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Ned Hasting is a weaver living in a time when coal-powered mills are making his life's work obsolete. After desperation drives him to the life of a highwayman, he stumbles into a fairytale land whose inhabitants become animals for a few days each month. Things are strange enough, but they become stranger when Ned holds up the court wizard. For his efforts, he's transformed into a cow and barely escapes being sent to the local prison dairy farm.
On the run (or perhaps gallop), Ned befriends a young farm couple, formerly American pioneers from the Oregon trail, and a hippie turned tinker turned magpie who tells Ned there's no going home in many ways. Not only can Ned never return to his time, the magics that transform people into animals cause permanent changes. When Ned becomes human again, he'll look very different. For one thing, he'll be a girl.
Ned, now Mary, has to decide upon a course in her new life, while discovering that the seemingly idyllic world has its share of secrets. Will anyone discover her past as both criminal and male? What went on between the local lord and his recently deceased wife? And when will her new friends stop trying to set her up with potential suitors?
At turns both whimsical and philosophical, Threading the Loom examines questions about identity, historical gender roles and what it means to be human. Or perhaps it's just Jane Eyre with talking cows.