Review: Crewel by Gennifer Albin

Tuesday, September 11, 2012
Title: Crewel
Author: Gennifer Albin
Genre: young-adult, post-apocalyptic, dystopia, fantasy
Series: Crewel World #1
Pages: 368 (digital ARC edition)
Published: expected October 16 2012
Source: publishers via NetGalley
Rating: 3/5

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.

Reviewed by Danielle.

I’ve been watching Crewel with breathless anticipation since I saw the cover on Cuddlebuggery. When the ARC went up on Netgalley, I clicked that request SO. HARD. And then I had to wait two weeks while all my friends got theirs and posted loving, 5 star reviews. When Macmillan finally accepted my request, I did a very enthusiastic happy dance that may have scarred my mail clerk forever. What I’m saying is I wanted Crewel to succeed more than any book in a long time. And I was disappointed, like your mom when you bring home a C in a subject you could ace if you’d just apply yourself.

This book was a readalong with Jessie, who as always was fabulous and brought up great discussion points. In an exchange near the end of the book, I joked that I still didn’t know if the world of Crewel took place inside a key à la Incarceron. (Note, yes that’s both a minor spoiler and not for Incarceron, because they’re not actually in the keys. Please just go with me here.) And then it hit me. I feel the same way about Crewel that I felt about Incarceron.

Both are acclaimed YA novels with massively original worlds that I felt fell down in building them. Both have main characters that can be difficult to like, (though Adelice is miles better than Claudia.) Both had bright points but ultimately left me underwhelmed. And both were incredibly difficult to review.

Crewel begins, like so many dystopians, on the day the main character undergoes some sort of ceremony to become an adult. In Arras, that would be the Spinster testing to see if young girls can see and manipulate the weave of time and matter. Adelice has all the skills, but her parents have secretly trained her for years to fail the test. They’re distrustful of the Coventry and the life of the Spinsters, so they teach her to be graceless and clumsy, and to pretend not to see the threads. Everything goes well during the first rounds of testing, but on the last day Adelice slips and weaves.

I would like to take a moment and ask what the hell being graceless has to do with weaving? It’s established that Spinsters can only see the weave through special looms that the children have never been exposed to until testing. So this isn’t a case of “untrained magic users are unconsciously using their gifts to be stronger/faster/better.” Yet Adelice’s classmates are certain she can’t be a Spinster because she’s awkward and clumsy. Is it supposed show that she’ll fumble the threads? Because I trip over a lot of stuff, but my hands are steady. I find questions like this really frustrating and take me out of the world.

From testing, Adelice is taken to the Coventry against her will and we’re introduced to the books’ two main antagonists, Cormac Patton, Coventry Ambassador for the Guild of Twelve, (that’s a lot of words to say his job is cryptic one sided phone calls and showing up to fuck with Adelice,) and Maela, a sadistic Spinster in charge of training Eligibles. Cormac at least gets some interesting lines and a bit of characterization. Maela literally kills people for no reason and apparently the Guild thinks that’s hunky dory. We also meet the Love Triangle, Erik and Jost. Erik is Maela’s personal assistant that she’s banging on the side and Jost is the head vallet.Their descriptions and roles are basically interchangeable, except Erik is the slightly dangerous one and Jost is the slightly sweeter one.

At this point, I can forgive Crewel for being a bit derivative and flimsy in the world building, because we finally get to what I’ve been waiting for. Adelice’s first weaving lesson is a nugget of brilliance, completely original and enticing and...over in about 8 pages. But that’s OK, we only have to wait one chapter for some more weaving. And then political intrigue for 50 pages. Then some weaving. Then a ball! Then angst, angst, angst. But then some weaving! It turns into a roller coaster ride, just when the plot finally starts to feel fresh and we learn a tidbit of Arras’ history, down we go to boring love triangle drama. Every time I’d want to stop, we’d finally get a confrontation. Sadly, the highs aren’t high enough to carry the tension and excitement through the low times. I’ve said books are uneven before, but this one takes the cake.

Without divulging too much, by the time we arrive at the conclusion, there are still a lot of hanging threads and flat out holes. Someone Adelice loves is believed dead, but one of the love interests reveals this is probably not the case. Adelice is so overjoyed that she spontaneously kisses him and rushes off to do...nothing. It’s never mentioned again. She never looks for this person. They stop existing as soon as the scene is over. And then there’s the mental gymnastics she has to do at the end of the novel to learn the connection between Erik and Jost. It may be the most ridiculous logic jump in the history of fiction.

But despite all of this, I can’t call Crewel bad. I still think the premise has a lot to offer, particularly in the sequels. I enjoyed large parts of the book, mostly pertaining to Loricel the Creweler. And I do want to give special props for being the only YA dystopian I’ve read that mentions and deals with the fact that sometimes people are gay. How they handled that, well that goes back in the negative column, but I appreciate the effort. For such an original premise, scoring this book average is the meanest thing I can do, but that’s how it shakes out. 


  1. AWESOME review! I agree with all of your points and was SO disappointed by this one as well. I am glad though that you're curious enough to want to continue this book. Unfortunately, I'm not inclined to pick up the sequel just as I wasn't inclined to read the sequel to Incarceron even though I liked it a loot more than you did. I'll be curious to see what you think of the next books in this trilogy though and thank you for sharing such an honest review! :D

    1. Thank you so much Keertana! I keep meaning to pick up the sequel to Incarceron, but there's always another book I want more. I have a feeling that will be the same with Crewel, unless I get another ARC.

  2. This is such a brilliant review. Much more eloquent than anything I've tried to write, that's for sure. You know I agree with you on all your points and that this is extremely overhyped.

    We need to do another readalong soon! I had a lot of fun discussing the issues I had with you!

    1. Thanks honey! I felt like it was a little fragmented, because I had a lot of trouble wrapping it up. Glad it came out OK.

      And yes, we need to do another read-along! I thought it was so interesting that we'd read a chapter and both hate it for different reasons! (How does conceiving even work? Good question, why aren't they causing massive earthquakes every five seconds?")

    2. fragmented? I didn't get that sense at all :)

      Let me know what you have next coming up to read and we will try to work it out! NetGalley, owned novels -- doesn't matter to me :)


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