2019 Books · Book Review · Books · Review

Spin the Dawn by Elizabeth Lim – Review

Good morning and welcome my friends! I hope your week is off to a great start. Today, I shall be reviewing Spin the Dawn by Elizabeth Lim. This was an interesting retelling of Mulan, I really liked Maia and Edan, and the plot was really good.

Book: Spin the Dawn

Author: Elizabeth Lim

Rating: ★★★★☆

Summary: 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.


Quote: “Seize the wind,” I whispered. “Don’t become the kite that never flies.”

*Maia. Maia was fierce, independent, and determined to make a place for herself in a world dominated by men and I loved her. Her loyalty to her family, her strength in the face of all those who tried to end her, and the lengths to which she went to save her father’s business and become the Imperial tailor were extraordinary and I was so proud of her for that. The flashbacks that she had of her family before the war were so sad, and I missed them as much as she did.

*Edan. Edan is over 500 years old, but who cares? He still seemed to be an annoying teenager, and I loved him for him for being that obnoxious and annoying but also pretty wise guy. Him and Maia bickering and arguing was amazing, and the lengths that he went to save and protect her was so sweet. His past was also heartbreaking, and it just made me want to hug his annoying self and make everything okay.

*Lady Sarnai. We don’t get much of her, but I think she’s an awesome character. Yes, she’s the villain, yes, she’s beyond cruel, but I felt so sorry for her, especially after Maia found her crying, and I really hope that she has some sort of character arc in the next book. It would be awesome, because she also kind of challenged the patriarchy in her own way, creating terror wherever she went, and I secretly wish that she and Maia become friends.

*Book in general. I loved the plot, the world-building, and the writing. I’m not one for flowery writing, but I really liked it here. The world was beautiful, and I liked the inclusion of magic and demons, and how everything was set up (minus the scissors, more on that below). It was really interesting and new. The plot, and Maia’s quest to sew three gowns from the laughter of the sun, the tears of the moon, and the blood of the stars was super amazing. The ending didn’t really shock me, but I’m kind of excited to see what happens in the next book.

*Mulan Retelling. This had so many elements of Mulan and I loved it. Mulan is probably my #1 favorite Disney movie, and there are a bunch of similarities between Spin the Dawn and Disney Mulan (in my opinion). Some people have said that it’s not really that similar beyond Maia dressing up as a boy, BUT, a friend of mine has pointed out that it is more similar to the original ballad and she listed the evidence in her review.


Quote: “Sometimes we must let go of what we value for the future of our country.”

*Calm down please! Maia and Edan couldn’t get their hands off of each other after ~60% and it was a bit annoying to continuously read about. I mean, I’m glad they’ve finally confessed all these feelings, and all that tension is over, but calm down a bit please??

*Magical Scissors. How the scissors work is beyond me. Maia paints with scissors, sews with the scissors, and cuts, and creates completely different things with the scissors. How? Does she cut the fabric and it stitches and paints itself in its wake? Or does she wave the scissors over it and it creates on its own? How does the scissors sew?? I’d have loved for this to be explained a bit more.

*Ending. The ending didn’t wow me, which was pretty disappointing. I didn’t really feel anything, and just continued reading, and was like “oh well, it’s over”. But I am a bit excited for the second book, so it wasn’t completely horrible. I was kind of expecting something that would hurt and rip my heart out, but it was nothing like that for me.


Quote: “You will hold the seams of our family together, Maia. No other tailor in the world can do that.”

In the end, I really liked this, I would recommend it, and I hope you enjoy it if you read it! Maia’s courage, Edan’s obnoxiousness, Lady Sarnai’s cruelty, and the plot were super great. Besides the scissors, the disappointing end, and the excess touching and kissing, this was a pretty great fantasy, and I wouldn’t mind reading more about these characters in the next book.

One sentence summary: A great fantasy with awesome characters, and a few flaws.

Overall, 4 amazing stars

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Have you read Spin the Dawn? What did you think? Were you also intrigued by the great Lady Sarnai? Do you think she and Maia might somehow become friends? Did the huge age difference between Edan and Maia bother you? Am I the only one who was disappointed by that ending? Chat with me in the comments below!

