Spin the Dawn by Elizabeth Lim: A Lush and Beautiful Fantasy with a Romance I Wasn’t Into

I knew this was going to be good, but I definitely did not know just how good it would be.

Elizabeth Lim’s Spin the Dawn was a classic-style story with a lush and beautiful world and gorgeous prose. Featuring the classic “girl dressing as a boy” trope, a Project-Runway-esque competition, and a quest, Spin the Dawn weaves tradition and fantasy into a phenomenal story.

I’m definitely excited to read the sequel because ohmygoshthatending! I’m not going to spoil anything but it’s definitely going to be different from Spin the Dawn and where Maia started at the beginning of her story. I can tell it’s going to take a darker turn and I’m so ready for that dynamism (and I have a good feeling about the sequel!)

But before I get too far ahead of myself, here’s my thoughts on Spin the Dawn:

The structure was solid.

I do want to talk a little bit about this: it was definitely interesting and I’m honestly kind of undecided on this particular element.

Because the first part is the competition: Maia is trying not to expose that she’s a girl while still trying to win a competition rigged against her to become the Imperial Tailor. It has three challenges and is very classic in the way its portrayed.

And then after comes the search to make the three magical dresses: where Maia ventures on a journey across the world to find the laughter of the sun, the tears of the moon, and the blood of stars. Which is a big feat, and things begin to spice up character-wise and Maia begins to deviate from that perfect “girl dressing as a boy to save her family” trope.

Finally, we get to the wrap-up, and although I’m a bit bummed it wasn’t another set of three, I realize that would have been kind of A Lot™. And it deviates the most from the classic tropes, but also has the most development character-wise.

And I just wanted to take the time to point it all out, because although I’m not entirely in love with the structure, I still think that it effectively carried out the story, which is what matters.

This was so lush and beautiful! I absolutely adored the magic.

And of course, the writing is top notch.

It was lush and I felt immersed in the world—with the beautiful world, the intricacies to Maia’s craft, and so much more.

Plus, all the dress descriptions were beautiful and I totally swooned during those parts. Obviously, if you’re looking for something lovely and lush and an immersive read, you should definitely check out Spin the Dawn.

One of the only things I wasn’t sold on was the romance.

Okay, there was nothing glaringly bad about it, but I guess it boils down to the fact that I wasn’t into the Maia x Edan relationship.

Like…he’s a 500+ year old sorcerer, and she’s a teenager. He’s the court magician who has power, and she’s just a girl who’s trying to make it to save her family. He knows the secret that can break her, and she’s indebted to him for keeping it.

Honestly one of the biggest reasons why I don’t ship it is because of the power imbalance. Edan is so much older than her (he looks teen-ish though!), he has power—both magical and against Maia—and it just wasn’t a dynamic I was into.

If you really want to know, I personally hope in the second book they break up and Maia scorches the earth and all those who wronged her, forgoes Edan, and finds someone else or rocks on by herself.

I obviously read way too much into this than other readers, but I just felt like Edan was Not a Good Fit for Her—at least where she was when she got into a relationship with him. I think if they were on equal standing when it started, I would have been okay with it, and although Edan is a totally nice guy and didn’t use the power against her really, it was still something that I was just kind of not a fan of.

Also, a small note on ableism:

I read an advance reader’s copy of Spin the Dawn, and it contains ableist tropes (magic cure, girl pretending to have a disability as she is disguised as her brother). However, the author has stated that the ableism has been changed for the finished copy.

If I do a reread of the finished copy, I will update on my thoughts on this. (Or link some reviews from disabled folks who read the finished copy!) I still thought this was notable to include, and it’s a warning for anyone reading the ARC version.

Overall though, I’d definitely recommend!

This is great for people who enjoyed Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix by Julie C. Dao (which also has a classic quest-like structure, but puts a spin on it).

I loved the world and the story was definitely compelling, and I’m itching to see how different of a turn the sequel takes on! Also, if it has a red cover I’m definitely going to scream.

4 stars


Maia’s family works as tailors, but after her mother dies, two of her brothers are lost to the war, and her last brother is injured, their business is floundering. Maia keeps her father’s shop afloat, but when a royal messenger summons her father to compete to be the Imperial Tailor, Maia decides to take her family’s place and pose as her brother.

This launches her on an epic journey, first in a competition to become the Imperial Tailor and then to find three magical elements (the laughter of the sun, the tears of the moon, and the blood of stars) to weave three dresses only known by legend.

It’s a journey that will forever change Maia.

add to goodreads here

Thank you so much to Random House and Netgalley for providing me with a digital review copy in exchange for an honest review!

Have you read Spin the Dawn? I’m still so excited for my copy to arrive! What did you think of the romance?

9 thoughts on “Spin the Dawn by Elizabeth Lim: A Lush and Beautiful Fantasy with a Romance I Wasn’t Into

  1. I agree with you 100%. I loved the beginning, but the second part really dragged for me because of the romance. I feel like he felt so much older than her and it just didn’t fit for me. I expected to love part 2 because of the adventure aspect to it, but I actually loved part 1 more. I just think that the romance felt forced to me. I hope they break up as well. I loved the first half, and didn’t really enjoy the second half, but I want to see what else happens in this story,


  2. Yes I remember the ableism but I heard that the author was going to edit it out and I hope that’s true!! I can tell why Maia and Edan’s relationship might not be the healthiest…but I couldn’t help shipping them once it started. And also yes I adored the dress descriptions! (I want to wear them 😉 )


  3. Ah, Vicky, this review gave me so much to consider about the book. I have to admit that I didn’t know much about “Spin the Dawn.” But, I like the way you noted the author’s successes and misses in this story. I do like the idea of tailoring/dress-making colliding with a bit of fantasy. Do we know if this book is #ownvoices in any way? That’s something I am going to research some more. I am unsure about the setting of the story, too. Are we in an alternate historical landmark in a specific location? Or, is it totally fantastical? As for the romance, for whatever reason, I assumed this would be queer in some way or another? It didn’t occur to me that someone would know her secret. Dang it!


  4. Elizabeth Lim’s description of the world and the arts was really beautiful. It’s one part of the book that I really adored. I’m glad I wasn’t the only one who felt a bit iffy about the ending with Keton.


  5. OMG SAME. i found the age gap aspect creepy, but i didn’t even consider the fact that there’s such a power imbalance between Maia and Edan that doesn’t have to do with age! I do agree though that i liked this books structure, and the world building and writing of this book was so rich!


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