Published by Knopf Books for Young Readers on 9 July 2019
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, Own Voices
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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.
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.
Steeped in Chinese culture, sizzling with forbidden romance, and shimmering with magic, this young adult fantasy is pitch-perfect for fans of Sarah J. Maas or Renée Ahdieh.
Today we are participating in the #SpinTheDawnTour organised by Caffeine Book Tours, to celebrate this #ownvoices Asian fantasy book! I’ve been excited for this book since I first heard the synopsis – after all, the cover is absolutely MAGNIFICENT and I never say no to a Chinese-inspired story with hints of Mulan. I’m happy to say that Spin the Dawn was a solid debut, and I can’t wait to see how the rest of the story plays out. Here we go!
I really enjoyed Spin the Dawn, and if you’re in the mood for a fantasy threaded with romance and spectacular character development, I think you’ll adore it as well! Spin the Dawn follows the story of Maia, a common tailor who gets the opportunity to become the next royal tailor (while posed as a boy, of course, to satisfy the exceptionally patriarchal kingdom that she lives in (which is also quite reminiscent of historical mainland China in general)). She enters a competition where she is the youngest, and least well-known tailor, with only her wits and a (perhaps magical?) set of scissors to survive. Along the way, she meets snarky magicians, bitter rivals, and a seemingly impossible quest that will take her across the terrain of the land.
My whole life, I’d been told what I couldn’t do because I was a girl. Well, this was my chance to find out. The only thing I could do was take it.
I ADORED Maia’s characterization. I love how she, with only a pair of scissors passed down from her family, went into court and battled against older, bitter rivals, all while hiding the fact that she is a girl. Her single-handed determination and stubbornnes were really admirable, and I love how despite failures, she manages to pick herself up and continue on, learning even more through the process. As a character, she really demonstrates growth, as well as the potential to achieve even more despite humble backgrounds, and I really enjoyed that. We explore the frustrations of being a woman in a male-dominated society, as well as the loss you experience when the ones you love leave the earth. At the same time, we bask in Maia’s triumph over her unique dress creations, as well as the moment of satisfaction when she one-ups her rivals. It was really easy for me to connect to her as a character, as we experience both the struggles and successes of her life.
Magic was real. VERY real. And the revelation that I’d somehow used it sent me reeling with a staggering send of wonder – and fear.
A little bit later in the book, we also enter a fun sort of quest that really tests the endurance of Maia, as well as her belief in magic. This allows her to spend time with Edan, the court magician and love interest. He was a pretty mysterious character as first, but as they spend time with each other, he also opens up. Despite that, I do think his character as a deuteragonist and developing romance with Maia were a couple of the weaker points of the book. I really didn’t connect to him as a character as much as I did with Maia, and other than important aspects of the storyline and maybe some fun dialogue (and maybeee help with Maia’s growth, just a bit), I don’t think he offered much else to the overall book and, because of that, I didn’t enjoy the romance as much. This was a shame, because the beautiful writing also focused on that, quite a bit, and while I thought it was eloquently written, it didn’t move me as much as it could have.
I knew then that we were like two pieces of cloth, sewn together for life. Our stitches couldn’t be undone.
I wouldn’t let them.
I think Spin the Dawn was just filled with stunning imagery, and had a tight plot with magnificent characters, making for an overall solid debut. I’m really happy the cover is reflective of the gorgeous writing on the inside, and I’m really looking forward to the next book! I would highly advise readers to stick with the slower beginning and finish out the magical quest that Maia embarks on. With the vivid scenery, lovely burgeoning romance, and exceptional character development, I’d really recommend fantasy lovers to pick this one up!
Content/Trigger Warnings: alcoholism, loss of loved ones, mild violence, sexy times (not explicit)
Rating: 3.5 out of 5
A big thanks to Caffeine Book Tours, Knopf Books and Elizabeth Lim for inviting us to join the blog tour!
About the author
Elizabeth Lim grew up on a hearty staple of fairy tales, myths, and songs. Her passion for storytelling began around age 10, when she started writing fanfics for Sailor Moon, Sweet Valley, and Star Wars, and posted them online to discover, “Wow, people actually read my stuff. And that’s kinda cool!” But after one of her teachers told her she had “too much voice” in her essays, Elizabeth took a break from creative writing to focus on not flunking English.
Over the years, Elizabeth became a film and video game composer, and even went so far as to get a doctorate in music composition. But she always missed writing, and turned to penning stories when she needed a breather from grad school. One day, she decided to write and finish a novel — for kicks, at first, then things became serious — and she hasn’t looked back since.
Elizabeth loves classic film scores, books with a good romance, food (she currently has a soft spot for arepas and Ethiopian food), the color turquoise, overcast skies, English muffins, cycling, and baking. She lives in New York City with her husband.
Giveaway – Win one of 5 copies of Spin the Dawn (US residents only)
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