Sunday, February 9, 2014

Young Adult Dystopian Book Club - Crewel and Altered

I read Crewel, by Gennifer Albin, and its sequel Altered. I'm not going to bother doing a second post about the second book because I absorbed them both like they were one book. This trilogy is what we call "high concept," which is just another way of saying "difficult to explain." Here's the summary from Amazon for Crewel:

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.

When I first looked at this book on there, I was totally bewildered halfway through the first sentence of that. Without context, it really doesn't make any sense. But I was intrigued anyway. After reading it, it makes slightly more sense, but I still feel like I might just not be smart enough to get it. I've been trying to write this post for several days now but I keep putting it off because I don't know how to talk about this book or explain what it's about, so here's my best attempt.

The story takes place in a world controlled by women called Spinsters, who have the ability to weave on magical looms things in and out of existence. They're in charge of distributing food rations, for example, and when someone is sick and dying they are the ones who process "removal requests" - meaning they weave that person out of existence. Only girls have the ability to become Spinsters, and every girl gets tested for the ability as a teenager. If they show any ability they are chosen to go to one of four Coventries, where the looms are located. They never have contact with their families ever again. The main character, Adelice, proves to be more gifted than anyone has been in a long time, and she gets selected to become the next Creweler, because she can weave things without needing a loom. Naturally, there are plenty of behind the scenes politics discovered as the story progresses and nothing is as simple as they've always been told.

There, that's all you're getting. Everything else is too complicated to explain. I was going to do a more spoilery review than this but it's TOO HARD. If you want to know more, you'll just have to read it yourself.

I started out really in love with this story. The world is really creatively imagined and the characters are well developed, too. There's a love triangle (because of course there is) (it doesn't really come into focus until the second book) and while this can be annoying, I didn't think it was in this story at all, and I genuinely don't know who she's going to end up with, if either of them. My only problem with the story is that... the first book is all exposition - Adelice is searching for all the secrets of Arras that she doesn't know. I didn't have an issue with this in the first book. I can really enjoy a book with lots of exposition if it's interesting and comes with the promise of action. And it did, a little bit. But then... the second book was also really heavy on the exposition. And I recognize that it was all necessary information, but after a while it felt tedious, and it made me start to dislike the characters when I didn't want to because they weren't doing anything.

I am hoping the third book resolves these concerns for me - I think it will because of where Altered left off. The conclusion to this trilogy has the potential to be totally epic and I'm definitely interested in seeing where it goes. If you want to read a totally original sci-fi story idea (the second book even reveals some alternate history stuff which brought a whole new level of cool to it) and are okay with a heavy amount of exposition, this series will make you happy.

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