‘True to its name, the sleepy town of Shy in Avon-upon-Kynt is a place where nothing much happens. 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?’
A Dress for the Wicked is out this month and I absolutely loved the world in which it’s set and the characters that the reader meets along the way. It’s never made entirely clear exactly what level of technology Brittania Secunda has, only that the country in which Emmy lives is very similar to a Britain of the Victorian era, and I was glad to find that there are no vast passages of exposition to try and explain absolutely every feature of what living there is like, for it allows for a greater focus on the narrative itself, its characters, and the fashion and politics at its core. It’s an atmospheric novel in that the Fashion House and the beauty of the fabrics and clothes that are designed are beautifully described and almost tangible, keeping the concept of fashion, design and what they mean to the central characters and those who inhabit Brittania Secunda at its heart. I really enjoyed reading the designs for the different dresses created by the cast over the course of the narrative, particularly because it feels as if there is nothing in said designs that does not have a deeper meaning, either to the character designing it, the intentions of the brief given, or the character for which the outfit is being designed. The colours and fabric are described in vivid detail that makes it wonderfully easy to picture the gowns and feel the love the characters – and, by extension, the author – have for their work. The dedication to this detail is one of the things that makes A Dress for the Wicked a beautiful read and the real world rather dull by comparison!
The young women who have been entered for the Fashion House Interview are encouraged to see each other and almost everyone around them as competition, and what I found interesting about them is that yes, sometimes this is precisely what they do, but, more often, those who are presented from the outset as supposed threats are actually some of the more understanding and frustrated by their situation and circumstances. Many of them are fully aware of what the Fashion House and society expects from them, and this limits their creativity and what they truly wish to do, leaving them annoyed with how the world wants them to be portrayed and behave. Their frustration is just as evident as Emmy’s irritation with the prospect of their having an advantage and being set apart from them as a contestant to appease politics.
I would say that the only thing that I wasn’t too keen on was the romance between Emmy and Tristan. This isn’t to say that I was outright opposed to it, but given how Emmy so often thinks and feels and takes note of about Sophie, I was actually expecting the two of them to become a couple and was quite disappointed when this turned out not to be the case. However, this did not detract from my enjoyment of the story, especially as it was lovely to see Emmy and Sophie working together and supporting each other in a world that is set to encourage them not to – and after each of them giving in to that ingrained urge to consider each other threats and rivals. I really liked Sophie from the outset of the novel and spent quite a bit of the narrative worrying about what was happening – or going to happen – to her and was pleased to see that the choices she made were, ultimately, positive ones, when her circumstances mean that she was so full of potential to do quite the opposite.
Thank you to Harper 360 YA for sending me a copy of A Dress for the Wicked for review! I sincerely hope that we see more of this world, as it’s one that I was very reluctant to leave behind!