Title: Crewel (Crewel World #1)
Author: Gennifer Albin
Publisher: Faber & Faber
Released: 16th October 2012
Rating: 4 of 5 stars
Crewel is a book that stunned me with its originality and creativity; it looked at all the repetitive ideas out there, smirked and threw itself in the faces of weary readers. The proverbial box is just a speck in the distance when it comes to Albin's imagination, something which I have no doubt many of us are grateful for.
In opening the book we find ourselves in Arras, a world where women called Spinsters are able to manipulate the very threads of the universe. They can literally see time and influence the appearance of the world around us; they have the ability to both bring life and take it away, all done by a swift move of the hand. Adelice is one such Spinster. Having so far successfully managed to keep anyone outside of her parents from finding out, one accident brings the Guild come banging on the door to collect her. Whisked away in a whirlwind of fear and uncertainty, Adelice soon realises that things are far more complex than they first seemed and her own reality far more sinister.
Trying to imagine Arras is not an easy task. Albin presents to us this idea of there being threads that make up time and space and matter, and trying to picture this in your head can get very confusing. Nevertheless, if you can picture something even approaching this concept, you find yourself stunned at how brilliant it is. We see three different perspectives of the world, pyhsically speaking: the first is basic, like looking at your room or a photo, nothing more. The second is through the eyes of a Spinster, seeing the different strands and colours blending to create shapes and forms, weaving themselves together as if to create a three-dimensional tapestry. The third comes with the astounding plot twist. Albin builds this world gradually so that it really is as if the reader is right there with Adelice, learning and seeing more about it. The layers there are to Arras are truly astounding.
Adelice herself is a character easy to sympathise with. The opening of the book sees her suffer greatly, and she has to deal with that all the way through. She questions, challenges, thinks - in short, she is not a weak character. Of course she forgets sometimes what kind of a world she's actually living in, and so makes mistakes; but these make her a realistic character, and are never infuriating. This development is consistent across the characters, and each of these, too, are composed of layers. Patton in particular is a good example of how views of right and wrong here are convoluted, and also how you can never really be sure who to trust. The uncertainty I felt towards him kept me curious, making me doubly determined to keep reading; the conversations between him and Adelice also had me laughing. Our protagonist is definitely one for humour, a quality I found very appreciable.
Of course there had to be something to mar an otherwise excellent read, and in this case it's the ever-present love triangle. Unfortunately I felt the romance here let the book down. There was something rather obvious staring Adelice in the face which she failed to notice until the end, and neither of the love interests, namely Erik and Jost, succeeded in tearing my heart in two or even forcing me to take a side. Even now I couldn't really tell you who I prefer more. In any case, it still wasn't that bad and Albin did manage to write it well. There is a lot of scope for development in the case of Adelice's relationship, and reading about the love triangle was still entertaining.
The ending completely blew me away. It is, without a doubt, the perfect opening for a sequel, and to say that it was unpredictable is an understatement. I am very much excited to see where the author goes with this and I honestly can't wait to read the next one. Enthralling, original and wonderfully complex, Crewel is an absolute must-read.