few chapters everything falls flat. Maybe I expected too much. Don’t go into it expecting anything new and you should be fine; I know a lot of people have enjoyed it for its traditional YA dystopian-ness, so if that’s what you’re looking for, go ahead and give it a read.

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