My review is of Spin the Dawn + Unravel the Dusk by Elizabeth Lim, a duology series steeped in Chinese culture and mythology
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I’m so excited to share my mini-review for this fantastic East Asian duology!
Originally pitched as Project Runway x Mulan, I have to say it exceeded my expectation greatly! I decided to do a mini-review of both books to avoid any chance of spoilers!
Rep: Asian representation
TW: violence, death of family, torture
Spin The Dawn: It Swept Me Off My Feet
Spin the Dawn (The Blood of Stars, #1)
Published June 9, 2019 by Knopf
Series: Blood of Stars
Data from Goodreads
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.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this novel; it had everything I look for in a story. There is beautiful writing and great Chinese representation. The worldbuilding was fantastic and I loved reading about the mythology and magic involved in the story. Maia has to be one of my favourite protagonists; she is a fully developed character that is easy to connect with. As someone who doesn’t usually like romance, I was actually enjoying it here. It isn’t rushed, there is enough time for the connection to develop between the characters, and it just made me so happy. I think describing this book as a cross between Project Runway and Mulan doesn’t do it justice – because it is so much more than that! My only wish was for more backstory to some of the side characters like Lady Sarnai. Apart from that, this was a stellar read for me!
Unravel the Dusk: It Was Meh
Unravel the Dusk
Published July 7th 2020by Knopf
Series: The Blood of Stars
Data from Goodreads
Maia Tamarin’s journey to sew the dresses of the sun, the moon and the stars has taken a grievous toll. She returns to a kingdom on the brink of war. The boy she loves is gone, and she is forced to don the dress of the sun and assume the place of the emperor’s bride-to-be to keep the peace.
But the war raging around Maia is nothing compared to the battle within. Ever since she was touched by the demon Bandur, she has been changing . . . glancing in the mirror to see her own eyes glowing red, losing control of her magic, her body, her mind. It’s only a matter of time before Maia loses herself completely, but she will stop at nothing to find Edan, protect her family, and bring lasting peace to her country.
With the sequel, the story takes off right where Spin The Dawn ends, so readers should ensure that they remember what happened with the first book. I liked that some of the side characters now took prominence but I wanted them to be more developed. But in all honesty, the story just didn’t hold my interest as much. It is all about Maia grappling with the demons that plague her but there is so much repetitive internal conflict going on that I felt bored. There was also a lot of foreshadowing, which took away from the intrigue. There was also barely any romance here because the love interest only shows up halfway through the story. As much as I wanted to love this book, it was just meh and didn’t work for me.
Even though I didn’t love the second book, I would highly recommend this duology for its unique premise, beautiful writing, and Asian representation!