SPIN THE DAWN – ELIZABETH LIM
392 pages – July 2019
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.
From the second I saw the cover for Elizabeth Lim’s Spin the Dawn, I knew I was going to end up reading it. When I saw it described as Project Runway meets Mulan I was even more interested.
As it turns out, I didn’t find this book much like its comparisons at all. Other than the tailoring challenge that opens the book, Project Runway doesn’t factor in, and I didn’t see any connection to Mulan other than the main character’s need to disguise herself as a boy.
Instead Spin the Dawn reads like the fleshed-out version of a fairytale. It’s a light book, and reasonably fast paced, but it’s full of heart and magic. We follow Maia, a tailor’s daughter vying for the position of Imperial Tailor, a position traditionally held by a man. But her final challenge – to create three dresses made from the laughter of the sun, the tears of the moon, and the blood of stars – takes her into a world of magic and monsters.
This is a solid YA fantasy. The Chinese culture gives the world-building a refreshing twist, even if it wasn’t quite as expansive as I thought it would be, and I hope we learn more in the sequel. The only thing that brought this down from five stars is that it all felt a little rushed.
The tasks Maia has to complete are wrapped up quickly and neatly, despite how impossible they’re supposed to be. For a land on the brink of war there’s very little standing in her way. In terms of characters Maia is well-developed and likeable, and Edan manages to be intriguing despite how little we know about him, but other potentially interesting characters are brushed over in favour of their romance. I want to know more about Lady Sarnai, who apparently just enjoys being difficult, and about the Emperor, who I get extremely creepy vibes off. In short, I guess I was expecting more of the book to be set at court, instead of off around the countryside while Maia and Edan fall in love.
All in all, I liked Spin the Dawn. It’s a refreshing, enjoyable addition to the YA fantasy genre, and while it might have had some pacing issues, it’s not going to stop me from picking up Unravel the Dusk, because after that ending I’m now invested in knowing how it all turns out.
You can also find this review on Goodreads.