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.
Review: 3.5 Stars
Spin the Dawn is one of the summer young adult fantasy ARC’s that I wasn’t that excited about. This book was marketed as a Mulan re-telling and also compared to Project Runway, neither of which I was a fan of. I was actually pretty shocked with how much I enjoyed this book. While I did have some issues with it at times, Spin the Dawn was nothing like I had expected it to be.
Immediately once I started reading I noticed that the writing was very poetic, which is something that I love. The vivid descriptions helped bring this world to life. I also found the pacing of part one to be very fast and captivating. I loved the competition to become the imperial tailor, which is actually the part of the novel that I thought I would hate. I loved the backstabbing and corruption of court and quickly devoured the first third of the book.
In the beginning I found Maia very relatable. She was extremely determined and devoted to her family. I loved her competitiveness and just how ambitious she was. Her bold personality was fun to read about and I liked her as a main character. The ruthlessness of the competition combined with her pretending to be a boy brought out this outspoken side of her that I really loved. But once the book began to focus on the romance I felt like all of those parts I had admired about Maia didn’t shine as brightly.
Then the novel took a turn which I thought I would love, but I didn’t. The second part of the novel was more of an adventure where Maia and Edan traveled to find the essences of the sun, moon and stars to sew into dresses. Typically I love quests, but part two really dragged for me. Spin the Dawn began to focus on the romance between Maia and Edan, and I just wasn’t feeling it. The romance felt forced and fake to me. Edan was so much older than her and he really felt that way, where romances like this can work in books like Twilight, the maturity difference between them made it feel weird. The characters fell flat when there wasn’t much action and all of Maia’s feelings were told to us rather than shown through actions.
When I reached part three and they were back at court the book picked up again. Spin the Dawn just felt a bit choppy and the pacing wasn’t consistent. I loved the parts of the book that took place at court and enjoyed the competition for imperial tailor much more than I thought I would. The romance and characters fell a bit flat for me, but overall I enjoyed this a lot more than I thought that I would.