“Seize the wind,”
“Don’t become the kite that never flies.”-SPIN THE DAWN
TITLE : SPIN THE DAWN (THE BLOOD OF STARS #1)
AUTHOR : Elizabeth Lim
GENRE : YA/ Fantasy/ Romance
FBRC RATING : 4.25 Stars
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.
Steeped in Chinese culture, sizzling with forbidden romance, and shimmering with magic, this young adult fantasy is pitch-perfect for fans of Sarah J. Maas or Renée Ahdieh.
FBRC REVIEW :
I read this book for the September 18 buddy read on the For love of a book group here at Goodreads. I gave this book 4.25 stars. I enjoyed the book and the story. It was unique in its idea and the setting of the book. The book is set in ancient China. The story is inspired from various fairy tales. The first one is a Norwegian fairy tale East of the Sun, West of the Moon. The second is a French fairy tale, Donkeyskin where the inspiration for the three dress of sun, moon, and star made in the book is taken from. The third is the legend The Cowherd and the weaver is the one that inspired the story behind the Blood of Stars story-line. The review is going to be a bit of spoiler-filled review, so if you haven’t read the book, then please read and then come and check out the review.
Our main character/protagonist is Maia who is the daughter of a tailor. She has 3 brothers. At a very young age, her mother dies, leaving Maia to take up the responsibility of taking care of her family. She is essentially the glue that holds her family together. She is the obedient one, the responsible one and the careful one. She is a very skilled tailor. In their culture women are expected to marry and take care of their homes. Maia, at a very young age, was very interested in sewing and always learned the techniques from her father. Her brothers who should have followed and joined the family business were never interested in being a tailor.
After her mother’s death, her father becomes an alcoholic and could barely do things for himself. Maia steps up to take care of their shop and the family. Maia’s dream was to be the Emperor’s tailor. She was an expert at sewing and wanted to fulfill her passion. While Maia was struggling to keep things running at home, her brothers signed up to join the army to fight against the war taking place between the Emperor and the Shansen who is a warlord. There is not a whole lot of background provided for the circumstances under which the war takes place. I wanted to get more details for the war and the events that lead to it. Unfortunately, the book doesn’t provide us a lot of details. Maia loses her older two brothers Finlei and Sendo in the war. Her younger brother Keton also joins the war with the promise to bring Sendo back, but not only does Keaton loses Sendo, but he is also left with an injury that will prevent him from walking without support. Tragedy strikes their family and Maia loses her faith in Gods.
A court official comes knocking on the door asking for Maia’s father to report to the place for applying for the position of Imperial Tailor which is a position given to only men. Knowing her father wouldn’t be able to go and as her brother is disabled she decides to take upon herself to go to the palace and pretend to be the Master. She cuts her hair, dresses in her brother’s clothes and enters the palace disguised as a boy( her brother Keaton). Once she reaches there she realizes that there are 11 famous and talented Masters from around the country competing for the position of the Imperial Tailor.
Up to this part of the book, the story was done really well, the pacing was good, the characters and their background and the setting are all explained. From the events that take place in the palace onwards the book takes off at a faster pace, the competition is really hurried in my opinion. The side characters were not fully developed. They were all there to provide the momentum in the story but were very forgettable. The Emperor and the story behind his life are shrouded in mystery. We don’t have much information about his background and the details of his life that we know is not much. I would have loved the Emperor Khanujin’s character to be more fleshed out and developed.
Emperor Khanujin is betrothed to the Lady Sarnai who is the daughter of the Shansen. Lady Sarnai is in love with Lord Xina. For the purpose of the peace between the two warring places, the Emperor and Shansen decide to unite them through marriage. Lady Sarnai is against this union and decides to extend the tests by giving near to impossible tasks for the tailors. We have the characters ridiculing the young Master and sabotaging Maia’s work. She comes out of them successfully with the help of magic. The magic system in the book is not something I found to be very strong. I wished it was expanded and explored more.
Lord Enchanter was a good character. I loved his character. We don’t know much about the extent of his power and the magic he has, how much limitations he has. We are given clues into his past and the story of how became Enchanter. We know he is powerful, has some influence in the palace but is presented as this very easygoing, flirty guy. He figures out Maia’s secret and decides to help her out with the tasks.
I wanted the competitions to be longer, I wanted more out of the characters. I didn’t think it was necessary to bring romance into the book and make it the main focus of the second half of the book. The romance blooms between Maia and her love interest and the one thing I am happy about is it wasn’t insta-love. I liked their chemistry and the way their interactions were structured left me feeling smiling at them. But at the same time, I felt like romance kind of stole the show for a big part of the book and could have put more into bringing a lot more details into the book of the tales, magic system, etc. I felt the two characters that were prominent were Maia and her love interest and the story then moves forward revolving around just the two of them.
We get to see the tasks being fulfilled and how Maia seemed to be having no clues about much of the history of it finds herself being challenged. The last half of the book brings in characters that were mentioned briefly in the beginning. Demons are not explained in much detail and some characters were introduced and the story line kind of takes a different turn in the book towards the end. I liked the story in general and how it was done altogether, but if I was to look at it critically then the above-mentioned aspects were things that could have put this book above its peers. The writing style was good, engaging and had a good rhythm to it. I loved the story and the setting and the concepts introduced in it. These were the reasons for my excitement towards this book. So the fact that YA Fantasy as a Genre is becoming very predictable and letting romance be the driving force is a little disappointing. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the book and I enjoyed it and was intrigued by it, but would have loved to see more character development and more depth and backstory to the characters, magic system and the creatures. The book had so much potential to be a great fantasy read. Reading the review you might think I didn’t like the book, but it’s just that I feel the genre YA Fantasy has become formulaic and repetitive with Romance heavily woven into the fabric of it. I don’t mind the romance aspect of it but the idea that the protagonist has to be in love or should find a love interest in every single book is not something necessary in my opinion. I believe life is more than just romance and fantasy should have those stories as well.
Don’t be shocked by the rating I gave the book after reading my thoughts. I want more out of this book, I want more of the characters, I want more from the world they travel to, I want more PERIOD. ‘MORE’ seems to be the theme of this review. I want the second book to pick up and prove to its readers that it can break the repetitive mold YA Fantasy seems to be stuck in. Hopefully, the second book will bring some amazing things to the story.
This book can be recommended to everyone who is in the mood for a short, easy, uncomplicated, romantic fantasy with a different cultural setting. The story has some mythological elements to it and we also get a glimpse into some folk tales/fairy tales that the author grew up listening to which is interesting to me. Definitely check the book out if you are in the mood for a simple, easy and quick book with fantasy elements to it.
Have you read this book yet? If so, what did you think of the book? Are you looking forward to learn what will happen to these characters, their destiny and fate in the next book? Who were your favorite characters in the book? Let me know in the comment section below. Also if you have suggestions for me for YA fantasy that are high fantasy or low fantasy with excellent magic system and well developed characters and high action please share your suggestions.