Review: Spin the Dawn by Elizabeth Lim

Spin the Dawn by Elizabeth Lim cover shows a girl holding magic scissors and a bolt of fabric with a hawk behind her

Spin the Dawn
Elizabeth Lim
Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers
Published July 9, 2019

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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.

Spin the Dawn on Goodreads

My Review

Wow wow wow!!! I was pretty much hooked on the idea of this book from the description: Project Runway meets Mulan because that’s so different than anything I’ve read. And the book absolutely lives up to that description.

I love Maia so much. There just aren’t enough stories featuring strong women who SEW. Ha. I like that she isn’t a typical heroine– good at fighting or amazing at words, or super smart. She’s determined, loyal, honest, and hardworking, which aren’t always headliner qualities. But she definitely deserves her place in the center of the story.

The beginning of the story dragged a little bit for me, particularly the contest where she sews for different challenges. I can see how that was important to the story, and I thought maybe some of the characters introduced in those chapters might reappear later in some critical way. But it seemed more of a self-contained part.

Once Maia started her quest to make the three impossible dresses, things sped up considerably. Some parts happened really fast, which heightened the tension, but left me wanting more story in those moments.

On the whole those were small issues, though. I loved the setting and the cultural details and the wide array of characters. This is a must-read for fans of FOREST OF A THOUSAND LANTERNS by Julie C. Dao (or readers who are looking for a lighter story in a similar setting) and THE CRYSTAL RIBBON by Celeste Lim.

Spin the Dawn on Amazon

Recommended for Ages 14 up.

The setting has an Asian feel to it. Edan is described as having bronze skin.

Profanity/Crude Language Content
Mild profanity used infrequently.

Romance/Sexual Content
Kissing between boy and girl. At one point a couple undresses and a brief, vague description shows that they have sex. During the time Maia dresses as a man, some people assume she’s romantically involved with another man, something which Maia calls a forbidden romance.

Spiritual Content
Maia’s people worship many different gods and goddesses, but the story primarily references one goddess, Amani, who once had dresses made from the sun, moon, and stars.

Maia and a companion visit a monastery and meet monks devoted to the service of Amani. At one point, she has an encounter with the goddess.

Edan is an enchanter, a person born with magic but who trades freedom for greater power.

On her journey, Maia battles ghosts and a demon, a monster who was once a human until he was transformed as punishment for his crimes.

Violent Content
Maia loses family members to the civil war in her country. At the palace, Maia becomes trapped in a fire, clearly an act of sabotage by a jealous competitor. At one point, a man crushes her hand. Another threatens her with a sword at her throat, making reference to assault. She battles humans, ghosts, and a demon on her journey.

Drug Content
Other tailors in the contest drink alcohol. Later, Maia drinks with a group of travelers and suffers a terrible hangover the next day.

Note: This post contains affiliate links, which do not cost you anything to use, but which help support the costs of running this blog. I received a free copy of SPIN THE DAWN in exchange for my honest review.

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About Kasey

Reads things. Writes things. Fluent in sarcasm. Willful optimist. Cat companion, chocolate connoisseur, coffee drinker. There are some who call me Mom.

2 Responses to Review: Spin the Dawn by Elizabeth Lim

  1. This sounds like such a good read. I love the cover too!