Title: Spin the Dawn (The Blood of Stars #1)
Author: Elizabeth Lim (Debut)
Genre: YA Fantasy
Release Date: July 9th 2019 from Knopf Books for Young Readers
Format: Kindle ARC
**I requested an ARC of this book recevied it via the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for a free and honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own and no quotations will be used**
Goodreads 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.
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.
I got approved for the ARC of this book CLEAR back in January of this year and I was excited to see it on my Kindle. But since it was going to be 6 more months until it was going to come out, I decided to wait to read it a bit closer to its release date. But MAN, I shouldn’t have sit on this book! This debut novel to come out this July is an epic story that has so much to offer! There has been some hype for this book on Twitter and other book social media, and this is hype you should jump on 🙂 Here are 5 reason to read this debut novel!
1. The blurb doesn’t lie!
You know how sometimes you’re not sure about a book’s blurb after you read it? Sometimes it says “For fans of Game of Thrones” or “For fans of Sarah J. Maas and Leigh Bardugo” and you’re not 100% sure about those comparisons. But this blurb is completely true! This book IS “Mulan meets Project Runway” and even more than that. The competition part of the story that Maia competes in to be the Imperial Tailor for the emperor is SO fascinating. I don’t watch hardly any reality TV, but this competition was engaging to see how the competitors treated each other, approached the challenge and even how they show their creativity. Then we have the Mulan part of the blurb where Maia wishes to restore honor to her family’s house and their profession for being tailors. She goes to make sure her family doesn’t starve and has their dignity. While that is there, there’s SO much more that you don’t know and that made it even better. But I love this blurb and how it captures the main core of the story, while leaving the rest for you to discover.
2. Strong female lead to root for
While I do sometimes tire of the often used phrase “strong female lead” in YA, I think this completely applies to our protagonist Maia. After her family crumbles due to death and war, her father, herself and siblings can’t really fend for themselves anymore. Their livelihood hangs on by a literal thread before this invitation to compete for the new Imperial tailor comes to their door. Since her father can’t go and the war has severely affected her family, Maia goes dressed as one of her brothers. Since the culture wouldn’t allow a woman to be an Imperial tailor, she takes this into her own hands. Maia is gifted with sowing, dyes and the many talents needed to create clothing. She picked it up from her father and has made use of it to help them survive. She wants her family to be provided for and she won’t settle for the most convenient option. She risks being found out of being a girl and even a lot of herself to make sure her family survives. She’s not a warrior in this story. But she has wit, discipline and love of her family to keep her going. Her intentions are good and honorable, but of course, along the way, reality comes crashing down. She is naive about court politics, manipulation and how people will do whatever necessary to come out on top. Her work is sabotaged, she’s verbally shot down and people try to make her give up.
But this is a story that shows how a girl wants to do good and won’t let people persuade her to just pick an option and just give up. She learns through sacrifice, hurt, betrayal and other situations where her other strengths lie and also learning more about herself. Her journey is quite epic in scope as she tries to also sew these three dresses containing the laughter of the sun, tears of the moon and the blood of the stars. I easily rooted for Maia and how she tried to handle her trials, heartache and the revelations that come her way. Her spirit and her heart show her inner strength and sharp mind, which makes her a strong female lead.
3. Rich mythology and world
Steeped in Chinese culture, this book is a gorgeous and rich world! I did have a map in my Kindle ARC, so I could see the world and its many locations. But the author really shows this rich world through the Summer palace, small villages and even through dialogue and character interactions. The mythology that comes in this story about these three dresses was simply fascinating and I found every chance I got to keep reading. The fantasy elements made this story even more immersive as Maia goes on her journey. This was a world that was both beautiful but also brimming with magic and intrigue. I liked the story behind these three dresses and it made the story more original for me; I had never read a story (from my memory) that featured clothing as mythology or a magical artifact/object to find and obtain or make. I also wanted ALL the food mentioned in this book, especially the coconut steamed buns.
4. The romance
While I can be iffy with romances in YA books, I loved seeing the growth between Maia and her love interest. Their banter and how the love interest gently teased her made me snicker in a good way. They are opposites at first and Maia isn’t sure about trusting him. But their progression throughout the story felt natural as their chemistry deepened. The author did such a great job at balancing each of their personalities, pleasures and struggles throughout the story. Then when their romance deepens, it added another emotional layer to the story and by the end, I was completely invested in their fate and their love. It never felt rushed to me at all, which is a major plus from me.
5. Polished writing style
I truly enjoyed the author’s writing for her debut novel. I know this is personal preference thing and that some will look at writing style more heavily than others will, but I think the author is so talented. Her writing felt polished and descriptive without being flowery, which is an interesting balance. I loved how rich she made this world and it wasn’t wordy at all. She would capture what a dress looked like in a few sentences, or weave sweeping and complex emotions over the deeper core of this story. I love when authors can sum things up in a paragraph or less and you really envision the situation or truly feel for the character that’s being described. The writing made me want ALL the fashion so much and also experience this beauty world from the desert, ocean to the forest and more. I can’t wait to see what else Elizabeth Lim comes up with next outside of this series.
Overall: This book is amazing! Knowing there will be at least one more sequel gives me hope, since the ending surprised me and makes me wonder what will happen next. But if you’re looking for more diverse fantasies or also checking out another debut novel, check this one out! I’ll be recommending it for my library to purchase. This debut novel is romantic, immersive and has such a great protagonist and a fresh take on a fantasy journey. This will appeal to people who like journey stories, coming of age, a romantic story and also exploring another culture.
Have you read this book? What did you think of it? Are you excited for this to come out? Let me know in the comments! A huge thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for the ARC!