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Review: Spin the Dawn - Elizabeth Lim

July 28, 2019

Hello everyone, I hope this post finds you in a happy morning mood! Today's mission is to make this review as coherent and concise as possible, which will be super challenging on my end because ohmygoshthis book. Spin the Dawn was everything I hoped for and nothing I expected. What I hoped for was a strong-willed female main character, a fierce competition, and an incomprehensible journey. I am thrilled to say that Lim executed all of the above in prose that enchanted me as much as the magic in the story did. Okay, I'll try to limit my rambles from here on out. Let's go!

Synopsis: 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.

Favorite Quote: "One last glance at Baba, and at Keton's window. Then into the carriage I went, with no idea what awaited me. Only that I must succeed—at all costs." 

Characters: the characters of Spin the Dawn are absolutely incredible. Without rambling, I'm going to keep this simple by bullet-pointing all of the outstanding character traits of our two MCs, Maia and Edan, and then expounding on my reasoning:

Maia: 

 Good || Skilled || Quick-witted || Brave

 

Maia is the epitome of everything I'd want to be if I were in her same situation. I've seen some character criticism in GR reviews that she "can never save herself," but I wholeheartedly disagree. In my opinion, she is the bravest character in Spin the Dawn. And I don't mean bravery as in I'm brave because I fear nothing, I mean bravery as in I'm terrified, but I'm going to do it anyway. Case and point:

 

"Are you sure you want to do this? If the emperor finds out...if anyone finds out..."

"I'll be killed," I finished for him. "I know."

 

For a girl that "can't save herself," it's prettyyyy bold of her to go into something knowing that if she fails, she will die. 

 

But another thing I love about Maia that I don't see many people talking about is the fact that she is very internally conflicted regarding what her life would have been if she conformed to society's role for women, vs. what it is now because she disobeyed it. Another case and point:

 

"Yes, Mama," I'd say obediently. Perhaps if she'd told me that girls couldn't become tailors, my story would have turned out differently."

 

This part of Maia touched my heart so much because I've had that same experience: do I follow my heart but take the risk, or do I stay in the safety of the shadows? Periodically throughout the book, she wishes to herself that she would've stayed the "obedient daughter" and not taken the risk. Though these thoughts are self-defeating, can you really blame her when she grows up hearing things like this:

 

"He says that girls can only be seamstresses, and if I work too hard, I won't have any friends and no boy will ever want me." 

 

I'm sure you get the point through my excessive use of quotes so far, but I just think the dual existence of bravery and regret in Maia brought her to life on the page. In all, she's the result of a successful character composition by Lim.

Edan:

 Charming || Quick-witted || Persuasive || Great sense of humor

 

Edan is the breath of fresh air I needed in this book, even in the darkest times. He works with the best intentions of others in mind and sees the good in people first, but beware---he is no fool. Throughout the book, he constantly surprises me with his hidden knowledge about the the trial and the journey and kept my spirits alive even when it felt like all hope should have been lost. If you're looking for a witty, charming, compassionate MC that keeps you both bemused by his antics and amused by his personality, you'll love Edan from Spin the Dawn.

 

He also brings out the best in Maia & encourages her!! Case and point:

 

"'Is Maia your birth name?'

'It is.'

'I'm not sure it suits you.'

I twisted my lips tightly. 'It means obedient.'

He set down the cup. 'Which is why I'm not sure it suits you...'"

 

And:

 

"Edan lifted his head and traced my smile. 'There, my fierce tailor is back.'

'No more xitara?

'I thought you didn't like it.'

'It grew on me,' I admitted.

...'I didn't mean it as little lamb, you know. You were always too strong and brave for that.'

...'In Narat, what I grew up speaking, it means...brightest one."'

 

Edan also has other complex emotions that makes his character come to life on the page as well, but the reason behind those emotions are a major spoiler, so you'll have to read the book to witness them! 

Pacing/chapter length & plot: The execution of both the pacing and plot in Spin the Dawn was also incredible. Together, they had me gripping the book and turning pages as fast as I could. When I talk about pacing of books, I'm talking about both the progression of the storyline and the chapter length. 

 

Though some reviewers have noted that STD starts off slowly (which is true,) I think it does so because there's a lot to introduce. In the beginning, we're introduced to Maia's mother, Baba, and her three older brothers. We learn the story of her mother and 2/3 of her brothers' fates, the political climate of the empire, and what everyday life is like for the remainder of Maia's family. These details required careful crafting because it lays the groundwork for future plot events (and also gives us a taste of this book's awful social norms for women.)

 

The plot of STD was quite frankly a wild ride. Every time I thought I knew where the book was heading, it took a completely unexpected turn. So in reality, not only did Edan keep me guessing, but the plot did too! From the synopsis, you know that each of the dresses Maia must make are from the laughter of the sun, tears of the moon, and blood of the stars. What you also learn is that the acquisition of each of these magical elements is a test of the body, mind and soul. What those tests entailed is completely incomprehensible and leads to an ending that will leave you yearning for Unravel the Dawn, the sequel to Spin the Dawn that will be out next year (how cruel!) 

Final thoughts

In my honest opinion, this book deserves every bit of hype it is currently receiving. I am so glad I picked this up on its release day and have gotten to travel to 3 corners of Maia and Edan's world. I've seen magic in action, seemingly unbeatable odds beaten, and a whole new OTP blossom. Spin the Dawn is perfect for a fantasy reader looking for an gripping adventure and an enchanting romance written by a lyrical WOC author. Seriously people, go read this book!

If you've read #SpintheDawn, tell me what you thought of it in the comments below! Until Thursday!

 

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