Monday, June 24, 2019

Review: Spin the Dawn by Elizabeth Lim

Spin the Dawn (The Blood of Stars, #1)
Spin the Dawn by Elizabeth Lim
Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers
Publication: July 9th, 2019
Hardcover. 416 pages.

About Spin the Dawn:

"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."

Spin the Dawn is a gorgeous, magical story of determination, survival, friendship, and family. When I first saw this book described as "Project Runway meets Mulan," I was immediately intrigued. I knew it would probably end up not being quite like that description, but I was still excited for what this book could be and I was not disappointed. 

Spin the Dawn has a lot of elements that feel similar to other books--a girl dressing up as a boy, a competition of sorts that the protagonist must win, and, of course, plenty of magic and characters who you never really know if they're on your side or not. Despite these familiar elements, Lim managed to craft them all into a wholly unique and magical journey that felt fresh and exciting.

The story takes off when Maia enters a competition to follow her passion of being a professional tailor--a role that is usually left to men--in which the prize is to become the imperial. Once at the palace, things never completely go according to plan and Maia has not only the challenge of creating beautiful garments that pass the test of the Imperial Majesty's soon to be wife, but also the challenge of beating all of the other contestant, most of whom feel immediate rivalry towards Maia. I really liked how Lim handled this situation and had Maia react to the various pressures from those around her. She tries her best to stay true to herself and her morals, while also trying to survive the continuous sabotage of those around her. I really appreciated her strong independence and ability to handle a barrage of difficult obstacles that were constantly thrown her way. 

Another prominent character that I found easy to become enamored with is Edan, the Lord Enchanter. I can't really say too much about him without going into too many details that could give way some spoilers, but he has a fairly important role in this story, especially when him and Maia leave to embark on a journey to find near impossible materials for some important dresses. Edan is one of those characters that seems tricky and never completely trustworthy, but is still entirely compelling. He remains fairly mysterious throughout most of the book and constantly has secrets to unravel, but his personality and motivations also are revealed as the book goes on and I really enjoyed getting to know him and seeing his relationship with Maia develop. 

The world-building is also incredibly well done and I commend Lim for creating such a fully-fleshed and rich world. There is a lot of great mythology woven in that Lim has developed, as well as locations and culture that add so much depth to the story and characters involved. 

I didn't have any major issues with this book, but on a minor note I did feel as though some of the perceived "near-impossible" challenges that Maia and Edan had to overcome didn't seem quite as difficult as they could have been, and some things felt a little too convenient. Despite this, there was still a significant sacrifice made at one point that really increased the gravity and risks in the story. 

Overall, I've given Spin the Dawn 4.25 stars! I truly enjoyed this one and cannot wait for the next installment. This really stood out to me from other YA fantasy books and I look forward to reading more books from Lim (especially Magnolia Sword, which comes out this fall!). 

*I received a copy of Spin the Dawn in exchange for an honest review. This has no effect on my rating of the novel.*

Buy the book: Amazon | Book Depository | IndieBound

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