Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Jennifer's Book Review: Crewel by Gennifer Albin

Crewel, the first book in a new dystopian series by Gennifer Albin, is one-of-a-kind. In a genre that’s quickly being saturated with Hunger Games rip-offs or love stories hiding behind a dystopian façade, Albin masterfully weaves dystopian with fantasy to create Crewel World.

In the world of Arras, men are in control, while women have very limited options. Girls must be married at age 18, and their careers are chosen for them by the government. The only women that appear to have a modicum of freedom are the Spinsters – women with the ability to control the threads of life (obviously inspired by the Fates in Greek mythology). Their special ability allows them to carefully monitor and control the weather, food and even life spans and memories. Even Spinsters, however, answer to the male-run Guild, the ruling force in Arras.

Crewel’s heroine, Adelice Lewys, passes the mandatory test to enter training as a Spinster, to the dismay of her parents. After a failed escape from her fate, she is viewed with contempt and suspicion in her new position. What’s more, Adelice has a secret she’s been warned to keep hidden – she has the rare ability to see the threads of life without a loom, making her invaluable to the Guild. As Adelice uncovers secrets the Guild would like to keep hidden, Adelice and those she loves find themselves in ever-increasing danger.

In Crewel, classic dystopian themes are evident, such as the constant observation and iron-fisted government control from 1984, or the disempowerment of women found in The Handmaid’s Tale. Although the methods used by the Guild, the manipulation of elemental threads, are different from those found in the aforementioned novels, they are stifling and oppressive, nonetheless.

But Albin’s blending of traditional themes with popular young adult trends separates her from those classic books, making Crewel easier to recommend to readers who are searching for “Hunger Games read-alikes.” Like the protagonists in Harry Potter, Eragon, Twilight and other trendy YA fiction series, Adelice’s rare ability increases her value to those in power. Whereas traditional dystopian literature often follows normal, mundane people with questionable worth to the authoritative body, Adelice stands out.

Crewel is a beautiful world, filled with color and intrigue. As with many fantasies, a bit of suspension of disbelief is necessary to accept the nature of Spinsters and the threads they manipulate. However, Albin does a wonderful job of explaining the nature of Arras without getting bogged down in jargon and overdone description. Albin writes beautifully, and readers will breathlessly wait for the sequel.

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