Spinning a Good Yarn
Title: Spin the Dawn
Author: Elizabeth Lim
Originally published: 2021
Genre: Fantasy, YA fantasy
Difficulty: Easy Pages: 392
Series: Yes. This is the first book in The Blood of Stars series.
Always spoiler free. Loss, mild violence and fighting included in the book.
This was the third (and last book) I purchased just after Christmas with a gift voucher. It, unfortunately, only just arrived. Actually, that’s a lie, Waterstones couldn’t fulfil the order, so gave the money back and I had to reorder it, but whatever, it arrived and I read it.
Maia is the daughter of a Tailor. After her family’s fortunes turn for the worse, and her brothers are drafted to war, Maia takes over as tailor for her family’s shop. Then a decree comes – Masters are being called to compete for the favour of being the Imperial Tailor, including Maia’s family. The only problem? Maia can’t compete as she’s a woman and no-one else in her family can attend. So, she decides to disguise herself as a boy, and win the competition to help support her family.
I read some short reviews before buying the book, and the one that stuck with me is that the book is a story of two halves. I agree. I agree so much that I would move to say that it should have been two books. How amazing would it have been if the first section, Maia as a tailor, was the whole book? That the challenges, and their descriptions, were longer, more fraught, more sumptuous, more descriptive? Instead, this part feels rushed, instead focussing on getting to stage about their journey and the romance portion of the book.
The whole thing feels rushed, the pacing slightly off. I don’t love this book because of the missed opportunities. It feels like in-depth world-building or more descriptions were left off to avoid the book slipping into High Fantasy and instead it sticks to middling YA Fantasy. But High Fantasy and YA Fantasy aren’t mutually exclusive.
I know people loved this book, and I do get it. The characters are lovely and interesting. It’s reasonably well written (I think there are a few bits that could have been elevated slightly, but it definitely wasn’t terrible writing). But it’s just so…average and predictable. The magical element is an interesting twist, but also sort of average. And then there is the recurrent trope of a romance with an age gap that YA and fantasy books love to use but that has lots of issues. Also the love story is pretty predictable as well.
I also kinda feel like the Mulan comparison is a bit lazy. Yes, girl disguising herself as a boy is pretty central to both stories, but what are the other similarities? It does make a nice marketing pitch, so I guess okay? Also, on that note, the ‘Project Runway’ is a bit lazy as well, as that’s only a small aspect of the plotline. Really for me it felt like the ‘main’ plot line was the second half of the story, and that is much less relevant to the Project Runway connection.
I’m always waiting for that spark that draws me in to a book, and I got that with this book, but it was muted. I read it in two sittings and enjoyed it. But it just wasn’t fabulous. It wasn’t sumptuous. Would I recommend it? Sure, and I think it would especially appeal to YA casual readers. But do I love it? Nope.
Well Red Reviews
Would I recommend this book? Yes