Upfront let me say I’ve never watched Project Runway or Moulin Rouge so my background on either is lacking and had nothing to do with my wanting to Spin the Dawn. Secondly, while the cover is brilliant and by the time I finished Spin the Dawn, I can understand how perfectly it fit the book. I am not a person drawn to big fancy covers, so again not why I wanted to read Spin the Dawn.
Thank you to Knopf Doubleday and NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review
Next before I go into my experience reading Spin the Dawn. Looking at the age group it is aimed at (starting at seventh grade- middle school), I truly believe this is aimed at the earlier end of the young adult spectrum. In other words, where there are many young adult books that I believe you could stack against adult fantasy books without a problem and adults would love them all the same, this is not one of them.
Let me make this clear: This is not at all a knock on Spin the Dawn. All I am pointing out is that in reviewing the book, I believe it important to review it for the audience that I believe it is aimed. Now, I could be wrong. However, I’m going to go on my belief and what I felt as I read the story, as that is all I can do. That is all any reader/reviewer can do.
Elizabeth Lim does a masterful job world building. She shifts from Maia’s simple home life to the great Summer and Autumn palaces with ease, painting the portraits of the life of those that live a common life to those of great royalty. The same can be same of the character building. Despite the riches and luxury surrounding the royalty, you quickly find that both royalty and commoners have much suffering in common, even if for different reasons.
Lady Sarnai: He broke his promise to me. At first I thought it was because the war and magic had blackened his heart, but that is just the way of men. For what is a promise if it’s made to a woman?
To Maia this is something she can greatly relate to, wanting to be in a man’s world as the greatest tailor in all of A’landi, but having to make believe she is a boy in order to make her dreams come true.
Lady Sarnai is forced into a marriage with the Emperor in order to make peace in A’landi after a long war that killed two of Maia’s brothers and left one without the use of his legs. They have both suffered greatly from the war feeling trapped. Maia trying to escape a marriage with the baker’s son, as well.
During her time at the palace the emperor’s enchanter becomes quite infatuated with Maia and there are hints as to why. When Lady Sarnai suddenly lays a quest at Maia’s feet it becomes pretty clear as to what is happening. Although, again to a younger audience there will be more of a twist factor as to what is playing out ahead but I won’t give it out here.
During this quest that the enchanter, Edan, accompanies Maia on, there are many beautiful and very dangerous landscapes that are encountered. Each are brilliantly developed by Lim’s imagery. It pulls you into each place in a very Indiana Jones way, where you can truly go through the experience with both characters.
It is throughout this experience that a simple and quaint relationship comes to develop between Edan and Maia. Older readers might find this budding relationship somewhat simple and the dialogue a bit childish. Younger audiences will fall right under its spell.
Additionally, hidden secrets about each is revealed both during and at the end of their travels. These might not be much of a shock or a twist to some of the older readers, but they will be many jaw dropping moments for the younger readers. Again, it didn’t take out the enjoyment for me of the overall story. I don’t believe it would rob it from others, either.
While the younger group, will be absolutely enthralled by everything from beginning to end Spin the Dawn. In all honesty, there is one thing all readers will have in common: the cliffhanger (no spoiler). It is so heartbreaking that I was choked up. The decisions made in the face of knowing what they will mean, were brave, courageous and absolutely heartbreaking. No matter what your age, your heart will shatter by the end of Spin the Dawn. You can’t help but want to know what happens next.