Spin The Dawn (Amazon Affiliate Link)
Author : Elizabeth Lim
Series : The Blood of Stars
Volume : 1 of ?
Published By : Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers
Year Published : July 9, 2019
Genre / Tags : YA, Fantasy, Drama, Romance, Adventure
Formats : Hardcover, Paperback, eBook, Audiobook
# of Pages : 392 pages (Hardcover)
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.
Spin The Dawn is the first installment in a new YA Fantasy series. I was drawn immediately to its beautiful cover. The description mentions this title is being like Project Runway meets Mulan. I almost laughed at hearing that, it sounds like an unlikely combination to say the least. I was surprised, going in, how solidly realized and convincing the plot is. It takes itself seriously and not in a bad way. If you’re into tailoring or any sort of fabric-related arts and crafts I highly suggest this one. Some of the descriptions of the main character’s activities are fun to read about but I’d imagine it would be doubly so had I any first-hand interest in crafting.
First, about our main character Maia. She had a once happy and bustling family- her mother, father, and three brothers. The bulk of the story follows Maia after her family has faced great adversity. Her brothers are sent off to war and her mother has passed away, and Maia is left to pick up the pieces of her family’s once renown tailoring business. Mulan-esque circumstances force Maia to pose as a boy in order to compete with several older and more accomplished tailors for a shot at becoming a royal tailor in direct service to the emperor. A position that will ensure her ailing family and business can survive.
I like Maia, she’s legitimately interested in tailoring rather than just treating it as a familial duty. The warm vibe with her family and her determination to help and care for them is touching. She’s just a good character, though not extraordinary. Late stage events have me thinking she could have a lot of potential growth through conflict in the sequel.
This book is split into three parts. Part 1 is Maia taking part in the competition, moving amidst the royal court, and trying to hide her identity. Here we meet Edan, a court enchanter and direct advisor to the emperor. He’s a witty and amusing character who shows great interest in Maia, though she is uncertain of his motives and standoffish. They have a really charming enemies-to-friends style rapport in this section. There is a lot of drama at court, backstabbing, even attempted murder in this portion. The competition is no joke and becomes cutthroat fast. But there is also a sense of isolation from everyone being closed in together and working on increasingly challenging assignments set up by Lady Sarnai, the emperor’s fiancee and a powerful but malicious-seeming figure.
Without spoiling the end of Part 1, I’ll just say that Part 2 is much more open and has a tone of adventure with more fantasy-based action as Maia is suddenly able to explore vast reaches. If you were disliking the more closed-in court drama of part 1 but are close to finishing it, I highly recommend continuing into part 2 as things change quite a bit. Maia also spends more time with Edan and I was surprised by the amount of romance in this title. It’s more than just a footnote, perhaps above average in detail than many other YA Fantasy titles. I liked the couple so all the little scenes with them were cute, and I found the growth of their camaraderie and relationship to be evenly paced and satisfying. There is, surprisingly, a love scene. It is tastefully handled and still (imo) within YA boundaries.
Part 3 wraps up the plot and makes some of the more fantastical elements shine. It’s hard to go into much detail about that section with spoilers. Lets just say there are various types of spirits, demons, and fantasy entities- and the book ends with a rather lofty conundrum that sets an intriguing scene for the sequel.
Overall, I liked Spin The Dawn. It’s a fast-paced and very approachable read. While indeed steeped in Chinese cultural aesthetic and mythologies, it’s not at all info-dumpy and comes off as quite approachable for almost anyone. I was pleased with this one but not clamoring for an overwhelming need for the sequel, just a quietly enduring interest.
Overall Rating – 8.5/10
Why You Should Try It – A unique setting steeped in traditional Chinese culture blended with fantasy. An easy and inviting read. No info dumps, very direct writing style. If you like dramas of the court, Mulan, competitive action/adventure, a surprisingly meaty little romance, tailoring, and/or fantasy elements- this is definitely worth trying out. Edan and Maia are a cute pair.
Why You Might Not Like It – The overall vibe can feel mild and doesn’t make big waves. I think more noteworthy side characters would have helped. I was often left only caring about Edan and Maia.
So, an unlikely title that this book reminds me of for some reason is Throne of Glass by Sarah J Maas. The first book in that series. What the two have in common- the whole reality-show or Battle Royale-like element of many people competing for one sought-after spot. They both share a downside of none of those fellow competitors being very interesting people. Also, the sort of mysterious royal court full of villainous entities. Both are fast-paced, simple reads. I know some have issues with Celaena though. By comparison, I’d venture a guess that most people wouldn’t have problems with Maia.
Anywho, have you read Spin the Dawn? If so, what did you think of it? If not, is it on your TBR? Am curious as always to hear your thoughts. Thanks so much for checking out this review! ~ Kitty.