Spin the Dawn: The Blood of Stars, Book 1

Book review by
Michael Berry, Common Sense Media
Spin the Dawn: The Blood of Stars, Book 1 Book Poster Image
Teen unravels secrets of sewing in sharp, unusual fantasy.

Parents say

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Kids say

age 12+
Based on 8 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Spin the Dawn is set in a fantastic, alternate version of Asia. It offers opportunities for discussions about perseverance, loyalty, and commitment.

Positive Messages

Men and women are equally able to excel in most endeavors. Commitment to family is of primary importance. Mastery of any craft takes dedication and perseverance.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Maia is devoted to her family and takes on great personal risk to give them a better life. In the sewing contest, she plays fair when others cheat. She is brave, resourceful, and loyal, eventually trading her own safety for another's.


A handful of violent -- but not bloody -- scenes. Someone steps on a character's hand and breaks it. Maia and Edan battle bandits with swords and knives.


Maia and Edan develop a romantic relationship that seems to include sex, but it's not shown. They share a handful of passionate embraces.


Infrequent swearing: "hell" and "damn."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

One of the adult contestants drinks from a flask and becomes drunk.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Elizabeth Lim's Spin the Dawn is a fantasy novel, set in a magical alternate version of Asia. It chronicles a young woman's quest to win an imperial sewing contest. There are a few scenes of violence -- sword and knife fights, arson -- but nothing too bloody or disturbing. Swearing ("hell," "damn") is infrequent. Main character Maia and enchanter Edan develop a romantic relationship and perhaps become physically intimate. The only substance use is when an adult drinks from a flask and gets drunk.

User Reviews

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Teen, 14 years old Written byCyf4144 August 5, 2019

Unique and Fast-Paced

Author Elizabeth Lim weaves a fascinating and enthralling story in this retelling of Mulan.
Spin the Dawn has been marketed as a mash-up between Mulan and Proj... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byGlasses_Girl February 15, 2021

Pretty Good

This book was definitely good, just not great. I liked how it seemed like a retelling of Mulan, which I didn't realize until I saw the other reviews and we... Continue reading

What's the story?

As SPIN THE DAWN opens, Maia watches her family absorb the blows of war, as two brothers die and one returns home disabled. Disguised as a boy, she takes her father's place in a high-stakes contest to find a new tailor for the emperor. If anyone discovers she's a girl, Maia will be executed. As the field of contestants dwindles, she must use all of her skills as a seamstress to survive. Luckily, she has the assistance of Edan, an enigmatic enchanter who takes an interest in her. But their budding romance is also a source of danger, as Maia meets a demon who has a hold over Edan.

Is it any good?

Plenty of fantasy heroes are adept with knives and swords, but this unusually engaging quasi-Asian fantasy focuses on a young woman who expertly wields scissors and needles. Author Elizabeth Lim manages to find excitement in dressmaking, as Maia tracks down the materials that will win awards for her creations and competes with rivals who won't hesitate to cheat.

Maia's budding romance with Edan follows a familiar pattern, as she initially mistakes his reserved personality for emotional coldness, and they spend a lot of time talking at cross purposes. Their relationship eventually develops slowly and realistically, and the sacrifices each makes for the other feel justified. The volume ends with a cliffhanger, which is good, because readers will want to follow the further adventures of Maia and Edan. This is a highly promising series -- sharp, witty, and romantic.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how Spin the Dawn chooses a seemingly mundane activity -- sewing -- to be the engine of change. How does fashion affect people's behavior? Why do people want special clothing for special events?

  • Maia's family loses much in the war. Does violence solve problems and simply make more? How are civilians treated during times of war?

  • What does it take to excel at a craft or art form? Is it fair for athletes and artists to use artificial enhancements, such as drugs, technology, or magic?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love fantasy and Asian stories

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