Title: Spin the Dawn (The Blood of Stars #1)
Author: Elizabeth Lim
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’m so glad I picked this one up!
Fantasy is so saturated with the same old kind of European-based mythos that whenever I get a chance to read something with a different mythological starting point, I jump at it. And this one was a breath of fresh air I didn’t realize I needed as badly as I did. It also helped that Mulan is one of my favorite animated Disney movies, and I’m a sucker for fairy tale/legend retellings. This book was basically written with all my favorite things in mind!
The story follows determined heroine Maia, who takes her father’s place in a competition to become the emperor’s personal tailor – an esteemed position never given to a woman. Maia, whose talent as a tailor is something almost magical, is a very grounded, level-headed character. She’s practical, realistic, and ambitious – the kind of protagonist you can really root for. Her characterization was great, because she’s more than just a dutiful daughter looking out for her father’s well-being – she wants the position for the glory of it, too. Maia’s motivation for entering the competition is only partly selfless, and she does value her own drive – something you don’t see often in the archetype of the dutiful daughter. I think that’s what I liked best about her – she let herself be selfish and was never made to feel guilty for wanting things for herself.
Elizabeth Lim spins (pun intended) an incredible tale full of magic and adventure, with a dusting of romance – my literary kryptonite. Throw in the enigmatic Edan as her love interest, and there’s no turning back from this one. As her gateway into the very real magic of her world, Edan guides Maia on an adventure that proves her worth as a master tailor, and goes beyond anything you can imagine when you start to read the book. As the scale of the story and world grows larger, you can’t help but get sucked in. I couldn’t put this one down, and now I eagerly await the sequel.
If you like a well-written, immersive fantasy with a splash of romance, then this is your next favorite read!