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
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
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!