“It is an illusion to assume we choose whom we love. I cannot change how I feel about you. I would move the sun and the moon if it meant being with you.”Elizabeth Lim, Spin the Dawn
Title: Spin the Dawn
Series: The Blood of Stars, #1
Author: Elizabeth Lim
Published: July 9, 2019
Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers
Genre: YA fantasy, retelling, romance
My Rating: ★★★★☆
This review is spoiler-free!
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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.
[ This synopsis was taken directly from Goodreads. ]
This book has been marketed as a Mulan retelling in a different context. I can’t say how accurate it is to the actual historical figure’s biography because all I know is the Disney animated version. I can say, however, that there are a lot of elements from Disney’s Mulan that I see within this story. Sadly, there is no Mushu.
One thing I liked was how Maia, the main protagonist, was out of her element when she posed as her brother to take her dad’s place in the emperor’s imperial tailor competition. Her quick decision to act as though she was her brother meant that she didn’t have time to practice and prepare her mannerisms. I find that some YA protagonists are too good at something they’ve done for the first time. It feels unrealistic, and it can take me out of the story. I think that the author kept that in mind when writing this book, which is great.
Spin the Dawn has three distinctive parts: the competition, the final impossible challenge, and the conclusion*.
*I swear the last part is much more interesting, but if I give it a more specific name I’d probably spoil something.
Because the author is introducing the world, the characters, and the beginning conflict that starts the hero’s journey in the first part, I found it to be a little meh. It was interesting, but nothing over the top. There are a lot of distinct factors that allude to Mulan, which was fun to search for.
The real fun starts after learning about the world and getting used to its culture and rules. Basically, the story starts picking up when Edan enters the picture. The dynamic between Maia and Edan reminds me that of Howl and Sophie from Howl’s Moving Castle. Of course, Maia has more spunk than Sophie, but I was getting major Howl+Sophie vibes from the two. If you think about it, they both have a powerful sorcerer with blue eyes in love with a simple girl touched by magic.
I thought the impossible challenge section of the book was intense, but boy was I WRONG. I felt like I couldn’t get a break during the conclusion. After finishing the book my immediate response was I need the next book STAT. Thankfully, Unravel the Dusk (the sequel) was released earlier this year, so if you’re planning on reading this book, you won’t have to wait to continue the story.
This book is very much part of the fantasy genre. It has demons, enchanters, ghosts, gods, flying carpets, magic, oh my! This is not the real world infused with a little bit of magic. This is a whole separate fantasy world with different rules and different creatures. I don’t know much about the Chinese culture, but I wonder if some of the mythical creatures found in this story is based off of Chinese mythology.
Overall, if you like the story of Mulan, you’re probably going to like Spin the Dawn. If you like fantasy books rich in culture and imagery, this book is also for you. If you’re looking for a retelling that isn’t Cinderella or Beauty and the Beast, this might be up your alley. Basically, this book was highly enjoyable, and I urge you to add it to your TBR.
I give Spin the Dawn four stars!
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Have you read Spin the Dawn? If so, what were your thoughts? If not, do you plan to read it and why or why not? What are some other YA retellings you’d recommend?
❤ Let me know in the comments! ❤
Stay awkward and amazing!