Review: SPIN THE DAWN by Elizabeth Lim

Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Page Count: 392 Pages
Release Date: July 9th, 2019
Series: THE BLOOD OF STARS, Book 1
Rating: 4/5 Stars – Really Liked It

Note: I was provided a free copy of this book by the publisher in return for a fair and honest review.

36683928Maia is an extraordinary seamstress.  Unfortunately, she’s also a woman, which means she will never be allowed the rank of Master Tailor, a designation that would allow her to support her ailing father and crippled brother.  When a royal summons demands a male member of her family travel to court to compete for the position of royal tailor, Maia disguises herself as a boy and answers the summons.  At the palace, Maia finds herself and the other competitors set to a series of increasingly difficult tasks by the emperor’s betrothed.  For the final challenge Maia must make three dresses, each featuring a magical element: the laughter of the sun, the tears of the moon, and the blood of stars.  Maia must travel the land to collect the ingredients and craft the dresses before the deadline in three months, but she won’t be alone.  The Lord Enchanter, the emperor’s personal mage (and one of the few to guess Maia’s secret), has decided to aid her in her quest.  The Lord Enchanter is a man of his own secrets, but Maia begrudgingly knows she needs all the help she can get if she’s to succeed in her quest.  Besides, he might have answers about Maia’s recently discovered family heirloom: an enchanted pair of scissors that enhance her already impressive tailoring skills.

SPIN THE DAWN  is a captivating fantasy of three acts, each with a different feel and with none overstaying their welcome.  The first act is the one that most holds up to the publisher’s promise of “Mulan meets Project Runway.”  While the Mulan comparison ends at “girl dresses as boy to protect family,”  the Project Runway feel is so prevalent you can practically feel Tim Gunn standing in the room telling the contestants what outlandish material they’ll have to work with that week.  This element never distracts from the classical Asian feel of the setting, and I enjoyed this section quite a bit.  Once Maia gets to the final challenge and begins her travels, however, the tale takes on more of an Arabian Nights feel, both in its initial desert setting and the mythical trials Maia endures to claim her materials.  It was a surprising but completely enjoyable change in tone.  I can’t discuss the third act without getting into spoiler territory, but suffice to say that some choices are made that create a delicious setup for Book Two of this duology.

As for the characters, I love the fierce determination of Maia.  Even when handed magical scissors that will make her life easier, she doesn’t want to use them, wanting her work to stand on its own merits.  Her romance is also not one of love at first sight, but the slow blossoming of respect developed over time.  I vastly prefer these kinds of relationships and loved watching it grow.  Edan, the Lord Enchanter is a fun foil and partner on her adventures, and I enjoyed watching them grow closer.

SPIN THE DAWN is an excellent adventure, one which I devoured in just over a day.  Fans of YA fantasy should definitely check this out.  I, for one shall impatiently await the sequel!

 

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