Title: Spin the Dawn
Series: The Blood of Stars #1
Author: Elizabeth Lim
Genre: YA, Fantasy
Published: July 9th, 2019 (Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers)
Synopsis: 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.
Maia Tamarin is a skilled tailor, but as a girl, can never hope to become a Master, which she has always dreamt of. When her father receives a summons from the emperor, she disguises herself as a boy and travels to court in his place to take part in a competition against renowned tailors from across the land to win the honour of becoming the Imperial Tailor. But the task she is set is seemingly impossible – to sew three magical dresses of legend for the future empress – and failure is not an option.
I loved the magic system in this book, whether it was Maia’s enchanted scissors or Edan’s magic. We only get hints about the origins of the magic scissors and why only Maia can wield them, and I’m really curious to know more! I also want to know more about Lady Sarnai as she still remains a rather mysterious character and I wonder if she is actually going to go through with the wedding to the emperor. There was something very fairy-tale like in the mood of this book right alongside the adventure that I really enjoyed. Spin the Dawn has been pitched as a Mulan retelling – the resemblance is definitely there, but this is way more than just a retelling and there is so much that is unique in it too. I also really liked the Chinese inspired setting and though the world building was not very detailed, it worked for this story and was just enough to easily visualize the events, and the writing style did remind me a lot of Renee Ahdieh’s books!
The competition between the tailors was interesting, but not exactly what I imagined – for one, I expected it to be drawn out more. Most of the attention was focused on Maia and Edan’s road trip to retrieve the magical items needed for the dresses, but I still felt it was a little rushed. In particular, the journey to obtain the blood of the stars was supposed to be the most dangerous, yet the way it was written didn’t quite have that effect. The one thing that really confused me Maia’s scissors. I can accept magical scissors – but how exactly can a pair of scissors sew (and paint too, apparently)?
This was a surprisingly lovely read, perfectly paced and while not particularly action packed, it was engaging from start to finish. Spin the Dawn would have worked really well as a standalone novel, but after that twist at the end, I can hardly wait to read the sequel and see how Maia and Edan’s story ends. Definitely recommended for fantasy fans!
Have you read this book? Let me know in the comments below!