Title: Unravel the Dusk
Series: The Blood of Stars #2
Author: Elizabeth Lim
Genre: YA, Fantasy
Published: July 7th, 2020 (Knopf BYR)
Synopsis: Maia Tamarin’s journey to sew the dresses of the sun, the moon and the stars has taken a grievous toll. She returns to a kingdom on the brink of war. The boy she loves is gone, and she is forced to don the dress of the sun and assume the place of the emperor’s bride-to-be to keep the peace.
But the war raging around Maia is nothing compared to the battle within. Ever since she was touched by the demon Bandur, she has been changing . . . glancing in the mirror to see her own eyes glowing red, losing control of her magic, her body, her mind. It’s only a matter of time before Maia loses herself completely, but she will stop at nothing to find Edan, protect her family, and bring lasting peace to her country.
Maia Tamarin returns to the imperial court with a dark secret. She has created the legendary dresses of Amana, but her expedition to the Forgotten Isles to retrieve the blood of stars and her encounter with the demon Bandur have left her cursed – and slowly turning into a demon herself. Edan is gone, travelling to learn how to use what magic he has remaining after severing the oath, unknowing of her situation. When the imperial wedding goes sideways, Maia is forced to don the dress of the sun and take Lady Sarnai’s place in order to keep the peace and alliance between the Emperor and the Shansen, but Maia can only hold out for so long. The demon inside her is eager to take over and day by day, she is visibly losing control over her magic, body and mind, and as war breaks out, Maia is determined to find Edan and bring peace to A’landi before the change is completed.
As with the first book, the world-building was exquisite, expanding upon what we know about A’landi, and in particular demons and the magic surrounding them. I had wished for some more clarification on the magic system in the previous book, but no such luck and I’m still wondering how scissors can sew. I did love how important a role the dresses of Amana played though, along with the magical scissors, which are used for a very different purpose in this book from the last.
I didn’t expect Unravel the Dusk to be sunshine and rainbows by any means, but I didn’t think it would be quite so dark either – more akin to the original fairytales. The plotline with Bandur was resolved earlier than I expected, and perhaps a little easier too, but what came after definitely made up for it. Maia and Ammi’s friendship and journey was a lovely addition as I didn’t expect to see Ammi again in this book. It was really nice to see how she stood by Maia’s side to the very end and it was one of the few lighter aspects in this book. Lady Sarnai was a much more central figure as well, and it was great to learn more about her as she and Maia work together towards a common goal. With so many displays of magic, fights with demons, war scenes and above all, the monumental internal struggles, Unravel the Dusk makes for a pretty grand narrative.
On one hand, I definitely did not expect this book to get as emotional as it did, and Maia’s constant struggle as she descends into demonhood was so beautifully written throughout. While I liked Maia’s character in Spin the Dawn, this is where she truly shines. She was so much more determined, independent, fierce and markedly mature and she has evolved into a true heroine that you can’t help rooting for as she puts everything on the line to save her country in what little time she has left.
On the other hand, I’m not sure what to think about the ending. It was the literal definition of a deus ex machina at the eleventh hour and manages to greatly diminish everything that came before it. In my opinion, the story should have just been left there – sure it would have been a sad ending, but a better one than what was basically an engineered happily ever after. I adore Maia and Edan just as much as the next person, but I would have preferred the realistic ending that the plot was headed towards. This single aspect is what is preventing me from rating this book a 4.5 or even 5 stars and I’m quite disappointed.
This is a series that would be wonderful on screen. It’s so easy to visualize everything that happens just from the words alone and would be even better on screen. Overall, not a bad conclusion to this duology, but minus the last two chapters, I loved it. Unravel the Dusk was a fast-paced, engaging read and a beautifully written one. If you enjoyed the previous book, I would highly recommend reading this one too!
Have you read this book? Let me know in the comments below!
Other reviews in this series: