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.
I received this book in exchange for an honest review via Netgalley. I was drawn to the book because of the odd described combination of Project Runway, an amazing fashion design show that I was obsessed with as a teenager, and Mulan, which is a classic all on its own. I wasn’t sure how the book would compare with that combination but it was right on the money. I’m excited to introduce you to this epic YA Fantasy novel.
The character of Maia is the protagonist and narrator of this book. I often struggle to like narrators, since I spend so much time with them, and by the end of the book I’m excited to get some space even if I loved the story. However, I never hit that point with Maia. She’s a spunky main character with a unique backstory that makes her more engaging as time goes on. The secondary characters were just as well developed. Many of the characters had skeletons in their closets that I did not predict and I enjoyed getting to know them as the story unfolded.
The setting the author created in this book is a dynamic and interesting world that is steeped in Asian influences. Through the story, the reader gets the chance to explore a lot of what this world has to offer. The religion, culture, food and every other aspect of this world was well thought out. I felt completely immersed in the setting and was so happy that the author offered the opportunity to explore the world, rather than introduce a promising setting but base the entire book within the confines of a palace.
The first few chapters of this book were confusing, despite the engaging character and setting. The first chapter is a bit of a preface, which shoots us forward in the book, and the second chapter is full of background information about the character and her family. Luckily, the pacing of the novel skyrockets shortly after and I soon felt pulled into the events of the book. After about a third of the way through, I found it nearly impossible to put this book down.
Spin the Dawn is the first book of The Blood of the Stars series by Elizabeth Lim. The character and setting introduced in this book was unique and delightful to get to know. The opening chapters of the novel were disorienting, but I encourage you to stick with the novel and you’ll soon be swept up into the story. I’ll be eagerly awaiting the next book of this series and encourage you to pick up this book as soon as you’re able.