Arras is a manufactured world. It seems to consist of scientific/magical weaving, and only certain women have the ability to weave the fabric of Arras, to deal with life and death and weather. Of course, though, men run everything as usual, and those women who aren't talented enough to work as a Spinster have to get married off by 18. And they can only have traditional female jobs. Heck, the sexes are kept segregated until after about age 16, when girls (who have been kept "pure") are tested to see if they have Spinster talents.
Adelice started showing weaving talent at an early age. She's never had access to a loom, but she can weave the world without one. Her parents figured this out at an early age, and they've been training her for most of her life to NOT pass the tests. Unfortunately for them all, Adelice screwed up during the test, they caught her, and the powers that be are coming to take her away from her family forever tonight. Adelice lies and says she failed just so she can have one last night of normalcy, until the men come for her. Which is chilling. But once the men come, Adelice's parents start dragging her and her sister Amie down some secret passages the girls didn't know about....But they get caught. Adelice's parents are killed, her sister is rewoven into a new identity and family, and Adelice...well, has to pretend for the cameras that she's delighted to become a Spinster.
Adelice is kind of reborn as a rebel, under the circumstances of losing her family under suspiciously terrible circumstances. She's immediately thrown into a viper's nest of people, and fuck if I know who she can trust. Or can keep on trusting, in a world where your memories may be rewritten or wiped at any time. (Super creepy I hate to be all "reminded me of The Hunger Games a bit," but uh...yeah, it did on that level..) She's not totally cool with what's going on, or faking it 100%, but it's even more complicated than that. Since she has the ability to weave without a loom, that means Adelice is more of a Creweler-- i.e. the one person in the world who can make new things in the world. The current Creweler, Loricel, is incredibly old and desperately in need of a replacement. So while Adelice would normally have been eliminated by now, they can't get rid of her. But the powers that be can sure as hell find ways to force her into doing what they want, like hanging her sister over her head--or killing a fellow Spinster's sister just for kicks. It's a completely ominous, terrifying "perfect" world she's in, and how do you get out?
Because every damn book these days has to have a fucking love triangle (sorry, but god, those get old), we have two hot young guys who are allowed to work in the presence of young, hot, single women--albeit supposedly ones who have to remain lifelong virgins. Erik and Jost work in different jobs around Spinster HQ. Jost is a grieving widower with a grudge, Erik is a bit more mysterious, but he's been "claimed" by a psychotic Spinster as her trophy boy or something. Both of them are okay, I suppose. I guess Jost is a slightly better choice, but overall I didn't feel strongly there. Mostly I was just creeped out by Cormac, the bigwig who wants in Adelice's virgin drawers. Ewwwww.
There are a few twists in this book--there was one big one that I pretty much guessed logically even though I gather it's supposed to be a big shock. Okay, so it would be a shock for folks in Arras, not so much for readers here on Earth now. (It's the same kind of thing that would occur to you if you were reading Ascendant, I'll just say.) Another did surprise me. And I thought the end, even though it was foreshadowed, leads to great potential. I don't know if I liked it or not, but I was fascinated by the whole setup and I definitely want to read the next book. I don't think I was massively in love with any one character, but I want to see where this goes. I looooooooooved the cliffhanger the book ended on and I was definitely hoping it would go that way.
So, four stars.