Spin the Dawn by Elizabeth Lim, the first book of the Blood of Stars series, is so close to being the perfect YA fantasy-romance that its minuscule imperfections stick out even more. I devoured this book with such pleasure and yet it left me with a feeling that something’s missing. Maybe it’s just the sequel. Luckily for me, Unravel the Dusk is just around the corner.
Spin the Dawn Review
In Spin the Dawn, Maya, the only daughter of a tailor, dresses up as her brother to undertake a series of challenges. She competes to become the imperial tailor and save her family from starvation. But when she arrives at the palace, it turns out that to win the job, she must impress the emperor’s reluctant bride who would do anything to delay the wedding.
While the competitors turn the challenges into a dangerous game, Maya finds an unexpected ally in the emperor’s lord enchanter. With the help of her family’s magical scissors, she overcomes impossible odds and starts sawing dresses worthy of a goddess.
Spin the Dawn is a lot more than a simple competition story, though. It comprises three parts: The Challenge, The Journey and The Oath. Each part has its own unique story line that builds on everything that happened before.
The worldbuilding in Spin the Dawn is absolutely amazing. I love myths and stories based on mythology, and Spin the Dawn mixes existing myths with its own unique world perfectly. Magical scissors, a girl who pretends to be a boy for her family, a thief that stole from the gods, an enchanter bound by oath, a complex history and countries on the brink of war: they all come together in a perfectly woven mysterious world. Not to mention, Elizabeth Lim did that without ever making the reader feel that there’s an infodump. If anything, there could have been a little more.
Maya is a great, strong female lead without losing her feminine side, which is especially hard in a story where she actually pretends to be a man. She is a good girl, yet she must challenge her own judgement of good vs bad, which creates an interesting dynamic. Eden, the lord enchanter, is complex, mysterious, yet undeniably adorable.
My only critique on characters would be that sometimes I found that Eden is too much of a boy for a man of his age. I know it’s intentional, but I’m not a fan of this aspect. It’s just pushed the limits of my suspended disbelief.
My other problem with the story was the romance. I must say first that I loved that romance, but I had to force myself to believe it. Maybe I’m just too used to slow burn romance in book series where there is no “I love you” until at least the end of the first book, but sometimes until book 2 or 3.
In Spin the Dawn, there is a good development of the romantic relationship and it’s an absolutely crucial part of the plot. It is a beautiful love story, but I struggled with the jump from “I’m not sure I trust you” to “I love you so much I’d die for you”. It was too quick for me or too much of it happened off-page.
We get the build-up to the first kiss, and it’s perfect, but then the build of the relationship is brushed over. I wish we saw more of that love deepening.
Overall, Spin the Dawn is amazing. I would recommend it to anyone who loves fantasy, romance, competition plots, or stories based on myths, because all those things are in there to form a perfectly balanced book.
The second instalment of the Blood of Stars is coming in July 2020. See T.L. Branson’s review of Unravel the Dusk here.