Crewel by Gennifer Albin
Series: Crewel World #1
on October 16th, 2012
Shelve It: Goodreads
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 to work the looms is everything a girl could want. It means privilege, eternal beauty, and being something other than a secretary. It also means the power to manipulate the very fabric of reality. 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 used her hidden talent for a moment. 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 jokes. One hour to pretend everything’s okay. And one hour to escape.
Because tonight, they’ll come for her.
Crewel is a difficult book for me to review, because I’m of two minds. With an imaginative and creative landscape with which to develop a twisty and deceitful plot, Crewel was slow-burning, but suspenseful. But by the halfway mark, Crewel seemed to lose it’s focus, and by the time it realized where it wanted to go and how to get there, it was too late.
Easily one of the most imaginative and creative dystopians I’ve ever read, Crewel built up it’s richly unique world with the agonizingly slow reveal of bits and pieces, scattered throughout its entirety. While I found it slightly frustrating to be so in the dark, it also added a level of intrigue to this world so different from anything else I’ve ever experienced. It also allowed for the world to grow organically around me, rather than throwing me into an info-dump like explanation within the first few chapters. Even though I was completely spellbound by the world building, which was intricate and detailed in ways I would normally appreciate, I often found myself struggling to visualize the imagery. It was just so different that I had no framework to use as a reference, so I often found myself re-reading passages to try and sort through the details into something that made sense.
With an explosive opening, I was prepared for Crewel to be a fast-paced thriller, as Adelice attempted to escape her newfound prison and life of deceitful luxury. Once Adelice arrived at the compound, however, Crewel’s pacing started to crawl. And this is where I felt like Crewel lost itself. The plot meanders for quite a while, as Adelice is treated as a prisoner one moment and a royal guest the next, and is almost distracting in its lack of focus or direction. With a blurb that promises weaving, Adelice does very little; she’s so caught up in her two romances and petty squabble with Spinster Maela to learn how to weave, let alone to master it. Her training with Loricel was something I looked forward to, but after much fuss about the truth behind Aras’ foundation and it’s ties to Earth, the difference between Spinsters and Creweller’s (which I still don’t really understand), and no weaving, Loricel declares Adelice is ready. I felt like I had read so many pages, but wasn’t any further ahead on my knowledge of the world, of the importance of Adelice’s abilities or the reason Spinsters allowed the Guild to wield so much power.
I also wasn’t ever blown away by the depth or complexity of any of Crewel’s characters, of which there were quite a few, which meant I didn’t really understand the motivations of those who worked so tirelessly to make Adelice fail. Even Adelice, who’s thoughts and emotions we’re privy to at all times, was vague and two dimensional. I think her sarcasm worked against her, and served only to further remove me from the story: there were moments where Adelice should have been fearful or nervous, but because of her sarcasm, she came across as unaffected and emotionless. I didn’t understand her bravado or her indifference towards her own life, or why she would test the boundaries of the Guild’s patience so often, without bothering to even pretend to learn the limits. The only time she flickered to life was when her family was mentioned, but it wasn’t enough to create a connection.
By the time Crewel got itself back on track, and Adelice decided on a course of action that almost made sense, I exasperated enough to consider putting it down. With my lack of connection to any of the characters, my interest in the love triangle was minimal, at best. I had enough of the world figured out to decide a lot of it didn’t make much sense (again, considering the power the Spinsters have, why would they ever allow for the men to rule over them with such authority and control?). And Adelice’s actions at the very end seemed to go against everything she had been working towards for the entire novel!
How do you rate a book that you loved for the first half, but that fell apart, disastrously, for the second half? Bah, so much potential!