GEEZ, this is a big post. My first book review AND my first blog tour? Ever? I rewrote (or retyped) this intro so many times because I couldn’t quite pin down how excited and absolutely terrified I was to be finally doing this. But here we are now, folks. It’s such an honor to be able to participate in an event for one of my most anticipated releases of the year!
This post is going to be a bit of a read (though it’s not like my previous posts have been on the short end of the spectrum either), so feel free to kick up your feet and make yourself a hot drink before we delve right into the muck of things. And while you do that, you can also check out the main post + tour schedule up on our tour host Shealea’s blog! And if you’ve followed me over from my posts on Life’s Library and have no idea what the heck a blog tour even is, here’s a quick primer on them from Penguin Random House.
Are we all settled? Everyone’s got their warm beverages of choice? OKAY, LET’S GO.
Half cutthroat tailoring competition and half traditional quest narrative, Spin The Dawn follows a headstrong Maia, disguised as her brother, into the treacherous grounds of the palace as an unlikely candidate in a competition for the role of imperial tailor. Maia is a brilliant and hardworking seamstress in her own right, but as danger and magic lurk behind every corner, she’s forced to make hard decisions just to keep herself alive.
You guys. I was a MESS when I finished reading. This book absolutely tore me to shreds and I need the sequel to feel whole again. The writing was absolutely gorgeous—a well-crafted blend of whimsical narration and lyrical prose that hooked me from the very first page and only continued to enamor throughout Maia’s journey.
That ending is also just PATENTLY UNFAIR to me, a reader with just two brain cells and a weak heart. 😭 I actually didn’t know that this book was the first installment in a series when I read it, so the last few pages really caught me off-guard. The next book is going to have to tackle some really somber stuff, and I’m not sure if I’m ready??? Stars above, this shouldn’t be allowed.
Needless to say I will mostly be rocking in the corner henceforth until the sequel comes out sometime next year.
CAN WE TALK ABOUT THE CHARACTERS???
I. loved. Maia. so much. Strong, female-led diverse fantasies are here to stay. I’m declaring this into existence. I will never have to read another book featuring a grapefruit of a white male MC of my own volition ever again. Maia is kind, determined, and has strong ideals she isn’t afraid to defend, but she’s also a flawed and anxious teenager who’s wandered into a situation beyond her wildest dreams (relatable). She’s such an easy character to root for, especially when the odds just keep getting stacked against her during her journey. All her little victories scattered throughout the book felt earned and properly triumphant.
Edan, the emperor’s enigmatic enchanter (ha, that alliteration makes me happy), was also extremely enjoyable to read; his banter with Maia becomes especially poignant as he grows into a more prominent role towards the end of the book. Also judging from the other early reviews I read, I’m not alone in basically being heads-over-heels for this ridiculous sorcerer, oops.
The central romance in this book had me swooning—and I think this aspect works because I basically care way too much about the two main characters. I really appreciated that there were a lot of good examples of healthy relationships to be found in the main romantic relationship as well: from consent being a fundamental part of the characters’ courtship, to the take-down of squicky romance tropes (such as one person deciding that their partner would be better off without them). I’m super glad that this book will be in the hands of young readers who are just starting to form romantic relationships in their own lives too.
(also I’m trying very very hard not to spoil anything, but thank GOD this isn’t a standalone book, my poor heart)
The world-building in this! was so good!
I feel like descriptions in fantasy novels tend to make my eyes glaze over at times, but most of the story actually felt grounded in details that you would, like… actually notice. As a human being. With physical senses. This was particularly important, I think, in the latter half of the book, where we follow Maia as she journeys across the kingdom in search of the sun, moon, and stars in order to weave three impossible dresses of legend. The diverse locations that she travels to, as well as the perils that await her at each one, are consistently vivid and cleverly drawn by the lush narration, which in turn lends Maia’s odyssey the weight and impact that it deserves.
Extension: I really adored the magic in this.
We don’t know a whole lot about the in-and-outs of magic in Spin the Dawn‘s universe because Maia herself isn’t an enchanter (and Edan’s pretty secretive about his own origins), but the glimpses we did get into the role of enchanters in the kingdom absolutely hooked me. I especially liked the unique dynamic between rulers and enchanters in this book, and I’m excited to see if this gets expended on in the next installment in the series.
A core way that magic gets passed down in this book is also through the stories that people tell. Folktales and legends play a huge role in Maia’s character arc, and there are also loving nods to fairy tales from our own world in the story too. (I recognized the Cowherd and Weaver Girl inspiration almost immediately when I saw it on page, I’m only a little bit obsessed.) I’m always so down for a good “the stories we tell each other hold more than we think they do” moral in fantasies I read.
All at once, Spin the Dawn is
- an adventure-filled, coming-of-age fantasy about a clever, headstrong seamstress who grows into her own brilliance through impossible (and literal) trials of the soul
- a witty and enjoyable account of a young, blossoming romance
- a tender love letter to the kind of wide-eyed wonder that only fairy tales can inspire.
And. Like. If you couldn’t tell by now, I love this book with all my heart; I can’t think of a better book for my first review on this blog. Now if only the sequel could magic itself into my hands sooner too.
(Pssst keep scrolling for an international giveaway at the bottom of this post!)
A super quick disclaimer:
I received a digital ARC of this book from the publisher via Caffeine Book Tours for the purposes of this tour, but this is an honest review. I’m very grateful for the opportunity, but this doesn’t sway my opinion one way or another! Quotes here are also subject to change in the final copy of the book.
More about the book
Title: Spin the Dawn
Author: Elizabeth Lim
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Pub date: 09 July 2019
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
S Y N O P S I S ———
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.
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.
Thanks to Knopf Books, we’re giving away three (3) finished copies of Spin the Dawn! You can enter via the Rafflecopter below. This giveaway is international too!a Rafflecopter giveaway
For friends in the US, you also have a chance to win copies of Spin the Dawn by participating in the upcoming Twitter chat about the book, hosted by Caffeine Book Tours! (But also you should just join us anyway, and hear me SCREAM about how much I love this book all over again.) You can click through the image below to follow the official Caffeine Tours twitter account, which is the chat will be hosted this weekend.
And here we are at the end of yet another post! We made it! Now I know it’s so clearly an engagement ploy to have questions at the end of blog posts these days, but I swear these are genuine okay:
- Now that we finally have both art and bookish content on the Perch, what would you like to see next? I personally feel like book reviews are dime-a-dozen nowadays, and I’m always looking to incorporate my art into more bookish things, but I’ve been pretty stuck on post ideas so far where I can include both seamlessly. More book reviews? More behind-the-scenes on my art? What would youuuuuu like to read?
- The year’s half over! Geez, can you believe it? What books are you looking forward to read in the latter half of 2019? Any shiny new releases I can
hoardcheck out too?
Thank you so much for reading this far. Stay awesome as always friends, and see you around the Perch! 💛