I hope everyreader has been staying safe, healthy, and well during these times. ❤ I’m so excited to review UNRAVEL THE DUSK, the sequel – and conclusion – of Elizabeth Lim’s series, The Blood of Stars, which has inspirations from Chinese culture. I remember enjoying the first book, SPIN THE DAWN (and you can find my review here!), but the sequel blew me away. Maia steps aside from her seamstress role of the first book on an adventure to save her country, and herself.
If this format looks a bit different to you, that’s because this was originally supposed to be a blog tour stop. However, I decided to rescind my tour stop given recent events related to the tour company. Nonetheless, I’m happy to bring attention to this wonderful conclusion!
Maia Tamarin proved her skill as a tailor when she wove the dresses of the sun, the moon, and the stars, but it will take more than a beautiful gown to hide the darkness rising up within her. . . . The stakes are higher than ever in this breathtaking sequel to Spin the Dawn, perfect for fans of Six of Crows.
Maia Tamarin’s journey to sew the dresses of the sun, the moon, and the stars has taken a grievous toll. She returns to a kingdom on the brink of war. Edan, the boy she loves, is gone–perhaps forever–and no sooner does she set foot in the Autumn Palace than she is forced to don the dress of the sun and assume the place of the emperor’s bride-to-be to keep the peace. When the emperor’s rivals learn of her deception, there is hell to pay, but the war raging around Maia is nothing compared to the battle within. Ever since she was touched by the demon Bandur, she has been changing . . . glancing in the mirror to see her own eyes glowing red; losing control of her magic, her body, her mind. It’s only a matter of time before Maia loses herself completely, and in the meantime she will stop at nothing to find Edan, protect her family, and bring lasting peace to her country.
I had the laughter of the sun, the tears of the moon, and the blood of stars with me: three pieces of magic as old as the world itself. I just hadn’t known how to use them – until now.
UNRAVEL THE DUSK was a magical, fulfilling conclusion to this beautiful fantasy duology that seeks inspiration from Asian cultures. The most notable one is a reference to a well-loved Chinese folktale, which really resonated with me. Readers will love Maia’s story as she battles the demon within her and fights for her country and people!
In the previous book, Maia dresses as her brother to become a tailor and is challenged to weave dresses of the sun, the moon, and the blood of stars. In this book, she has to deal with the consequences of weaving those dresses and the incoming civil war going on in her country between the emperor and the shansen. Previously, she had to deal with court intrigue and a journey that would change her life. This time, she emerges as someone more accustomed to lying and more resilient. She uses this resilience to pave the way towards revolution in her country and stop the demon-possessed shansen from taking over.
First and foremost is that this book is told from the first-person point of view of Maia, and readers are expected to see her overcome many obstacles. The biggest one is the emerging demon inside of her that demands attention. She grapples with doing what’s right and balancing that with the powers of the demon, as the demon gives her power. However, she’s only a girl, and she finds herself giving into the dark demands of the demon, which leaves readers on the edge of their seats as they fear for her future. Maia faces difficult paths, but her empathy and will to do what’s right may save her in the end.
Along for the ride is the shansen’s daughter, Lady Sarnai, who was a bully to Maia in the first book. She’s steely and strong and good with the bow. While her original role was to marry the emperor to achieve peace, her character evolves into someone more empathetic and patriotic – someone who could be the face of change in the tides of war. There’s also Edan, the court enchanter who disappeared after the end of the first book, and who Maia fell in love with. Although there is less progression in Maia and Edan’s relationship in this book, their bond towards each other is as strong as ever. I do think there could have been more evidence on the bond, since their feelings were an accumulation of the previous book and they started this book being separated. Either way, both characters play a critical role in the future of Maia’s country.
Lim paints a beautiful world with lots of star/sky aesthetics and hints of magic entangled in everything. The world-building isn’t in-depth, but it’s creative and fun and the perfect backdrop to Maia’s journey. Her character growth is well-developed, from the first book to now, and readers will enjoy seeing that progression (even if it comes with some frustration).
Overall, this duology will remain in my heart for a while. The gorgeous covers will pull you in, but Maia’s incredible story and her introduction to magic and the power of a pair of enchanted scissors will keep you enchanted. I recommend SPIN THE DAWN and UNRAVEL THE DUSK to fantasy lovers who are ready to explore a new world with a tailor heroine. If you’re a romantic at heart, like me, you’ll also find this tale sooo fulfilling, leaving all the delightful, warm emotions at the end.
death of parent and grief, war, mild violence
Thank you Knopf Books and Netgalley for the review copy!
Elizabeth Lim grew up on a hearty staple of fairy tales, myths, and songs. Her passion for storytelling began around age 10, when she started writing fanfics for Sailor Moon, Sweet Valley, and Star Wars, and posted them online to discover, “Wow, people actually read my stuff. And that’s kinda cool!” But after one of her teachers told her she had “too much voice” in her essays, Elizabeth took a break from creative writing to focus on not flunking English.
Over the years, Elizabeth became a film and video game composer, and even went so far as to get a doctorate in music composition. But she always missed writing, and she turned to penning stories when she needed a breather from grad school. One day, she decided to write and finish a novel — for kicks, at first, then things became serious — and she hasn’t looked back since.
Elizabeth loves classic film scores, books with a good romance, food (she currently has a soft spot for arepas and Ethiopian food), the color turquoise, overcast skies, English muffins, cycling, and baking. She grew up in Northern California, with a brief stint in Tokyo, Japan, but now lives in New York City with her husband and their daughter.
Elizabeth graduated from Harvard College with an A.B. in music and a secondary in East Asian Studies. She completed her graduate degrees (MM, DMA) at The Juilliard School.
She is represented by Gina Maccoby of the Gina Maccoby Literary Agency.