spin the dawn by elizabeth lim [blog tour review]

Hi friends!

I’m sorry it’s been so long since I’ve posted anything on here. The short version of the long story is that life have been keeping me busy with all kinds of crazy crap. I’m still not sure how regularly I’ll be posting after this, but I’m back for now to bring you my review for the Spin The Dawn blog tour (hosted by Shealea and Caffeine Book Tours; see the launch post here.)

Here’s some quick information about Spin the Dawn:

  • It is written by Elizabeth Lim (Check out her website here.)
  • It will be delivered to the world by Knopf Books for Young Readers on July 9 2019!
  • It is a Young Adult Fantasy novel written by an #OwnVoices Author
  • You can add it to your Goodreads shelf here!
  • You can order your copy on Amazon, BookDepository, Wordery as well as your local bookstore too (hopefully!)
  • For my Singapore bookish pals, Books Kinokuniya and OpenTrolley also has Spin the Dawn available for (pre)order!

And of course, the synopsis:

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.

If this sounds like something you want to read, why not enter the book giveaway for Spin the Dawn? You can try your luck — who knows, you could be one of three lucky international readers to win a free copy of the book!

Now on to my review …

Man, it is so difficult to talk about Spin the Dawn because it is such a conflicting book. It is exciting and compelling in the first half, yet it becomes unforgivably ridiculous and hasty when we get to the second. I can’t help but feel a little disappointed because Spin the Dawn ended up becoming just like most other YA fantasy novels when it had the potential to be a kind of game changer in the genre.

I think Spin the Dawn is at its absolute best in the first part, which is also where the Mulan-sque side of the story comes into play. I love that we (finally!) get a heroine who is motivated by the love she has for her family and her craft instead of a romantic love interest. I find it’s really refreshing to see some positive and supportive family dynamics and I wish we got more scenes of the Tamarin family together. What I especially like, though, is the fact that we get to see Maia struggle and fight to keep her place in the competition. I think it makes for a really good reminder that you can be good at something and still be tested by it, because you always have room to grow.

Then we get to the second half of the story, where everything just falls apart. Or at least, the story just takes on a whole other direction which in my opinion, messes everything up. Remember what I said about there not being a romantic love interest? Well, this is where we get the blossoming of a romance in the midst of a supposedly dangerous and impossible mission, which of course takes priority over everything else.

(What else is new, am I right?)

You know, I probably wouldn’t mind the romance that much if it was written in the story in a way that fit in with everything else that came before it. I mean, I know we are told right from the beginning of the book that Spin the Dawn is meant to be a love story, but I think the story it was telling right before we get to this point was much better and stronger. And though I love the two characters, I love them more as friends than I do them as a couple. They are definitely more fun and a lot less melodramatic, that’s for sure.

One other thing I wanted to mention about Spin the Dawn is its world-building. As a Chinese reader, there’s a number of things that I always look out for when I read Chinese inspired stories. Specifically, I want to see hinese language, customs, cuisine, traditions and/or cultural practices being included in some way in the narrative. Spin the Dawn is a bit of a mixed bag when it comes to this, because its Chinese influence can be pretty subtle. The main characters themselves have names that seem more western than they do Chinese. The only Chinese words we get is really just the words for mother (“Mama”) and father (“Baba”). What I can pick out is the way the characters speak, regard and behave towards each other and to royalty.

(And the romance. You’d get the same kind of melodrama when you watch Chinese TV drama serials, trust me. Especially those old-timey ones set in Ancient China or whatever.)

Altogether, I think Spin the Dawn makes for a pretty decent debut that has some unfulfilled potential to be something much, much better. My feelings for it is kind of all over the place: I did enjoy reading it to some extent but I can’t honestly say that I love it.

The ending is something that is kind of predictable, but I think it also leaves behind some food for thought. I didn’t think I’d want anything more from Spin the Dawn after being so completely turned off by the second half of the story, but here I am anyway, all curious as to see where Elizabeth Lim will take these characters next. I just hope it wouldn’t disappoint.

3/5 stars.

I was very kindly gifted an advanced reader’s copy by the publisher (thanks to Caffeine Book Tours by Shealea) in exchange for this honest review.

Before you go!

Please be sure to check out the many other wonderful posts that are/will be coming up on this blog tour!

If you are on Twitter as well, please do also feel free to join and participate in the #CBTTC Twitter chat!

(PSSSSST: There will also be another giveaway happening during the Twitter chat, though it’s for US readers only … sadly.)

If you made it this far, I just wanted to say thanks for reading and of course, happy reading!

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6 thoughts on “spin the dawn by elizabeth lim [blog tour review]

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