After finishing Spin the Dawn by Elizabeth Lim, I can tell you absolutely one thing for certain: I am a mess of back and forth after reading this book. In fact, this has been the hardest book for me to rate this year. On the one hand, it was so brilliant. And on the other…well, I’ll get to that in a moment. So, four stars? Five stars? It’s a tough decision. Now, I’ve never seen Project Runway so I cannot account for any similarities this book may have to that show but Spin the Dawn has been marketed as Mulan meets Project Runway though that is not why I requested the book from NetGalley. Truth be told, I just really liked the cover (shout out to Tran Nguyen for some of the most amazing cover art I’ve ever seen in my life!). And the cover does a pretty fantastic job of portraying what you come to read in the novel. While the strings, the scissors, the hawk, the sun fabric, the swath of blue cloth behind main character Maia Tamarin might not really make a whole lot of sense in the beginning, they are utterly central to the story in ways I never would have fathomed to begin with.
The novel follows the tale of a young woman whose dream is to become the imperial tailor for the kingdom’s Emperor. Immersed in the middle of a war, Maia and her family are impacted in a great many unfortunate ways. When one day, shortly after the war has ended and peace is just within reach, Maia’s famed father is requested to arrive at the palace to compete for the title of the imperial tailor though he has become old and sickly over the years. So, knowing that women are not permitted to be tailors let alone the imperial tailor, Maia disguises herself as her brother and sets out in her father’s place. And what ensues is a long fight for peace, justice, the well-being and safety of her family, and adventure beyond anything Maia had ever dreamed of.
And that just barely scratches the surface.
I’ll say this much, Spin the Dawn was in every single way but one an amazing novel. It had a feminist touch, a brilliantly strong and compassionate lead character, excellent world-building, and a phenomenal plot. The one single thing that nearly ruined it for me was, unfortunately, the romance. Not only did I just not find it all that believable–the male love interest was incredibly child-like and naive, far too much so for my taste and ability to buy in–but I just did not feel like there was enough of a spark between them to justify the love. And perhaps I am missing something. In fact, I’m fairly certain I missed the part where interest and like between the two characters actually turned into the substantial feelings of love. Something important got left out.
The dialogue, also, surrounding the romance was fairly cheesy. And while I can accept and even love cheesy romantic dialogue sometimes, Spin the Dawn simply was not able to sell it to me. I’m not even sure what it was, precisely, about the characters that left me feeling as though there was no real spark. And it’s a real shame in the end because I loved every single other aspect of this book. In so many ways it was a magical and entrancing novel that I never wanted to put down. And my skies, that ending. I don’t even know where to begin with how much that ending blew me away.
So, take it for what you will. Spin the Dawn was very good. But that romance pulled quite a few exasperated sighs and eye-rolls from me.
I was provided a free copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.