I recently plowed my way through Gennifer Albin’s Crewel, the first in a trilogy of young adult fantasy meets dystopian fiction.
I can’t speak for the latter two books in the series by I can say of the first that I loved it. It was one of those books I only put down because day job demanded me to.
The story focuses on sixteen year old Adelice Lewys. From what I gathered it is set a few hundred years in the future, in a world called Arras. And I tell you, the future that Albin has created for us is extremely controlled.
All the young girls and boys are segregated in Adelice’s home city, and they don’t meet until after their sixteenth birthdays. All girls go through a period of testing that determines whether or not they have the Spinster ability. Spinsters are the women who can literally weave the threads of space, time and people. There’s a definite vibe of the fate mythology.
The authority in the book claims that to be a spinster you must maintain “purity standards”. Basically you’ve got to stay virginal in all ways until testing is over, and if you’re a spinster you’re never allowed to marry.
It’s kind of neat how the real definition of spinster has been utilised in this book. Because of course we know that a spinster is a woman who has not married and is past the usual age to do so. But did you know that these women started being called spinsters because they had nothing else to do but spin and weave since they weren’t married?
In the world in this novel, it is impossible to pick a spinster before the age of sixteen, so all young girls must maintain their purity standards before testing, hence the segregation.
Adelice and her parents have been training for years to avoid her being picked as a spinster. If duty calls she will be controlled by the authority and never see her family again. There is far more politically at play here than Adelice understands and we spend the rest of the novel coming to grips with the horror of life as a spinster and trying to understand the secretive politics that hide the truth of Arras.
When Adelice is discovered as a spinster during testing, she is taken from her parents and sister by force. Our Adelice doesn’t take this lying down, she fights back, despite not really understanding why her parents have tried so hard to keep her out of the Coventry (where the spinsters go).
At the spinster academy, Adelice meets the assistant to the academy head, Erik. Erik is your typical bad boy. He’s hot, he’s funny, and he doesn’t seem to care for the authority. Then Adelice meets Josten, equally as hot, more caring, and a solid air of mystery, oh and he likes to garden.
What I love about this book are the intermingling of old weaving terms with the world Adelice lives in. Before I read this book I had no idea that crewel work was a kind of freestyle embroidery. Now I do.
Our heroine, Adelice, is fantastically sarcastic of mind, she doesn’t hesitate to question the way things are run, sometimes to her detriment. She can’t seem to make friends with other girls despite trying and turns to Erik and Josten for friendship… and sometimes a little more.
The cover of Crewel implored me to read the book. I’m glad I couldn’t help but pull it out of the book bin.
If you were a fan of The Hunger Games and Divergent, the Crewel World trilogy might be a good fit. I’ll let you decide.
P.S for a bit on the background of the how and why of this novel, check out this article on ChooseYA.com.