Title: Spin the Dawn
Author: Elizabeth Lim
Date Published: July 9, 2019
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.
Hello there allies, archenemies and, everyone in between! First of all, I would like to thank Caffeine Book Tours by Shealea for hosting this massive all Asian blog tour for one of my most anticipated fantasy reads this year.
Out of almost 130+ signups I really can’t believe my luck to have gotten a spot here! Which reminds me that you can also sign up as a book tour host if you want early updates for future upcoming tours specifically on diverse books. Anyway, it’s time for me to divulge to you all the reasons why this book is worth your time!
A lyrical tale reminiscent of fairytales long gone and perfectly blends the creative process in a magical approach that compels you to read more and more.
Elizabeth Lim creates a mellifluous melody in her prose with a nice touch of multilayered weaving in her metaphors. She literally incorporates literary devices relating to the art of weaving which reinforces the importance of this theme. This makes the book a compelling neat package with how she writes it constructively and objectively. There’s also a sense of continuous rhythm in her words that makes it hard to put the book down and, which is probably the reason why I’ve read this faster than I initially thought I would!
With this in mind, it is also quite a wonder how we get to see the creative process of weaving/ tailoring be incorporated in the magic system (albeit it wasn’t a super detailed one reminiscent of Brandon Sandersons’ works). I am a sucker for this kind of element in a book and I assure you that it is so much better than how meager I describe it! The sense of vagueness it has does not dispel its charm but instead elevates the fantasy vibe here.
Not only that but this kind of story is one that ironically blends an odd feeling of nostalgia and a sense of a new beginning. It reminded me so much of the fairytales I grew up reading with, like the tale of Amaterasu (a Japanese folk tale I’ve read in high school), the tale of Eros and Psyche and, it sets up a new take on the well-trodden path of YA Fantasy. This is a unique retelling but is also an elevated form of its roots. It simply uses the familiar archetypes we love in stories like Mulan and spins a whole different picture that makes an indelible mark on us readers.
It has most of the archetypes a heroine’s tale has from the characters down to the immediate set up we usually see yet, it also gives a unique flavor with its execution that will linger in your heart.
In all honesty, Spin the Dawn for me was quite a little cliche because of the archetypes used in its storytelling that predominated YA Fantasy. We get to see Maia–our heroine that evolves from her weaknesses and be presented with situations where she has to make hard decisions. She’s a strong and resilient character but is also flawed in so many ways. We get to see the usual character development from the ones we pine for.** We get to see the usual patterns and banters that a budding romance treads.
But what sets Spin The Dawn different from all the other heroine tales is how organically it blooms in just the right time. I haven’t been reading much of YA Fantasy lately (only 4 this year including this one!) because I was quite tired of the usual roster I read. I was hoping to read more high fantasy this year but I never thought I needed to feel the familiar flutters of YA Fantasy again until I finished reading this!
**Side note: Personally, Edan was my favorite character here. I JUST FREAKING LOVE HIM AND I HAVE TO STOP MYSELF FROM BLABBING TOO MUCH SPOILERS HERE so there’s that. Just know that I love him and I hope you love him too in the same intensity that I felt.
Spin the Dawn may have some minor flaws for me like how the romance evolved in the latter part and the urgency that followed through but, this was still an amazing and fast-paced read for me. This is by far one of my favorite books of this year despite some of my qualms.
Overall this was an entertaining and beautiful tale that I will gladly reread again just to experience the fairy tale nostalgia it elicits!
“Ask me to spin the finest yarn or thread, and I can do it faster than any man—even with my eyes closed. Yet ask me to tell a lie, and I will stumble and falter to think of one.
I have never had a talent for spinning tales.“
“I dread reaching the end of my story, for it is full of knots that I haven’t had the courage to cut free. Distant drums pound. They draw closer with every second, a stirring reminder of the little time I have left to make my choice.”
“My whole life, I’d been told what I couldn’t do because I was a girl. Well, this was my chance to find out.”
“Day after day and night after night, she spun the dawn and unraveled the dusk.”
Excerpt of Spin The Dawn
I pondered the way the shansen’s daughter had spoken to Lord Xina—was the bitterness in her tone for her lover or for her father? Or both?
Meanwhile, Longhai capped his flask. “Did you see her fur coat? Rabbit, fox, wolf, at least three different bears. Northerners only wear what they hunt—Lady Sarnai must be quite skilled.” He heaved a sympathetic sigh. “She won’t have an easy time adjusting to life here.” He leaned closer to me, as if to share a secret. “But she does seem to enjoy aggravating His Majesty. She wore breeches to tea with the emperor and his ministers of war.”
Lady Sarnai had nerve. I didn’t know whether that made me respect her more—or less.
“I’m sure we’ll hear about it tomorrow,” Longhai said as we approached the hall.
I wished Longhai’s station were next to mine, but he was on the opposite end of the room. So I returned to my table alone, taking out my sketchbook to start designing a shawl and not bothering to greet the tailors around me. I had a feeling they resented my presence.
To my relief, they ignored me, too. But through scraps of their conversations, I gathered that I was the last tailor to arrive for the trial, which explained why I was assigned the worst table—in the middle where my work was practically on exhibit for everyone to see.
I also learned more about my rivals. Except for Longhai, none of the tailors introduced themselves to me, but I caught some names I recognized. Like Longhai, they were masters whose styles I’d grown up studying and emulating; these were men who’d been sewing since long before I was born.
Master Taraha and Master Yindi came from different schools of embroidery, but both were geniuses: Taraha specialized in flowers, Yindi in double-sided embroidery. Master Boyen was brilliant at knotting, Master Delun wove brocades unlike any others. Master Norbu was a favorite of the nobility.
And me? When we’d lived in Gangsun, Baba had asked visiting friends to teach me their regional styles and crafts, and in Port Kamalan, I’d picked up techniques from every merchant and tailor who’d speak to me.
But I was no master, and I had no reputation.
I was relieved when he finally left me alone, and I draped the silk shawl over my arm. Silk was naturally light on the skin. That was what made it so sought after, so expensive.
I was good at painting, like Master Longhai, but embroidery was my strength, like Master Yindi and Master Taraha. I decided to paint a garden and embroider its flowers. Peonies, lilies, and chrysanthemums, with a lady holding a dragonfly on her finger. It was a scene I’d practiced dozens of times, and the paint would dry quickly. With only one day to complete the shawl, now was not the time to take an unnecessary risk.
And last but not the least my traditional fan art of Maia! I’m a little rusty now that I haven’t drawn that much but I’m really proud of how this turned out.
About the Author
Elizabeth Lim grew up on a hearty staple of fairy tales, myths, and songs. Her passion for storytelling began around age 10, when she started writing fanfics for Sailor Moon, Sweet Valley, and Star Wars, and posted them online to discover, “Wow, people actually read my stuff. And that’s kinda cool!” But after one of her teachers told her she had “too much voice” in her essays, Elizabeth took a break from creative writing to focus on not flunking English.
Over the years, Elizabeth became a film and video game composer, and even went so far as to get a doctorate in music composition. But she always missed writing, and turned to penning stories when she needed a breather from grad school. One day, she decided to write and finish a novel — for kicks, at first, then things became serious — and she hasn’t looked back since.
Elizabeth loves classic film scores, books with a good romance, food (she currently has a soft spot for arepas and Ethiopian food), the color turquoise, overcast skies, English muffins, cycling, and baking. She lives in New York City with her husband.
We also have an international giveaway going on! You can enter to win a copy of Spin the Dawn through this link. Take note that there will be 3 winners for this giveaway!
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