Hello there, speedsters! Welcome back to my blog!
I could not be more excited to share today’s review for Spin the Dawn by Elizabeth Lim, which is definitely one of my new favorite fantasies, and definitely, a favorite release of 2019! And here all my thoughts about it!
Here’s its stunning cover and synopsis:
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.
Steeped in Chinese culture, sizzling with forbidden romance, and shimmering with magic, this young adult fantasy is pitch-perfect for fans of Sarah J. Maas or Renée Ahdieh.
Coming up with enough words to do this book justice is hard. But I’m gonna try anyway.
Spin the Dawn is pitched as Mulan meets Project Runway. Personally, I couldn’t tell you if this comparison is completely accurate, as I’ve never consumed either of these pieces of media. (Yes, I’ve never watched Mulan. Pls forgive me, but I don’t blame you if you don’t.) But this is one of those books that doesn’t rely solely on these pitches to be amazing, as it’s an absolute delight.
Take my opinion with a grain of salt, because I barely ever ready fantasy, especially high fantasy, as it intimidates me immensely. But wow, this was such a magnificent read.
As a character, Maia can often be a very frustrating character, and I constantly found myself being annoyed at her decisions and actions. But then I remembered her age and the circumstances she was facing, and my heart softened a little bit. She’s not a new favorite character or anything, but I can recognize her courage, determination, and drive, all elements that made her a compelling character to read about.
My favorite was definitely mischievous and snarky Edan, the Lord Enchanter, who is immortal and has lived over 500 years, but whose skin is as smooth as a porcelain doll’s. He’s a powerful guy with extraordinary magical abilities, and you don’t expect him to be a such an important servant in the kingdom, based on his introduction as a nosey intruder wearing fine clothes in the trial.
But he’s so much more than the guy with magic. The guy who helps the emperor be tall and handsome and helps him look like a leader. He’s Edan of a thousand names. Edan, with the color-changing eyes. Edan, who has a recipe, potion, and tea for every injury and situation. Edan, who likes to pretend he’s a goof who doesn’t have a single care in the world, when in reality, all he wants is to let go of his powers and be free. Edan, who is secretly soft and vulnerable and caring, who hadn’t let himself love anybody with the fear of hurting or damaging them.
He had so many different layers and I just loved how smart, intelligent, wise, and helpful he was. Somehow, he always made the right choices. The right sacrifices. He was such an amazing character, and I just need a million more books about his adventures.
Insert these two wonderful characters into the world of A’landi, and you have a novel full of fashion, judgemental old men (lolol), impossible quests, adventures, horse and camel-riding, fashion, deserts, mountains, evil barbarians, ghosts, demons, and dresses that come to life? It’s a wild rollercoaster ride I really wanna experience again.
Many times I got confused while reading this fantasy, but in a good way? Even though I’m not used to stories like this one, it somehow still worked. A’landi and its people jumped out of the page, and they were lively and they’ll be very hard to forget.
The book was divided in three parts: The Trial, The Journey, and The Oath. And it amazes me how well-executed the storyline is. At times, I feared that the pacing of the book would slow or nothing of importance would happen, but it was so action-packed. There was such a good balance of dialogue, adrenaline, character interactions, and romance, I’m truly in awe.
Speaking of romance, I kinda loved the romance in this? I know a lot of people don’t, which is totally fair and valid, but I personally really enjoyed it, as Maia and Edan had great chemistry. They just worked, ya know? I do think I would’ve liked it a teeny bit better had it been queer, but it was still great! (I headcanon my king Edan as queer and y’all can Fight Me, idc.)
The writing was so lush and rich. Slightly flowery, but never, ever convoluted. Descriptions of settings, food, buildings, clothes, nature, and animals were all excellently done. I am dying to read more of Elizabeth Lim’s words cause that woman has talent.
My only complaint would be the ending? I do think it’s a good cliffhanger ending, as much as it fucking hurt me, but I truly believe, as many other people do, this could’ve worked better as a standalone. Just a few more hundred pages and a great resolution could have been done. But nevertheless, I’m still incredibly hyped for the sequel, Unleash the Dusk, and I am very much looking forward to seeing where the story goes next.
I won’t speak on the Chinese or disabled representation, as I am not an ownvoices reader and don’t feel comfortable speaking about certain aspects when it’s really not my place. I have seen a lot of complaints about the disabled rep, but I have seen Elizabeth Lim took into account a lot of the early critiques of the ableist storyline (Maia fakes a limp and uses a cane whilst in the palace, Keton’s disability getting magically cured at the end of the story), but as I’ve heard, these elements were changed in the finished copy, and I’m glad.
Overall, Spin the Dawn is an enchanting tale full of heart, soul, and spirit that you must not miss, inspired by Chinese mythology and high fashion, and I, as an avid YA contemporary reader, highly recommend you check it out.
Rating: 4.5/5 stars ⭐
Thank you to Random House Children’s and Knopf Books for Young Readers for providing me an ARC of this book via Netgalley in exchange of an honest review!
And that concludes this blog post!
Have you read Spin the Dawn? If you have, did you like it? Did you enjoy it as much as I did?
If not, is it in your TBR? Are you excited to give it a read? Tell me everything!
I hope you all enjoyed, and I’ll see you on the next one.