book review, indigo teen staff pick, young adult

Spin the Dawn by Elizabeth Lim (Review)

Title: Spin the Dawn
Author: Elizabeth Lim
Type: Fiction
Genre: YA, Fantasy
Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers
(Penguin Random House)
Date published: July 9, 2019

Physical copies of this book was kindly provided by Indigo Books & Music Inc. and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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.

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What an incredible fantasy! Spin the Dawn took me a little bit to get into at first, but then once I was hooked… I was hooked! I absolutely love the style in which this book was written. How can I describe it? It was definitely easy to read and understand while also giving off an atmosphere or mood that reminded me of stories that I was told as a child which had been passed on in my family by word of mouth. I suppose the best way to describe it is that the story of Spin the Dawn was told in the style of a folklore while (unlike some of those older word of mouth stories) making it easy to identify with and feel close to the main characters.

When I first heard that this book would be a mix of Mulan and Project Runway, I remember I was excited about the Mulan part, but not so much about the Project Runway part because I immediately imagined a room full of girls being catty and backstabby with each other. I hadn’t realized that because Maia would have to pretend to be male, she’d be competing against a bunch of male tailors. This really made the story more exciting and unique for me because I wanted to see how she would best a bunch of old, misogynistic men and because I’d already read books where girls compete against each other and am not really supportive of negative female relationships (if that makes any sense at all). There is also a romance in this book that I absolutely loved and that is the main reason why I need the next book right now! But I won’t say any more about that. The last thing I’ll say is that this is one of my top fantasy reads of the year and that I highly recommend it!


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… But she always missed writing, and 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 lives in New York City with her husband.

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6 thoughts on “Spin the Dawn by Elizabeth Lim (Review)

  1. This was not a total win for me. In the first part I really struggled with Maia I found her so naive and gullible! But then it got better and I truly enjoyed the second part that reminded me a lot of one of my favorite French tales Donkey skin !

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