When people kept saying that this book was like Mulan meets Project Runway, I took it with a grain of salt. Usually those comparisons are loose, or the elements are there, but not in a significant way. That’s not the case with “Spin the Dawn”. Oh no! The Project Runway and Mulan elements were STRONG in this book, especially for the first half of the novel (and again toward the end but mainly early on). Was I mad about this? Absolutely not! I can’t remember the last YA fantasy I devoured the way I did this magical story of Maia, who dreams of being the Imperial Tailor but can’t because of her gender. Then, when a decree is called for a new Imperial Tailor, and all the great Masters of the land must participate in the competition, or send their son in their stead, Maia steps in for her ailing father, and war broken brother. Pretending to be a boy and fooling all the men she’s competing with turns out to be the easiest of the trials and dangers Maia had to face, which tells you already how exciting this book ended up being.
Maia is selfless to a fault, the one thing she wants, to be the best tailor in the land, is only partially for herself. By being the best, she’d be able to support her family and keep them from starving. So, already, the stakes for her are much higher than the other Masters who merely want glory. I really loved her selfless attitude, and how ingrained it was into her character. It wasn’t just a plot device, and she wasn’t selectively selfless, either. The story also has such a perfect flow to it; this was honestly so easy to read! How Lim moves her story from world building to action to character building was a joy to get lost in. Plus, the banter between Maia and Edan was so fun! I loved watching those two interact and learning about enchanters and demon’s through Edan’s stories.
One of the bright spots of this novel though was the amazing items Maia crafts as part of the competition. The way Lim describes the garments is spectacular, and just as magical as anything the Lord Enchanter could do. They are vivid and detailed in such a way that’s believable, as we are getting the story just from Maia’s eyes, so, as a tailor, it makes sense that those items would get a little purple prose-ish, but I really loved the descriptions so I did not mind one bit! The one thing that had me roll my eyes was how stereotypical to YA some of the choices Maia makes was. It wasn’t ever enough to detract from the story, and as I’m adult I’m not going to knock the book for that. Just know that some very familiar YA fantasy tropes are involved in this story at times.
I was really blown away by how much I enjoyed this story. Don’t get me wrong, I love Mulan but I’m not that big on fashion (surprising, I know). So while I figured this would be good (I wouldn’t have read it otherwise), I didn’t think I’d end up loving “Spin the Dawn” as much as I did, which is why I am giving this book an easy 5 stars. I can’t wait to see what happens to Maia next, and what becomes of Edan and the Emperor!
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