Spin the Dawn by Elizabeth Lim
An e-galley was provided by Random House via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Summary: 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.
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: I loved the idea of a Mulan retelling but with the main character doing something than going off to war. So I was super excited for Spin the Dawn. However, I found the beginning a bit slow and hard to get into. Once Maia is at the palace, though, the plot moves very quickly - quicker than I expected. The actual competition goes surprisingly fast, and then the story launches into a journey that Maia and Edan have to take. I've never been into journey stories, so that part dragged for me a little, despite the increased banter between the two.
The book focuses on relatively few characters - just Maia, with Edan primarily. Maia occasionally mentions her brothers and father, and the emperor and his fiancée come into play every now and then, but Spin the Dawn really seems to be the tale of the tailor and the enchanter. I didn't mind the developing romance, but I didn't necessarily ship it either.
Content warnings: violence (a whipping, among other things), sexism, fade-to-black sex scene
The Verdict: Good-ish, but the pacing was a bit off. Will be interested to see where book two goes.
Will I be adding this book to my library?: Already did, thanks to OwlCrate.