YA Fantasy has given us more teenage female warrior characters since Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and I am not complaining. Hunger Games deserves (much of) its hype. I tore through the Throne of Glass series like I was in the middle of a desert and it was a cool glass of water. But it’s also refreshing to see girls fighting to excel at other crafts besides the art of war.
Spin the Dawn takes on the art of sewing in a fictional but Asian-inspired world in which only men are allowed to be tailors. Men are also the only ones allowed to be soldiers, though, and teenage Maia’s three brothers are swept up in a bloody war. Only one comes home, and he is too hurt to carry on the family business. When a royal summons demands Maia’s father or brother appear for a contest to determine the new royal tailor, Maia pulls a Mulan and goes in her brother’s place. What follows is a Project Runway with less Tim Gunn and more magic—and far more cheating.
For all of the contestants, failure means disgrace, but for Maia, failure means discovery. Failure means starvation. Failure means death. Maia stays a stitch ahead of getting cut thanks to a magical pair of scissors and the strategic urging of the court magician, Edan. And it is Edan who accompanies her on a trip across deserts and mountains to accomplish a sewing challenge that comes straight out of legend.
This book definitely hits all the beats of a fun, engaging YA Fantasy, though I was surprised with the pacing. The competition itself is all sewn up in the first half while the second half is dedicated to Maia and Eden’s long journey. The story moves along steadily enough but I kept low-key expecting the story to be structured as a trilogy, not a duology. I do think we generally have too few duologies and a glut of trilogies (though the trilogy is a nice, familiar story arc), but thematically it seemed like a trilogy might have been appropriate here. It makes me wonder if it was originally intended to be a trilogy but the first two books felt somehow lacking or too short or slow.
This is all speculation that I’ve been spinning because both parts felt a little rushed and the world a little skimmed over. I wanted more time with the characters and the world. Up until the end, I thought this had been a duology that got combined into a single novel. The last several pages provide the basis for the sequel.
I’m curious enough about what happens in the sequel (out this year) to read what happens in it. But I was frustrated enough with the ending of the first book and some of those classic tropes of romances across genres that I don’t find myself as interested in actually reading the sequel as I might have otherwise. This is a really cool concept and I really enjoyed reading it for a lot of reasons, but I’m not sure I’m in love with it enough to go back to it. If I had it next to me right now, sure, I’d flip through it. But I don’t see myself jonesing for it the same way I have with the Throne of Glass or Hunger Games or Uglies or others.
I liked it and I wanted to love it but it didn’t quite get there for me. I could definitely be pleasantly surprised by the sequel but not if I never bother to read it.