By Elizabeth Lim
Series: The Blood of Stars #1
Published by Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers
on July 9, 2019
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 was a book club pick that I was really excited to read. I’m always up for a YA fantasy, and the synopsis calls it Project Runway meets Mulan, which was so intriguing!
This story is told in two totally different halves. The first half was really fun and interesting, with Maia disguised as a boy to participate in a contest to become the imperial tailor. I really enjoyed the contest, and wish it had been a lengthier part of the story. Not only were the various challenges so imaginative and fun to read, but that’s when Maia begins to realize that she may have some magical ability, and I think that was a really important development that I wanted to read about more in-depth.
The second half of the story is Maia’s journey with Edan, a court magician with a mysterious connection to the emperor, to complete three impossible-sounding tasks in order to gather materials to make a wedding dress for the emperor’s future bride. While it took me some time to adjust to the shift in the story’s setting, I loved this direction. Each of the three tasks that Maia completed was more difficult than the last, and her mission sort of reminded me of a video game (a good thing) – it made me think of some of the Legend of Zelda games, for example, that I’ve played, where quests take place in wildly different locales or climates, and where the mission is ostensibly the same: overcome impossible odds to retrieve a magical item.
As with the contest from the first half of the book, I found myself wishing that Maia’s quest was given more time. It felt like there was so much going on in this story that some parts were rushed through in order to get to the next event.
I haven’t even gotten to the romance yet! I liked it, and while I wasn’t sure that I thought Maia could trust Edan at first, I ended up really liking him and the way I gradually learned more about him as he and Maia underwent their journey together.
I liked the ending of the book quite a bit, and it had me eagerly looking forward to the sequel, Unravel the Dusk, which is out next month. I will definitely be checking that out!