Spin the Dawn by Elizabeth Lim intrigued me from my first glimpse as I love Project Runway as well as anything Mulan inspired. This story of a sewing competition is thrilling to read as the main character competes under a fraudulent identity, and I enjoyed her passion and the care she provides for her family. What I didn’t love was the rest of the book after the competition is over, as the story changes dramatically after only a third of the way through. I must say I was disappointed in this one since I had such high hopes for it.Title: Spin the Dawn (The Blood of Stars #1)
Author: Elizabeth Lim
Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: July 9, 2019
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.
❃ I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review. ❃
Review: Spin the Dawn
This book follows a tailor named Maia as she poses as a man to compete in the emperor’s tailoring competition. As part of her final challenge, she must go on a journey to create three gowns made of fantastical materials that are difficult to obtain. I found the blend of mythology with Mulan and Project Runway interesting, as this is a combination I never would have expected. The mix of design and magic is very creative. I also love books that feature competitions, so the tension and thrill that this brings was very enjoyable to me. The sewing in particular was very exciting to read about as the descriptions of the characters’ creations are gorgeous. Ultimately, this is an original story that is sure to delight fantasy fans.
❀ Brave Main Character
Maia is an interesting character, and I love what she stands for. By entering the competition under a false identity, she is aware of the the risks she faces, however her reasoning for doing so is so pure. Not only does Maia compete to achieve her dream, she does it to support her family and earn money to send back to them as well. She is very passionate about what she does, and her compassion and thoughtfulness when it comes to those she loves made me appreciate her even more. As well, Maia is incredibly brave on her journey to collect the three materials, and she doesn’t back down from a challenge, no matter how difficult it may be.
❀ Becomes Repetitive
For me, what was disappointing about this book is the fact that is turns into a completely different story about a third of the way through. The competition is over around 100 pages in, and then Maia is off on a journey that I honestly didn’t care about. The descriptions of her sewing and the tension of the competition and getting caught for her disguise are so entertaining to read, and if this had continued, the book would have been a 5 star read. This trip becomes boring and repetitive after a while, and I could have done without it as I didn’t find that it contributes that much to the story. Probably one of my biggest issues with this journey is the complete switch in Maia’s values. Everything suddenly revolves around Eden and their romance, and she seems to forget about everything she stood for and desired in the first half. It is difficult to describe without spoiling too much, but there is one scene in particular at the very end in which Maia makes a huge sacrifice for this boy, and this ruined the book for me. What happened to her ambitions and saving her family?
Spin the Dawn contains an interesting combination of influences, and I enjoyed the descriptions of sewing as well as the main character. That being said, I didn’t appreciate the way the book changes in the second half as the exciting and suspenseful story becomes flat and overly romance-driven. I would still suggest this one to those who enjoy Mulan retellings, however, as I may be a black sheep here.