Spin the Dawn by Elizabeth Lim
From Goodreads: Project Runway meets Mulan in this sweeping YA fantasy about a young girl who poses as a boy to compete for the role of imperial tailor and embarks on an impossible journey to sew three magic dresses, from the sun, the moon, and the stars.
Maia Tamarin dreams of becoming the greatest tailor in the land, but as a girl, the best she can hope for is to marry well. When a royal messenger summons her ailing father, once a tailor of renown, to court, Maia poses as a boy and takes his place. She knows her life is forfeit if her secret is discovered, but she’ll take that risk to achieve her dream and save her family from ruin. There’s just one catch: Maia is one of twelve tailors vying for the job.
Backstabbing and lies run rampant as the tailors compete in challenges to prove their artistry and skill. Maia’s task is further complicated when she draws the attention of the court magician, Edan, whose piercing eyes seem to see straight through her disguise.
And nothing could have prepared her for the final challenge: to sew three magic gowns for the emperor’s reluctant bride-to-be, from the laughter of the sun, the tears of the moon, and the blood of stars. With this impossible task before her, she embarks on a journey to the far reaches of the kingdom, seeking the sun, the moon, and the stars, and finding more than she ever could have imagined.
Hey everyone, hope things are going good.
First up, I wanted to thank my friend Moon for gifting me this book 😀 Moon writes awesome reviews over on her blog, and you should definitely check out some of her posts if you haven’t already. Thank you, Moon 😀
Now, on to the review. I seriously loved this book from the first page. The whole tag of Project Runway meets Mulan was so on point, and really let me know what I was in for. Maia is a great character. She’s smart, creative, quick-thinking. She has a lot of determination and passion for her dreams, and she follows them whenever she can. I loved that so many of the writing choices reflect her dreams and her world views. There’s lots of descriptions that use colour, or other things associated with sewing and designing, such as metaphors about thread and different materials. I thought this was a really clever way to get into Maia’s head, and I appreciated having a chance to see her world through her eyes for a bit.
I did quite like Edan. His character was consistent and amusing and he clearly had a lot going on in his head. While I enjoyed the romance, I did think there were moments when it felt a tad like insta-love, which is not a trope I enjoy in my fiction. It’s not terrible, but there are scenes throughout the book where the seriousness of the romance doesn’t feel quite earned enough yet, which left me a bit disappointed. As I said, that’s kind of a weird feeling to have, especially since I liked the characters, liked seeing them together, liked all the tiny little threads of chemistry woven into their scenes, but ultimately it felt like there was just something missing from it.
The world-building in this book is utterly fantastic. I loved the magic. While there were moments when I didn’t entirely understand how the magic worked and could have done with more explanation, I did enjoy the magical objects. And the mythology was beyond incredible. The whole story of the dresses and the goddess and how everything worked together was ingenious, and beautiful and just made me want to happy sob. I think it helps that the description of the dresses and the different challenges Maia faces is so good. If I could write half as good as this, I would be incredibly happy.
If I do have any other small snipes about Spin the Dawn, I will say that the pacing felt a little… off. Like, the plot just didn’t match up quite right, somehow? It sounds weird, and it’s hard to explain, but I think I was expecting the book to basically just be about the competition to become the Imperial Tailor, so it felt a bit disjointed almost when we shifted from that to all the other stuff. And then again, right towards the end, something else changes in the plot and it’s like the ground has fallen out from under you again and the plot focuses on something else you didn’t expect. I am going to give the book the benefit of the doubt, especially since it is only the first in a series, but there were times when I felt the book was quite easy to put down because it felt strange to suddenly have those switches.
Overall, I’m giving Spin the Dawn an 8/10 stars. I thought the world-building and mythology were utterly unique and gorgeous, and I loved Maia’s character and the writing style Lim uses to really make her protagonist stand out. But I think the romance was a little rushed in places, and the different plot elements often made the pacing feel a bit off and disjointed. Still, it’s definitely a book I’d recommend picking up, and I am excitedly anticipating the sequel, Unravel the Dusk, later this year.
Has anyone else read this book already or plans to? What do you all think of it? Let me know in the comment section down below ❤