Spin the Dawn (The Blood of Stars #1), by Elizabeth Lim
Publish Date: July 9 2019
Published by: Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers
Genre: YA Fantasy
My Rating: ★★★★★ (4.5 out of 5 stars)
**I received this as an egalley from the publisher through Edelweiss in return for an honest review.**
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.
Not many people would think to themselves: “You know what would make a great crossover? Mulan and Project Runway.” But Elizabeth Lim apparently did and guess what – she was right. Obviously that isn’t the entirety of the story (although the part that was was so interesting I could have easily read an entire book about a magical fantasy fashion contest), but was actually just the beginning. This story is filled with trials, magic, myths and legends, a delicious slow-burn romance and a journey that will take you to the moon and back – literally.
When I first read the synopsis for this book I was immediately intrigued. Lim has created a story that feels unique and indescribable, with a magic system that is both complex and imaginative. The world building is easy to follow and flows naturally throughout the story. The story begins with the Project Runway-esque trials that Maia must face disguised as a boy in order to become the imperial tailor, but slowly transforms into an impossible journey to capture the sun, the moon and the stars to create dresses for the emperor’s betrothed – a feat which could mean the stability of the peace in the empire.
I absolutely loved the fashion trials Maia faced against other tailors of the land, and was excited when she started the journey for the three dresses. However, this latter part felt a little easy at times – not that she had an easy job of getting any of the materials since she had to go through more personal trials for each of those – but rather it was easy because she had a guide who knew exactly where she had to go and how she had to acquire each material. There was no research she needed to do, no struggles to figure out just how to obtain certain things. She had Edan, the Lord Enchanter, to help her and while I loved his presence and companionship on the journey, I just wish there had been more she had to learn herself. Conflict, I suppose is the word I am thinking of – while there seemed like there was some for most of the trials, it didn’t always seem like enough. Whatever Maia had to face, I knew it was something she would be able to overcome, and more often than not, she did. It wasn’t until she had to get the blood of stars did things start to get more interesting, but if I say anything else that would be a spoiler.
I really enjoyed Maia as a character. Her unrelenting selflessness is both a strength and a weakness for her, because she is willing to do anything for the ones she loves. She travels to the palace dressed as a boy to compete for the position of imperial tailor in order to help out her family, but I also love that she admits she does it for herself, because it is her dream to become the imperial tailor. But she also constantly puts others above herself whenever she can, sometimes without even thinking about it. Throughout the book she becomes stronger and more confident in herself in ways she wasn’t before (she was always confident in her skills as a tailor which I love, but she definitely discovers new abilities along her journey). I was absolutely intrigued by where she ended up by the end of the novel as a person and am extremely eager to find out what happens to her next.
Edan was definitely a character I loved from the moment Maia met him. I knew from the way he got on her nerves and brought out her feistiness that he was going to be the one. He was also a very complex character in his own right, and I very much enjoyed getting to know him throughout the story. I loved the slow-burn romance between the two of them, although when they finally did reveal their feelings for them, after a bit of angst they kind of…moved forward very quickly it felt like. It just felt so sudden in comparison with the rest of the plot that I was momentarily taken aback. But then I considered Maia’s character and how she did not flit around things that Edan wasn’t telling her but that was surmising herself, demanding he explain things outright and not waiting for him to pluck up the nerve to tell her (and honestly this was kind of refreshing seeing how she actually paid attention to things and made connections that other YA heroines always seem to overlook or dismiss entirely). By the end I was an in love with their romance as they were with each other, despite the fact that both of them are such self-sacrificing pains.
From the first sentence of this book, I knew it was going to be a good one, and it did not disappoint. It was fun and exciting, full of intriguing characters, a beautiful setting, a diving magic system, and a romance that gave me all the feels. Other than the journey for the dresses feeling a little too easy at times, I was completely enraptured by this book. It left me hanging by a thread, for sure, and I cannot wait to see what Lim weaves for us in the next one.