“A tailor’s worth is not measured by his fame, but by the happiness he brings” (7).
Spin the Dawn by Elizabeth Lim is a YA fantasy that tells the story of Maia Tamarin: a young seamstress and daughter of a once well-respected tailor who dreams of becoming the greatest tailor in all of A’landi. The only problem is—she is not a he! Therefore, a good marriage is the only thing Maia has to look forward to in life…until fate steps in.
When her ailing father is summoned to the palace to compete for the chance to become the “Imperial Tailor,” Maia poses as one of her brothers to take his place in the competition. If she’s discovered, her life is over, but Maia’s willing to take that risk to bring honor back to her family and fulfill her dream.
Spin the Dawn is marketed as “Mulan meets Project Runway,” which is pretty accurate for the first third of the novel. The synopsis makes it sound like the whole story revolves around the sewing competition, but in reality, it’s over and done with before you’re even halfway through the book.
I won’t spoil what happens in the rest of the book, but I will say this: the world-building and the descriptions in this novel are BEAUTIFUL. A’landi is breathtaking. I wish I could go there in real life! Elizabeth Lim does an excellent job of weaving in fantastical elements with a realistic setting to create a world that’s so unique and original.
As for the “Mulan” part of the story, there isn’t much of it. Maia dresses up as man to compete with other men for the title of “Imperial Tailor”…and that’s it. Maia does start out as a strong, independent character, much like Hua Mulan, but sadly, it doesn’t last.
The love interest.
Honestly, I’m still shocked by this. The love interest is introduced pretty early on in the story, and I LOVED THEM! The character is clever, witty, mysterious—think of Loki from Marvel’s Thor—easily a favorite. Their relationship with Maia blossoms naturally, and the tension between them…oh my.
I’m all for a nice, slow-burn, which is what you get until you reach the 60% mark. At this point, the romance ramps up and goes from 0 to 60 in two seconds, but NOT in a good way.
Maia and the love interest start out as strong characters, but once the pair finally give in to their tango of twitterpation (they go back and forth for 30 pages—it’s exhausting), they turn into bumbling, love-sick FOOLS!
“I’ll be in charge of tutoring the children. I hope you know I expect many. At least eight” (281).
^ This happens right after they become official ^
They’re not even the same characters anymore! Who are they? I don’t know them!
Maia becomes OBSESSED with the love interest at this point in the narrative. We’re talking Bella Swan levels of obsession here, and because of this, all common sense goes out the window. She starts making stupid, reckless decisions that almost get her killed, and then the love interest has to make all these sacrifices to save her.
I could rant about the romance all day.
To top it all off, Maia no longer cares about her dreams. She’d rather give all that up so she can be with the love interest, even though they’ve only known each other for a couple months.
The romance is definitely Spin the Dawns downfall. If it hadn’t been for that, and the really convenient ending, this would’ve been a four star read.
What saves it is the writing and the world-building.
Spin the Dawn
In the end, I gave this three stars. The story is original, the world-building is unique, and I loved reading this up until that 60%. Ugh! I’ve never been so disappointed in a romance between two characters. They both had so much potential! I wish Maia had been more like Mulan and less like Bella Swan.
What do you think? Am I being too harsh with the romance? Let me know!
lip biting: 13