Crewel (Crewel World, #1)

Crewel (Crewel World, #1) - Gennifer Albin There has been a famine of originality in mainstream YA for a while now. Paranormal romance has long lost its sheen, the dystopian craze never entirely took off and, as I discussed in my previous Book Lantern post, the assembly line of contemporary romance is on the rise. The glimmers of hope must be accepted with open arms, and, despite not entirely succeeding in its aims, “Crewel” has ambition to spare. The appeal in “Crewel” lies in its concept – a world where reality is woven by a group of elite women known as spinsters, who have control over everything but are controlled themselves by a patriarchal system. There’s absolutely no reasons why the genres should remain separate and “Crewel” has elements of science-fiction, fantasy, dystopia and a touch of Greek tragedy, with the obligatory YA romance (a love triangle – is there any other kind?). There are parts that really work, and the book is bursting with ideas and often intricate explanations of how this world functions, but it takes far too long to really get going. The book opens with an incredibly clunky info-dump where the catalyst of the story – Adelice revealing her weaving talents – is barely mentioned before the story moves onto her family. I understand the need to quickly establish the heroine’s love and closeness to her family, since they’re largely absent throughout the novel and act as her main motivation, but the pages of exposition dragged down any momentum. The same happens with the explanations of the weave. The prose is pretty inconsistent but when it’s on form, it’s very beautiful, particularly when describing the weave. In sheer visual terms, this would make a gorgeous film (my choice for director – Guillermo del Toro).I was disappointed that the book contained several examples of casual women shaming, particularly in regards to the two female antagonists, because “Crewel” has some interesting gender themes throughout. Patriarchy is a common feature in dystopian fiction, notably in Margaret Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale”, because it’s a terrifying and not infeasible concept to imagine a world where women are controlled entirely by men. In Adelice’s world, only women can work the weave, and society is focused heavily on the family unit, complete with passive women. As the story is told from Adelice’s point-of-view, we witness her very judgemental moments, particularly towards the other spinsters. For some reason, make-up and fancy clothing are judged very harshly, as are the women who choose to wear a lot of it. The faux-opposition of traditional femininity from a heroine who herself fit that mould felt very hollow and misjudged, especially since the book dedicates a lot of time to beauty preparation, balls and the like. At one point, Adelice smugly declares that she wants to tell one of the male characters (who all became indistinguishable from one another about half-way through) that “unlike the other simpering idiots here I’ve actually read a book or two in my life”. She’s incredibly judgemental of the other young women who aspire to be spinsters, forgetting that they’ve been raised to aspire to this aim. At times, I was greatly confused by Adelice’s actions, and by others reactions to her. She seemed special for the sake of being special.The supporting cast don’t fare much better, particularly the three main male characters, all of whom are romantically interested in Adelice in some form. I genuinely couldn’t tell who was who at several points throughout the novel. Their backstories, motivations and even their appearances (all charming and handsome, of course) were rather derivative, and I didn’t care about any of them, to be honest. Once again, we have a case of a love triangle where the outcome is painfully predictable. It’s not so much a love triangle as a romance with a third wheel for decorative purposes, and I couldn’t think of any reasons as to why all these men would be so enamoured with Adelice. The female characters fare a little better, if only because they’re given a little more to do. They also seem surprisingly lacking in motivation. The final quarter of the book really saves it. The pace picks up dramatically, the action goes into full force, and the author puts her all into the unfolding of the world. Adelice comes into her own, which really improves the novel, but also highlights the weaknesses of the novel’s opening. I also seriously appreciated reading a dystopian-type novel that actually contained some LGBTQ representation, however fleeting it was. All too often, such novels just don’t even acknowledge the existence of LGBTQ people and their place in the society depicted, so props to Albin for practicing what all too many YA authors only preach.There are a lot of questions that “Crewel” leaves unanswered, common for the first book in an intended series, but luckily the novel ends with a bang that left me hopeful for a strong sequel. The reader’s desire to read more will really depend on their reaction to the rest of the novel. For me, the huge scope of the novel does leave me intrigued, and the final 25% of the story worked enough for me to want more. However, the big issue with “Crewel” is that it doesn’t really know what it wants to be, and how to do so. There’s so much creativity and so many ideas screaming for attention in “Crewel”, and one can’t help but admire the ambition, but it’s weighed down by a lot of inconveniences, contradictions and derivative elements. However, in the grand scheme of modern YA dystopia, it’s up there as one of the more intriguing.2.5/5.