Early Review: Crewel by Gennifer Albin ★★★

Crewel by Gennifer Albin
Genre: YA science fiction, dystopian
Series:  Crewel World #1
Publication Date: October 16th 2012
ISBN: 9780374316419
Page Count: 368 pages
Rating: ★★★
Review Copy: Advance Readers Copy
Synopsis: 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.


REVIEW

Although on the surface the concept and ideas behind Crewel are original and intriguing, the flat characterisations made this book a let-down for me. Especially as I'd seen many favourable reviews for it beforehand, which always raises expectations.

It could be best described as a kind of alternate-reality, Matrix-style story, only with much more in the way of pretty dresses and make-up, and less butt-kicking and slow-mo martial arts sequences. I was initially very interested in the Spinsters and their ability to weave reality, and that remains my favourite part of the book, that whole idea. But unfortunately, the rest of the nearly 400 pages were much less inspiring and original, and had a lot of the clichés and plot devices found in so many YA reads.

Essentially, a 'Spinster's' job is to maintain and weave the very fabric and matter of Arras (Arras is Crewel's entire world made up of four sectors) on great looms—making small alterations, moving important people and dignitaries from one sector to another, or removing other, weaker threads (people) or deviants altogether, also known as 'ripping" them, all in an effort to keep the peace and smooth-sailing uniformity intact, as ordered by the Guild. On top of that, there's segregation in force, tight population control and regulations on behaviour and, to a certain extent, free thought. In general, it's a world where, unless you step out of line, it's actually quite peaceful. There's no violence, no wars, people are expected to marry by 18 and start families and live happily ever after. Which is fine, except the whole point of dystopian fiction is to drop you as a reader into a highly uncomfortable, often terrifying, situation, and to really give you that sense of dread, or perhaps just a feeling of righteous indignation, depending on the setting/situation. Unfortunately, Crewel never got deep enough to affect me on that kind of level. I never felt afraid for Adelice—she was in a position of power, after all. That lack of excitement dulled my enjoyment of what looked to be such a promising book, and overall I felt there were many missed opportunities here in favour of overused tropes; Adelice finding out she's the 'chosen one', mean, nasty, power-hungry people trying to control her 'awesome powers', and of course, since this is a YA, a couple of 'hot boys' falling all over themselves to get near her.

I am baffled as to why authors continue with the love triangle idea since I know no one (no one) who really, actively searches for this plot device, and yet I know dozens (do-zens) of people that will mark a book as a DO NOT READ at the mere mention of one. In this case, we were delivered two equally...I'm going to say 'adequate', love interests, although neither of them set my world on fire (far from it). As for the romance between Adelice and the one she chose, it was just blah. It had potential, but it quickly became forced and contrived. We went from one kiss to "I will not live without you. You are my heart," literally overnight.

As protagonists go, Adelice wasn't wholly unlikeable. Neither weak nor truly strong of character, she was easily led and manipulated by those around her and showed little ability to think for herself. Had it not been for her parents' wishes that she hide her gift or attempt to run, she likely would have accepted her lot as another sheep in the flock with nary a complaint.

I also didn't find any of the bad guys very threatening. Maela was particularly one-dimensional; the trademark ageing beauty in a position of power, lashing out at the young upstart through petty, female jealousy and no other motivations. She was weak and inconsistent as a villain.

So to sum up, averaging out the original premise (which I honestly did enjoy), combined with the more unoriginal elements, I've ended up with the middle-of-the-road rating of 3 stars. While I didn't hate the book (although I confess I didn't realise quite how much of it I'd disliked until writing my review) I also didn't love it and wouldn't necessarily recommend it as a good example of YA dystopian fiction. Still, it perhaps would suit younger readers (who are, of course, its intended audience- not 32-year old grumpy cows like me) as they may get more of a kick out of the dressing up, attending balls, and love triangle elements than I did.

3 Stars ★★★
ARC provided for an honest review.

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