Spin the Dawn (#1) and Unravel the Dusk (#2)
July 9, 2019 and July 7, 2020
Alfred P. Knopf Books for Young Readers
Young Adult, Fantasy, Chinese Mythology
Source: Off My Bookshelf, Kindle, Netgalley
I was given digital copies of these titles, free, in exchange for my honest opinion.
Maia lost her two older brothers to the war. Her third brother injured both of his legs days before a truce was agreed upon. With the impending betrothal between the emperor and the Shaneesh’s daughter, Lady Sarnai, a tenuous peace is found. The emperor summons renown tailors from across the land to compete for the title of Imperial Tailor. With two brothers dead, one seriously injured and a dad slowly unraveling since the death of his wife, Maia chooses to pose as a boy to answer the emperor’s summons. If she wins she can take care of her brother and bring honor to her family’s name. Armed with her skills and the heirloom scissors, Maia finds herself in a palace full secrets and magic.
So, originally , I decided to listen to Spin the Dawn on audio. This was one of the titles that was part of my backlog that I want to work my way through. But, I didn’t like the narrator. And I discovered (how I missed this, I will never know) that this was using the girl described as a boy trope. A trope that I generally hate. I was going to DNF this and call it a day. But the sequel had just been released, and I had a galley of that as well. I wanted to be sure. So, I tried a little bit on my kindle – and kept going. Talk about a book full of surprises! I didn’t really have to worry about the girl posing as a boy trope – as it’s over before the first part ends and there’ll story begins. Maia is such an amazing character. Others treat her as if she’s naive. And I guess, in some ways, she is. She really thought that the other tailors and the competition would be fair and based solely on skill. But, she is also stronger than most. When 2 competitors are initimadated and bullied out by a fire, Maia stays more determined than ever. Over and over again, Maia shows strength -even when she is full of fear. She takes the road that’s right even when the cost is high. When the real story begins, she doesn’t just accept everything blindly. Not even when she’s confronted with the reality of magic. She doesn’t easily or foolishly trust those around her nor is she overly confident in her own abilities. It takes her almost the entire book to accept that the magic of the scissors as a reflection of her skills. But Maia is also not perfect. She acts impulsively without fully understanding or knowing the consequences. This story is not perfect. There is a little bit of convenience thrown in -the one time that Edan shouldn’t believe Maia’s lies, he does. Edan gives warnings without full explanations – all the time. Even the enchanter’s magic is not fully explained. Even with those flaws, I still loved this book. I still recommend this to everyone. And now I am super grateful that I have the conclusion on my kindle loaded and ready to go. I am glad that I didn’t let the audiobook fool me into writing this book off.
In Unravel the Dusk, Maia’s story continue. I don’t want to give anything away, so I will keep the synopsis brief. As the story opens, Maia is once again put in the position of pretending to be someone she’s not.
Guys…. this book… was AMAZING!! I am tempted to say that I want more in this world. But the truth is that this was just enough. This was a very strong conclusion. If this was made into a trilogy I doubt the tautness of the plot would have been maintained. I doubt the way that you are on edge with your emotions, fears and hopes would have been sustainable for a third book. I talked mostly about Maia in my above review, and let’s be honest – she’s kind of the star. She’s the main character and you would think that it’s all set up for her to become the empress, for her to take up the mantle of leadership. And you would be very wrong. There are many roles that Maia must take on -tailor, uniter, fighter, inspirer. But, never empress. In the end, the fact that has never hungered for power that is her saving grace. In this book, she struggles with her demonic transition because of her anger. (Even if it is justified). While the book is building up to the final battle, the smaller skirmishes are not small and slowly chips away at Maia. She sacrifices the very things -the dresses- that would save her. Even knowing the sacrifices that she is making on the behalf of fighting for her country and do all that she can to protect her people- they don’t follow her. She is a soldier in someone else’s army. Even though Lady Sarnai doesn’t like Maia and would much rather kill her, an alliance is formed. But, respect is earned and honor is given. Maia goes into the final battle knowing that it is going to cost her EVERYTHING. There isn’t a loophole she’s holding out hope. She’s not praying that the silent gods will suddenly get involved. I won’t ruin the ending for anyone, but I will say that I have a new found respect for kingdoms run by honorable warriors. If Maia gets her HEA, it will be because she fought tooth & nail, heaven & earth for it. If Maia does not get her HEA, (and honestly this is probaly the only book I wouldn’t be mad at for not giving me a HEA) the truth will remain that Maia fought and she fought hard. At great cost to herself. She fought knowing that in every future of hers that could be seen, she would die. She went into each battle with honor and throwing her power and hope behind her people. Even now, knowing what happens. the lesson that Maia taught me is that love is never enough. In this book., you get more of the folklore that shaped Maia’s country. The magic is vibrant, enchanting and compelling. There is a tautness to this story that makes it very difficult to take a deep breath until the very end. The cost of war is not downplayed or excused, The weight of war is balanced with the purpose of everyone willing to fight for their country. It is unflinchingly hopeless, but softened with love. Even though is never enough.
About Elizabeth Lim (From her Website)
Elizabeth Lim grew up on a hearty staple of fairy tales, myths, and songs. Her passion for storytelling began around age 10, when she started writing fanfics for Sailor Moon, Sweet Valley, and Star Wars, and posted them online to discover, “Wow, people actually read my stuff. And that’s kinda cool!” But after one of her teachers told her she had “too much voice” in her essays, Elizabeth took a break from creative writing to focus on not flunking English. Over the years, Elizabeth became a film and video game composer, and even went so far as to get a doctorate in music composition. But she always missed writing, and she turned to penning stories when she needed a breather from grad school. One day, she decided to write and finish a novel — for kicks, at first, then things became serious — and she hasn’t looked back since. Elizabeth loves classic film scores, books with a good romance, food (she currently has a soft spot for arepas and Ethiopian food), the color turquoise, overcast skies, English muffins, cycling, and baking. She grew up in Northern California, with a brief stint in Tokyo, Japan, but now lives in New York City with her husband and their daughter. Elizabeth graduated from Harvard College with an A.B. in music and a secondary in East Asian Studies. She completed her graduate degrees (MM, DMA) at The Juilliard School.
Or you can find her one Twitter
What’s Next? Six Crimson Cranes out in 2021