Maia Tamarin is a seamstress, living and working with her father and three brothers in the family’s tailor shop – until the Emperor’s war with the shansen, A’landi’s most powerful warlord. The youngest of the three, Keton, came home unable to walk – and Finlei and Sendo did not come home at all. In the wake of her father’s grief, it is Maia who holds her shattered family together, and Maia who takes over the family business, even though no girl can ever aspire to become a master tailor.
The bloody civil war concludes with a treaty and a marriage contract between the Emperor and the shansen’s daughter, Lady Sarnai. And with the engagement, the Emperor summons the twelve most talented tailors in A’landi to the summer palace to create a wardrobe for his reluctant bride-to-be. The catch? There is only one imperial tailor, and the twelve must compete for the position.
Maia’s Baba is one of the twelve tailors summoned, but he is much too weak to travel. Keton cannot walk, and besides, he can barely sew on a button, much less design a royal wardrobe. But Maia? She knows her skills with the needle are unmatched. But women are not allowed to compete, so, disguising herself as her brother, and with Baba’s gift of her grandmother’s possibly magical scissors, she sets off to the palace, knowing that if her secret is discovered, she will surely be executed.
What awaits her there is more splendid, and more dangerous, than anything she could have ever imagined. Political alliances and court rivals are nothing compared to the brutal competition between the tailors as each rushes to satisfy Lady Sarnai’s almost impossible demands in the most stunning, unique way possible. There’s also the ever-present form of Lord Edan, the Emperor’s Lord Enchanter, who Maia is sure must know her secret. There is something so piercing about his yellow eyes – or are they blue? – that discomfits Maia, and it’s not just the fact that he is rumored to wield the magic of the gods. But it is when Lady Sarnai makes the most impossible of demands – that Maia make her the three fabled dresses spun from the laughter of the sun, the tears of the moon, and the blood of the stars – that Maia’s dedication to her family, her craft, and her belief in herself will truly be tested.
Spin the Dawn has been described as Mulan crossed with Project Runway, and it did not disappoint on either front! This book has it all – an epic quest to impossible places, gorgeous gowns, cutthroat palace politics, heart-pounding danger, more than a touch of magic, and a deliciously swoony romance. Maia is brave, determined, completely devoted to her family, and never backs down, even when all seems lost. She’s also amazing with a needle and her grandmother’s magic scissors – I only wish I could have her on hand for my next formal event. Fantasy readers, rejoice – your next adventure is here!
And, if you can’t get enough East Asian-inspired fantasy worlds, don’t forget to add Renee Ahdieh’s Flame in the Mist duology to your reading list – more girl-in-disguise fabulousness!