Crewel by Gennifer Albin

October 17, 2012 Reviews 1 ★★★

  • Date published: 4th October 2012
  • Publisher: Faber & Faber (through Allen & Unwin AU)
  • Format: Paperback, 360 pages
  • Series: The Crewel World, Book 1
  • ISBN 13: 9780571282890 ISBN 10:  057128289X
  • Categories: YA Fantasy, Dystopian
  • Goodreads / The Book DepositoryBooktopia (AU) / Bookworld
  • Source: provided by the publisher for review
  • Challenge: 2012 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 and matter, Adelice is 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, power and beauty, the ability to embroider the very fabric of life. It also means entering a world secrets and lethal intrigue. But unlike the others, Adelice isn’t interested in controlling what people eat, where they live and how many children they have and will do anything to hide her talent from the Guild.

But when she slips up during her final test, her gift is identified. Now she has one hour to eat her mum’s overcooked dinner. One hour to listen to her sister’s school gossip and laugh at her dad’s stupid jokes. One hour to pretend everything is OK. And one hour to escape. Because once you become a Spinster, there’s no turning back…

Crewel is based, loosely, on the Greek myth of the Moirai – the three sisters of fate who spin out the threads of all mortal lives on their wheels. In this dystopian world, girls with the ability to see the weave – the threads of life – are forced to become Spinsters and serve out their country, Arras. Although largely imaginative in its use of the Greek mythology and blending it with a dystopian society, the book falls flat on its characterisation and the relationships it portrays.

The creativity of the author is evident in the world she has created. The way the Spinsters control their world is amazing, and I loved the scenes where they use the looms to change the world. I also liked Adelice’s unique powers and how they tied into the story. The way this world fits in with the one we live in now is also fascinating, I think it is a very imaginative setting and I am eager to learn more about it in future books. Arras is, however, is meant to be a scary place – transgressions are punished ripping out your thread from the weave: one simply ceases to exist. Our main character doesn’t suffer for her many transgressions, however, and so, despite being flippant, rude and bordering on treasonous behaviour multiple times in the story, Adelice is only imprisoned, while other characters are killed for much less. It feels wrong, and is at odds with the repeated warnings about Arras being a dangerous place.

Adelice and I do not get along. Despite her sheltered life, segregated from men and taught to be obedient, she emerges from her first bout of imprisonment and immediately feels stirrings of desire for her escort. In fact, every single man she meets falls for her (I have no idea why), and soon she is fending off the attention of two guys she likes, and a man more than twice her age. Surely, having been segregated from boys all her life, Adelice would initially react with a mistrust, or even fear, of men but she’s flirting like the best of them in no time at all. In her world, women must always be perfectly put together and look beautiful, but Adelice eschews anything feminine. I’m tired of this trope in YA – there is nothing wrong with liking feminine things, and in this case, her hatred of the feminine isn’t well grounded enough for me to believe it. She remembers her mother dressing nicely, putting on makeup and doing her hair with fondness, so it makes no sense that she hates it so much.

I noticed that for a majority of the book Adelice is a passive force in the book. She’s snarky and, in a foolhardy move, talks back to people who have the power to kill her, but never really does anything. Everything happens to her: she’s taken on tour, made to give speeches, trained in her powers. Even in her romantic ventures, it’s the men kissing her, asking her to dance, sneaking off with her. When she does finally take control, things go surprisingly well for her, and I was disappointed that she didn’t come across any major hurdles in executing her grand plan.

Despite the largely stagnant nature of the plot for the first half of the book, there are some engaging moments, and the book really shines when the author describes the absolute control the Guild exercise over Arras and the horrors that the word experienced in the past. Another great aspect of the book is the character Enora, Adelice’s mentor, who in may ways is the most developed and interesting character in the book. These things, and the way the book has ended have piqued my curiosity, and I will be reading the next one in the series.

While Crewel is a solid novel, and should be commended on its creativity, it fell flat for me, and definitely didn’t live up to the hype. Although undoubtably impressive in some aspects, I think it’s a really interesting premise that was brought down by many of its characters and their relationships.

One Response to “Crewel by Gennifer Albin”

  1. Tsana

    I disagree with many points. Mostly, though, I wanted to comment on the segregation from boys paragraph. Firstly just because she’s not allowed to talk to boys doesn’t mean she doesn’t know anything about them. She has flashback memories of girls whispering about them and passing the boy catalogue around (and her parents explaining this to her). And just because she’s been segregated from boys doesn’t mean she has to automatically lose the ability to talk around them. She’s also been taught that this is how the world works and, unlike us, doesn’t necessarily see it as that dystopic (until later). Being afraid of them is one possible response, sure, but fawning over boys like the other Spinsters do is more common. She hasn’t been taught to fear boys and she certainly hasn’t been taught to be obedient (her parents pretty much instilled rebellion in her, even if they didn’t really explain why).

    Sorry, but people assuming kids kept segregated are social retards is a pet peeve of mine. As someone who spent most of her schooling at a girls’ school, I emerged quite capable of talking to boys, as did many of my peers, despite not really mixing with any (properly) until sixteenish.

    Also I don’t think it’s fair to say that every man she met fell for her since she only really met three. Yes, the two love triangle boys were a bit much, but Creepy McOldDude only wanted her to control her power. And possibly because he’s creepy.

    I don’t want to rant too much in your comments (which I’ve failed at, sorry) but I have more thoughts in my own review if you’re interested.

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