Author: Jon Armstrong
Publisher: Night Shade Books
Release Date: December 14, 2010
Yarn is a fairy tale that answers the question, “What would happen if fashion literally ruled society?”. But this isn’t a fluffy bed time story. In Yarn, the prequel to his best seller, Grey, Jon Armstrong has created a dystopian society ruled by one draconian fashion celebrity and a society that places fashion above everything else.
The reader is taken on the Cinderella adventure of Tane Cedar as he takes on one final commission for a dying friend, to create a jacket made from the deadly and highly illegal Xi yarn. Through a mix of flashbacks and driving action we learn how Tane became the supreme tailor he is today and why he does not question the commission that could cost him the empire he has worked so hard to build.
Armstrong plays with the cutthroat world of retail to create a literal cutthroat environment. These are not your typical part time jobs at the mall. When you sign on, you are signing on to fight to death for your employer, be it for a prime spot in the mall or a displeasing word spoken about the garments you sell. Saleswarriors weave warTalk and knitting needle weapons with the same ease they knit fashion skivve.
One of the aspects of this novel I found most compelling was the “warTalk” used by the various “saleswarriors” in the story. It is a language born of poetry, sea shanties, and smack talk. Armstrong throws the reader into the soup of Seattlehama’s language. No glossary of slang is included; you have to figure out what everyone is trying to imply just as Tane does in his early days as an apprentice. The language of the residents of Seattlehama is as superfluous in poetics as the fashions they create and wear. As the story moves on the reader will soon learn that warTalk is no more confusing than the language of our own commercials.
I originally scoffed at the idea of fashion punk as a worthy literary genre. It felt too gimmicky, as though Armstrong was riding on the success of steampunk and the various young adult novels in that genre. But as I found myself unable to put down Yarn, I soon learned there is something to this relatively new genre. Will I see people dressing in fashion punk at Dragon*Con? Who knows? But if Armstrong keeps up the brilliant storytelling in this particular genre, it would not surprise me if 2011 becomes the year of fashion punk.
If you enjoyed The Hunger Games trilogy, watch Project Runway as a guilty pleasure, or are looking for a modern fairy tale with bite, you need to pick up a copy of Jon Armstrong’s Yarn.
Rating: 4 / 5 Stars