Book Review: Cwen – Alice Albinia

Book Review: Cwen – Alice Albinia

Release Date: June 3rd 2021
Publisher: Serpent’s Tail
Pages: 336
Find it on: Goodreads. BookDepository. Waterstones.
Source: The publisher kindly sent me a copy of this book to review
Rating: 2.25/5 stars


On an unnamed archipelago off the east coast of Britain, the impossible has come to pass. Women control the civic institutions. Decide how the islands’ money is spent. Run the businesses. Tend to their families. Teach the children hope for a better world. They say that this gynotopia is Eva Levi’s life’s work, and that now she has disappeared, it will be destroyed. But they don’t know about Cwen.

Cwen has been here longer than the civilisation she has returned to haunt. The clouds are her children, and the waves. Her name has ancient roots, reaching down into the earth and halfway around the world. The islands she inhabits have always belonged to women. And she will do anything she can to protect them.

This remarkable novel is a portrait of female power and female potential, both to shelter and to harm. What are we? Islanders or mainlanders, migrants or landowners, men or women, past or future? Or a mixture of them all? And how do we make sense of these islands we call home?


Cwen follows the story of an archipelago off the coast of Britain whereby women are in control – they run the businesses, make decisions for the community and decide how the money should be spent. All this is possible because of the work of Eva Levi but now she has disappeared, there is a chance it will be destroyed, will Cwen be able to stop it?

Cwen is one of those books that caught my eye because it has a really interesting cover. I thought the premise sounded really intriguing and I was really excited to pick it up. Unfortunately, this one just was not for me. I was very much on the verge of DNFing this one, but I ended up listening to it on audiobook so that I could find out how it would end. The problem for me was that I just didn’t connect with any of the characters. The story centres on quite a number of different women who live on the island or have been touched by the work of Eva Levi, but I just found myself completely uninterested. The court case parts in particular I really struggled to get through.

I think this story has a really intriguing premise but ultimately for me, the execution missed the mark. I definitely think this might be a me thing rather than a book thing because I’ve seen lots of positive reviews for this one, so if you’re in the mood for a unique and thought-provoking story about feminine power, this one could be just what you’re looking for.