Title: A Dress For The Wicked
Author: Autumn Krause
Release Date: 6th August 2019
Publisher: Harper360YA / Harper Teen
My Rating: 3.5 Stars!
“Nothing much happens in the sleepy town of Shy in Avon-upon-Kynt. And for eighteen years, Emmaline Watkins has feared that her future held just that: nothing.
But when the head of the most admired fashion house in the country opens her prestigious design competition to girls from outside the stylish capital city, Emmy’s dreams seem closer than they ever have before.
As the first “country girl” to compete, Emmy knows she’ll encounter extra hurdles on her way to the top. But as she navigates the twisted world of high fashion she starts to wonder: will she be able to tailor herself to fit into this dark, corrupted race? And at what cost?”
The publisher kindly provided me with a copy of this book for review. This in no way affects my thoughts and opinions.
The first thing to say about this, is that it was a really fun read. It had a lot of flaws thatI’ll be talking about, but at its core it was a really enjoyable read, to the point where I’m not mad about the flaws, I’m just acknowledging where it could be better. Going into this, I had no clue whether it was a fantasy or just pure historical fiction – I’d seen it marked as both in different places. Obviously I can now answer this, and it is NOT fantasy. There is no magic in this story at all, I suppose the confusion comes as it is set in an alternate version of our history, but the actual story is not fantastical at all. It’s also a standalone, which I know a lot of you will be happy to hear! It is a very satisfying story on its own, but I can see that there would be potenial for the author to revist the world, but as it is it works nicely on its own.
Now, the biggest draw back for this book is that we know next to nothing about the world. All we know is that its set in Brittania Secunda, which is a place that gained independance from England at some point and has its own monarchy. It seems to have some sort of significant size as it takes them a day on the train to travel from the north to the capital – Avon-upon-Kynt (which makes no sense, and is clearly just an attempt to sound really English, despite the fact that the book states that Avon-upon-Kynt is, in fact, upon the River Tyne. So really it would be Avon-upon-Kynt-upon-Tyne) – so it can’t be located somewhere the existing U.K.. There were just a lot of attempts to make this world seem very English in its culture and geography, without really explaining how it fits into our world. I also only knew that it was set in an alternative version of the Victorian period from the Author’s Note. I just would have liked a little more clarity and development over the history of the world, in order to make it believable.
I also didn’t really buy the romance. It seemed a bit insta-lovey – she’d met him briefly once, didn’t even know his name, and she was consumed by thoughts of him. Their relationship just moved quickly from there without any real connection forming or getting to know each other. This might work for some of you if you like a bit of a romance, but I just really didn’t feel like this story needed it. In essence, this story was about young women working hard to achieve their dreams with the odds stacked against them. Developing friendships and women working hard would have been enough for me. If anything, I would have liked the side character, Sophie, who had been through a lot to get the love story.
Where this story really shone was the fashion and description. This book has been compared to a Victorian version of Project Runway, and I totally agree! The descriptions of the designs, the fabrics, the garments was just beautiful and lush. I really enjoyed this part, and I’ve not read anything like it. Krause took a lot of liberties with the time period (perhaps why she didn’t explicitly state a time in the story) but this simply allowed her to create daring and vibrant designs, that didn’t deviate too far from history as the history was never strictly established.
I think the characters we followed were interesting in their personality and motivations. Emmy and Sophie we followed closely, but also Tristan, Kitty and Madame Jolene herself. These characters all had backstories that unfolded as the story went on that were clear in showing us how they’d ended up where they were and why, though I did feel like they were a bit underdeveloped and the personalities weren’t fully fleshed out. Sophie, for example, had a really tough time and that led her to want to succeed without being controlled, but I still didn’t totally feel her character’s full arc. A bit more time spent with these characters, specifically developing the other contestants’ stories, would have definitely benefitted this book.
Overall, this story was enjoyable and I definitely felt like Autumn Krause has potential. With further development and maybe focusing a bit more on fleshing out her world and characters, she definitely has potential to come up with something great. This one is totally worth a read if you love fashion and reality shows, and if you’re perhaps not so focused on needing a fully fleshed out world/history. It was fun and enjoyable, but I could see the flaws a mile off.