16 thoughts on “Spin the Dawn by Elizabeth Lim – Review

  1. I’m so glad that you enjoyed this! I rated it 4 stars as well! Personally, I was super bothered by the age difference and power imbalance between Maia and Edan. And same, that led to me being bothered by the more steamy scenes between them, but maybe that’s the insta-love hater in me. I thought the writing of this was so good as well! I remember reading the first chapter and being absolutely entranced!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yay! Hmm, I kind of see why? But Edan never used that to his advantage…I’m pretty sure. I don’t think he did (I really hope not.). Also, the age difference didn’t really bother me per se, because he still seems like a teenager (he didn’t strike me as a guy who has been alive for over 500 years) who’s falling in love for the first time, but now that I really think about it, it’s a bit…weird/possibly icky 😂 I think I’m fine with it, as long as he doesn’t hurt Maia, or use his power/age to control/or force her to do anything.
      Haha, I didn’t think it was much of insta-love (okay maybe a smidge) because it was kind of “annoying guy-to-lover” for Maia, and he was pretty intrigued by her (not necessarily love), but it was kind of predictable, and partly insta-love, but not 100%, which I can live with. But they honestly needed to calm down and focus. I started skimming at that point lol
      Yeah, the writing is pretty great, and beautiful 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’m not sure about this because I read the book months ago, but didn’t he kinda threaten to reveal Maia’s true identity as a girl?
        Also, the fact that he still acts like a teenager despite being much older is a problem in and of itself, at least for me. Realistically, someone that age would probably never act like that, let alone have romantic feelings for a teenager. I think the fact that authors portray centuries old guys like that is a problem and it could kinda be misleading and lead teenagers to have the wrong idea about dating older guys?
        also, yeah it wasn’t really insta-love. I was just saying that I usually don’t like romances that start quickly, or even in a normal manner. ahaha, I’m just such a fan of romance so slow burning that it hurts

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Right, but that happened before the extra emotions happened lol. That was when they first met, and Maia was spying on the Emperor and he came up out of nowhere. He was amused by the idea that Maia was trying to pretend to be a boy. He even helped her (I think it was him, because the other tailors didn’t know) and told her if she was going to limp she should put a pebble in her shoe. So I kind of took it to be a harmless joke (that okay, was supposed to rattle Maia), and he didn’t reveal her.
        The more I think about it, the more icky it does feel. You have a really really good point. You’d think that after 500 years, he’d be more wise and mature than he is right now (and probably over the whole dating thing). He definitely comes off as a teenager, and it probably would have been better if he’d just been a regular aged guy who’s been through a lot in life. That would still be pretty plausible and it already happens a lot in YA fantasies-example: Kaz and co. They’ve been through a lot, and though they are roughly 18, they don’t really strike you as being that young.
        Fundamentally, I like Edan as a character, but his age really doesn’t work and makes things kind of messy. And I agree, it can be misleading and it is probably not a very good trope that should be used.
        Lol, slow burn is also great, because hey, it makes us readers super anxious and excited! Haha, I sometimes love that too (especially in a series), but then it gets super unbelievably painful 😂

        Liked by 1 person

      3. I don’t remember anything about extra emotions *facepalm*, but I get your point! I think what bothered me was just the fact that there was this underlying threat that he could? So it added to the power imbalance between them, which was already there because of his age, experience and magic. But taking into account what you said, I guess he didn’t really use that imbalance to his advantage, and I’ll definitely have to ruminate on that.
        Exactly my point!! We’d probably recoil at the thought of a 50-year-old dating a teenage girl, but we overlook someone who’s a century old dating a teenage girl because he looks young? It just doesn’t seem right to me. And I find it unnecessary, because these love interests could just as easily be regular aged guys and nothing would be lost. Yeah, I like Edan as a character as well. Like you, it’s just his age that doesn’t work for me.
        I both love and hate slow burn! On one hand, it’s painful, but the pay off is so so worth it! That’s why I’m such an “it’s slow burn or nothing” reader 😂

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Lol, I mean like before they fell in love. Yeah, I understand that, but he didn’t, and so that didn’t bother me (it’s actually a really good thing, and I’m super happy about that, though after that end, he can’t anyway).
        I’ve thought it over, and I guess, if Maia is mature and knows what she’s doing, and Edan isn’t a creep, it shouldn’t really be much of an issue, but I get what you mean about it being not a very good example for an immature teenager who wants to date someone older. But, his age is also still a problem, because he acts like a teenager-not someone who’s been alive for so long (I mean he could be old and immature, but not that old. He’d reasonably be more mature by then cause he’s had centuries to learn). Is it like, he ages differently? So his 500+ yrs is equal to us mere mortal’s 20 yrs? Or 18 or whatever? Because that’s how I kind of saw it before. Yup, it probably would have been better if he’d just been regular aged lol.
        I know! Honestly, we are so masochistic 😂 Putting ourselves in pain and enjoying it way too much. What’s your favorite slow burn book?

        Liked by 1 person

      5. Yes, totally agree with you!!
        and omg, I’m currently reading the AFTG series by Nora Sakavic and there’s a slow burn m/m romance in it. It’s so so good! I mean the books are pretty trashy and not unproblematic, but the characters and the romance are so addictive!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. “Calm down please!” is such a mood lol. I feel that way about characters all the time. Like,,, just chill, for one second, please.

    But glad to see you enjoyed this! It’s so gorgeous and sounds so interesting, I really want to read it asap

    Liked by 1 person

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