I LOVED Spin the Dawn, it was one of my favorite books when I first read it, which set up exceedingly high expectations for the sequel, I will admit. Unravel the Dusk starts off almost immediately from where its predecessor leaves off, with Maia trying to save her kingdom by ensuring the emperor marries Lady Sarnai, but of course Sarnai has other plans. When she runs off, Maia has to step into her shoes and hope no one notices, which isn’t even a good plan on paper given how widely different in temperament both these women are. When the emperor’s foes wage war in force again, it’s left to Maia to find a way to save her country, which becomes harder and harder as she loses her internal battle against the demon inside of her. Gone is the fun plot line from the first book where Maia learns to wield her magic scissors to weave garments worthy of the gods, and instead is replaced by demon magic that, I felt, got overly repetitive.
So much of what I loved in Spin the Dawn just doesn’t make much of an appearance in this book, which includes Edan who doesn’t show up for quite awhile and whose role has been pushed to even more of a side character. Maia’s power to create beauty that brings peace is gone, the banter that I loved in the first book doesn’t make an appearance at all, and instead of fighting for her family or to prove that being a woman doesn’t make her any lesser than anyone else in her profession, she’s constantly cleaning up Lady Sarnai’s mess, convinced that she, and she alone, is capable of solving everything. While Lady Sarnai was always abrasive, in this book it felt… overly much so. Mainly because she does things that feel so out of character to her—like running away. So instead of Maia proving herself, she has to give into dark powers in order to keep her country from falling, a darkness she fights against the whole time which made a fair amount of the narration rather repetitive in my opinion. It also made this book rather bleak for a YA story. It seems like every character (save Edan) tells Maia that she’s doomed, saving A’landi is hopeless, don’t fight, you’ll die, surrender, give up. So few characters ever stop to try and help Maia figure anything out that I got incredibly frustrated with nearly every single one of the side characters (save Ammi), whereas in Spin the Dawn, that was never the case.
Unravel the Dusk read like a completely different series with how little any of the magic or strength of the characters showed up in this book. Plus, reading it, I just felt so hopeless half the time, which does mirror what Maia was going through, but there was just so much of those themes with no break with anything light hearted. I think, maybe, if Maia was actually using more of her weaver skills and powers and that had more of a focal point besides just her demon side and pushing back against it, that the balancing between the first book and what comes next would have been better.
That being said, I still love Lim’s writing style, and I deeply appreciate the reoccurring theme of women taking charge and choosing to follow their dreams. The Asian inspired mythology that Lim uses is wonderful and I love the world that her stories take place in. But I was expecting more from this book, and whether that’s fair or not, I don’t know, but at the end of the day, I just didn’t enjoy it as much as Spin the Dawn which makes me more sad than anything else. That’s why I’m giving this book 3 stars, but definitely do still recommend this duology as whole (plus, the covers just look amazing next to each other). Hopefully, with this in mind, you won’t be as disappointed as I was and so can enjoy the book more!
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