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Review – Spin the Dawn

Posted February 28, 2019 by A Conjuring of Lit in Book Reviews / 0 Comments

Review – Spin the DawnSpin the Dawn (The Blood of Stars #1) by Elizabeth Lim
Published by Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers on July 9, 2019
Pages: 416
Goodreads
four-half-stars

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.

Welcome to a fabulous Buddy Read Review! We’ve been trying to read books together over the last few months to try and motivate one another to get things off of our extensive TBR shelves, but this was a different situation! We both got approved for eARCs of Spin the Dawn, so we decided to read it together. The sign of a good buddy read is when you both throw the schedule to the wind and read it in a couple of sittings, and that is exactly what happened here!

Worldbuilding

Paige

One of my favorite things about this book was how steeped in magic and mythology we were, and how absolutely convinced I am that the author has planted countless seeds for future books. Sometimes I have issues with the trope of the main character not getting all of the information they need Because Reasons, but I feel like we were given information in a steady enough way that it balanced between being infodump-y and being too vague and confusing.

I also adored the descriptions. I am notoriously terrible at visualizing things, but I could see Maia’s creations coming to life in front of me. I truly can’t believe this is one of the author’s first novels – it read so beautifully. I read this book in basically three main chunks because the world was so compelling.

Kate

I loved the meandering way we were introduced to the world in this book. You found out what you needed to know when you needed to know it, and not a moment before. At the same time, somehow, there are enough bread crumbs dropped along the way that the reader is able to piece things together in a fun, but not “yeah, this is clearly what’s going to happen”, way.

Beyond that, the world was lush. The objects and colors and people and buildings and journeys were all so vibrant, both in their existence and their description. I felt like I was sewing garments, riding trails, and facing monsters alongside Maia, and I absolutely live for that immersive experience.

Paige

Yes! Some of my favorite books are ones that take their time with cultivating the world while also making sure enough information is present so, when you look back after a big reveal, you say “Oh, that makes sense” and not “*blink blink* …wait wut?” This sometimes is a hard balance to strike, and I think Lim really hit it out of the park throughout the book. I was also truly immersed while reading – I got legitimately grumpy every time I had to disentangle myself from what was going on and do something else.

Characters

Paige

Since Mulan is a comp title to this book, I’ll admit that I was waiting and watching a little bit through the beginning of the story to see who would be the Li Shang analog – and I was so not disappointed. Obviously I won’t tell you who they are, but it was excellent.

I adored Maia. She is a cinnamon roll Slytherin and you can’t tell me otherwise. Yes, she wants to save her family as you do. But she knows she is talented. She knows that sexism can be damned and that she has worked hard to become as skilled as she is. She truly believes she can become the tailor to the Emperor.

Kate

I LOVED Maia as a character. Just like Mulan, she is strong of mind and body, determined, talented, and still manages to remain human. I loved watching her grow and evolve, but more than that, I love that she starts the book with a backbone. This is not the story of a damsel in distress finding her way but of a talented young woman who wants to make something of herself in a man’s world.

Paige

Did someone say ancient magical being wrapped up in an attractive, presenting-as-slightly-older-than-the-main-character package? They did? Sign me up! I absolutely adored Edan, the enchanter to the emperor.

Kate

You took the words DIRECTLY out of my mouth about Edan. Perfection.

I honestly don’t know how to talk about the rest of this without ruining absolutely everything, so I’ll just keep it simple.

I loved that every character was treated with care. Sure, there was a hierarchy. You have to have a main character, but the baker’s son in Maia’s village was as well-crafted as the Lord Enchanter, the Emperor, and Maia herself.

Plot

Paige

We were promised Mulan meets Project Runway, but I feel like we got so much more! These comparisons set me up, in my mind, for something light and dramatic and honestly, kind of fluffy. Mostly incorrect! I got a small part of the way through the book and realized that things were moving too quickly and wrapping up a little too nicely, and I was waiting for things to hit the fan, so to speak. They did, and I was absolutely hooked.

Kate

I agree! Plus, I think the fact that it was an eARC exacerbated that feeling. It felt like it was moving fast, and it was, but it was impossible to be sure when you couldn’t see the ratio of read to unread pages. Once you got into it and realized what was happening, the pacing was clearly well thought out, but it definitely threw me for a loop starting out.

The best way to describe the plot advancement I can think of is by comparing it to rolling snowballs for a snowman. It just gets bigger and bigger, building a stronger and stronger base for the books to come in this series. Every bit of info we get builds on itself and truly propels the story forward, instead of just giving the reader a bunch of seemingly unrelated information to be tied up neatly at the end.

Paige

I would be remiss if I didn’t talk about the romance. Because guys. G U Y S.

Ahhhh, perfection!

Forbidden love. The sweet, sweet angst. The slowest of burns. A character who falls hard while the other character takes their time. SO ABSOLUTELY PERFECT. This romance was crafted for me.

Kate

OH GOD THE ROMANCE. I was not going to touch the fishy, but you did, so here I am. I was worried when it started that would end up reading as little on the insta-lovey side, and I have never been more happy to be wrong. It was so angsty and delicious, and I HAVE TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENS.

Paige

Same, brah. Same.

Gorgeous art of Maia by Alex Castellanos. Check out her Twitter and website for more of her illustrations.

Spin the Dawn is set to be released on July 9, 2019. There is a pre-order incentive, so be sure to check that out if you interested. It includes multiple art pieces, bookmarks, a signed bookplate, and a wearable item. If you pre-order from Books of Wonder, your book will be signed and personalized as well.

You can also follow Elizabeth Lim on Twitter and Instagram for updates and info. Plus, she’s super nice and interactive with her followers!

I hope you’re as excited as we are for this release this summer! This book, this series, and this author have an amazing path ahead, and we are excited to have the opportunity to have an early peek at that.

We were each provided an advance ebook copy of this book on NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

four-half-stars

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