Cultural lore, fairy tale, and a talented craftsperson woven together into a wonderful adventure.


Maia Tamarin once lived along the Great Spice Road, learning the art of embroidery and sewing from her father, supported by her loving mother and three lively brothers. That perfect life unraveled when her mother passed away and, years later, Maia’s two eldest brothers were killed in the war. Now Maia manages the family's tailor shop in Gangnam because her ailing father and unskilled brother are unable to work.

When an emissary arrives requesting that her father to compete for the position of the imperial tailor, Maia jumps at the opportunity for herself. She dresses as her brother and travels to the palace, where she battles 11 of A’landi’s greatest tailors in a series of trials. With the help of a special pair of scissors and Edan, the Lord Enchanter, Maia wins the contest and sets off on a challenging journey to create three dresses for the emperor's bride to be. One each made from the laughter of the sun, the tears of the moon, and the blood of stars.

BTSYA / Teen Reader (13):
Entwined with Chinese culture and woven with magic, Spin the Dawn is a stunning fantasy, adventuure! In contrast to traditional fantasy novels where the main characters are thieves, royals, or fighters, Maia is a craftsperson (tailor). I love that because offers readers a fresh adventure that brings Maia's passion for her art to life. Each of the stitches, design, and colour of Maia's works were described with stunning, vivid detail, leaving this reader in awe at Maia's new creation. Similarly, each part of Maia’s journey to create the dresses of the sun, moon, and stars were described so well that the reader could almost feel the endless heat of the desert or the icy, drowning waters of the moonlit lake. 

Unfortunately, the pace of the story varied greatly. Initially, the introduction to Maia and her family moved at an even pace, but as the tailor's competition progressed, the pace really spead up. Each of the other tailors in the competition was briefly introduced. I would have preferred that the author take more time to describe them and their skills, as well as their relationship with Maia. Then, in the second part of the book, the story slows back down. Maia's journey to create the dresses is told at a lovely pace, and I enjoyed reading about Maia’s struggles and her relationship with Edan.

Overall, Spin the Dawn is a refreshing, adventurous read woven with culture and magic. I recommend it for ages 11 and older.

Reader Enjoyment Factors:

Maia Tamarin narrates an adventure that is her journey from tailor's daughter to imperial seamstress. The story weaves Chinese folkore and cultural, with a fantasy that sparkles like a fairy tale. If you're thinking "oh, no, not another girl-dressed-as-a-boy story," you're missing a great one! It is a refreshing take and the author executes it perfectly.

Content Awareness Factors:

The story contains sexual situations and mild profanity.

Type of Book:
This is a fantasy adventure that draws on Chinese folklore, Asian culture, and traditional fairy tale tropes.
Educational Themes:

What fairy tales and folk tales do you see in Spin the Dawn? Should there be a sequel? These are great starter questions for conversation.

Reading Level:
Recommended Age To Read By Yourself:
12 and Up
Recommended Age To Read Together:
10 and Up
Age of child:
Teen STAR Review Team, Be the Star You Are!™ . Reviewer age: 13
Purchase Recommendation:
Buy. This is a story that can be enjoyed many times and, as readers get older, appreciated even more.

Title Spin the Dawn

The Blood of the Stars, Book 1

Author Elizabeth Lim
Publisher Knopf Books for Young Readers, Imprint Knopf Doubleday © 2019
ISBN 9780525646990
Material Hard Cover
Cost $14.99
Genres Adventure, Fantasy, Romance
be the star you are
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