“Crewel” Gennifer Albin

I reserved Crewel at the library after reading an excerpt from the sequel on tor.com because I was interested in the premise. Don’t read the excerpt if you don’t want to be spoiled for some of the revelations in Crewel btw, and there are some spoilers for plot points later in this post as well.

In Crewel our protagonist is 16 year old Adelice who has just gone through the testing to see if she can become a Spinister – someone who can spin the very stuff of the world. She’s passed – accidentally, her parents had been coaching her how to fail. Tonight they are coming to take her away if she can’t escape. The world is a heavy-handed dystopia, young adult style. Boys and girls are segregated till after they’re 16, then must marry by 18. Women have limited job opportunities with only very 1950s-approved professions available to them (secretary, for instance). Everyone must keep themselves groomed to the appropriate standard – which for women means heavily made up using appropriate cosmetics. The Guild, who control the Spinsters, turn up with overwhelming force and drag Adelice off to her fate … Spinsters are kept in luxury, with their own stylists & so on to keep the girls happy coz we all know that’s all girls care about. But not Adelice, she’s made of sterner stuff and the primary driving force of the plot is for her & us to find out why they haven’t just killed her like they would a normal Spinster candidate who was causing so much hassle.

As you might tell from the tone of that paragraph I didn’t much enjoy the book. I could say “oh it’s YA, that’s why” but I don’t think that actually does excuse the lack of subtlety. There’s quite a lot of anvilicious foreshadowing, and when Adelice does something that shows she’s special we get it referenced several times over a few pages to make sure no-one reading can miss that this is Special. It probably does explain the love triangle which had me rolling my eyes, but that appears to be de rigueur if you have a female protagonist in a YA book. And I’d probably have liked it more when 16 or younger myself, but nowadays I feel it’s rather overdone as a trope.

I found the secondary characters rather shallow. The love interests appear to appeal to Adelice because they’re the first boys of approximately her own age she’s ever met. The antagonists are cartoonish – the leader of the Guild isn’t just interested in Adelice because of what makes her special but SPOILER he’s also interested in her (genuinely? as a means of control? I’m not sure). So there’s a forced-marriage sub-plot that appears out of almost nowhere at the end of the book, with bonus threat of brainwashing if she doesn’t agree. END SPOILER. The other antagonist is a more senior Spinster who takes a hatred to Adelice because Adelice is special and also her pretty boy fancies Adelice, and she’s sufficiently psychotic that she “cleans” (i.e. kills, via the world weaving stuff) a whole handful of people out of petty spite at Adelice not walking into a trap she set (which would’ve ended up with said people dead by Adelice’s hand instead). She doesn’t quite cackle and rub her hands together while talking about her evil plan … but she might as well.

I finished it mostly because it was a quick enough read & I did still like the premise of where this world of Spinsters who could mould reality came from. But I’ve no desire to read further.