Spin the Dawn by Elizabeth Lim
Published by Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers on July 30, 2019
Series: The Blood of Stars #1
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Length: 400 pages Source: NetGalley
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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.
Disclaimer: I received this book for free from NetGalley and Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
I really, really, really like this book.
I was so surprised by it. At the time of writing this review (January 29th! I’m dying, waiting for everyone else to be able to read it!) it’s currently at a well-deserved 4.53 stars on Goodreads. I’m so happy for Elizabeth Lim and I hope the rating stays high. This book is pitched as Mulan meets Project Runway, and that description is doing it a huge disservice. It is Mulan in as far as she’s a girl disguised as a boy, and it’s Project Runway only because she makes dresses. So know that, then get that description out of your mind.
Okay. So Spin the Dawn is a fantastic adventure across all sorts of terrain to gather the laughter of the sun, the tears of the moon, and the blood of the stars to weave into dresses that were originally meant for a goddess. This story takes inspiration from One Thousand and One Nights and weaves it into a Chinese-themed adventure story. There’s a sweet romance, a strong heroine, a great sibling relationship, the echoes of war. I mean, this book has EVERYTHING. I found myself thinking of Aladdin, The Poppy War, Children of Blood and Bone, and so many other fantastic, inspiring, imaginative, intense stories. Spin the Dawn far exceeded my expectations and I want you all to go add it to your TBR.
Seriously. I’ll wait.
Outside of a writing style that effortless wrapped me into the story, Elizabeth Lim has created characters who you love and grieve for. Out protagonist, Maia, is a sweet, strong, talented young tailor in a world that doesn’t accept women as Master Craftsmen. She disguises herself for both necessity (to save her family’s business) and pride (because she knows she has the skills of a Master Craftsman). I loved Maia’s determination, but also her kindness. She’s not a typical cocky heroine who wants to prove her meddle – she’s a sweet girl who has confidence and loves her family.
The love interest, Edan, is a similar situation. He starts off as this teasing, standoffish character but it’s easy to fall in love with him as the story progresses. There’s a depth of history in Edan, and I’m desperately hoping to see more of this character in the rest of the trilogy. In Edan we see magic and regret and we learn the lines between history and mythology. His tales are always fascinating – the only thing I regret about his character is that the more we learn, the less mysterious and grand he seems.
I also want to say a little about the love story – I neither loved it nor hated it. Maia’s emotions and Elizabeth Lim’s writing are deep and lovely. Some of the dialogue is a little cheesy between lovers, but otherwise, I came to enjoy the moments Maia stole with her beau. There’s one scene where he brings her flowers that was absolutely adorable.
With an exciting story, fantastic writing, compelling characters, and an ending that will leave you screaming at the page… Spin the Dawn is one of the must-reads of 2019. I enjoyed this book immensely, and I’m on edge waiting for the rest of the trilogy.