I love fairy tales. No matter how many retellings get published, I love reading them. But I love when authors combine fairy tales together for something new. Elizabeth Lim takes well-known Chinese fairy tales and combines them with several European fairy tales, including “East of the Sun,” for her book Spin the Dawn.
When Maia’s father is summoned to compete in a competition to become the new royal tailor, Maia disguises herself as her brother and goes in his stead. But the competition is only one of her problems. Edan, the royal enchanter, is infatuated with her secret and Lady [name] finds fault in everything presented to her. When Maia is tasked with creating three impossible dresses, she sets off on a journey to capture the sun, moon, and stars… and just might find more than she bargained for.
From the first page, I knew I would love this story. The magic, the writing, the protagonist, the plot—these aspects breathe new life into the fairy tale genre. Paired with Elizabeth Lim’s prose, Spin the Dawn is spellbinding.
Maia is a fantastic main character. She’s determined and stubborn but also sensitive and compassionate. She sees the best in people and trusts them a little more than she should, but she also has a big heart that will go the extra mile for anybody that crosses her path. Her focus is her family first, but she does open her heart for love as well.
The plot was intriguing and not quite what I expected. Most of the synopses I read promise this cutthroat competition to become the royal tailor. And while yes, that plot is there, that’s only the first half of the story, which was only a slight disappointment. The second half is where the story truly takes flight with Maia setting off on a journey to create three impossible dresses made of the sun, moon, and stars. The second half of the story brings together the magic and fairy tale aspects in a spellbinding way.
The only thing I wasn’t a fan of was the romance. I didn’t hate it, but I had a hard time believing it. Since the story is a fairy tale retelling and YA book, I gave it some leniency, but it seemed to move too fast for all the decisions Maia makes in regards to Edan near the end of the book. I wanted the story to focus on her making the dresses and becoming a master tailor, not be overshadowed by a romantic plot. Also, it took me a while to warm up to Edan. I was too suspicious of him at first and had a hard time picturing him as young adult.
Overall, Spin the Dawn is a gorgeous retelling of several fairy tales that introduces a brave new heroine and a romance to last the ages. Some aspects fell short of my expectation, but fans of YA fantasy are sure to love this story. I can’t wait for book two!