Maia is the greatest tailor the world has ever seen—she just needs the chance to prove herself. The only problem is that women can’t be tailors. When the emperor’s minister arrives to force her father into a tailoring competition for the next imperial tailor, Maia seizes her chance. Disguising herself as a boy and assuming her brother’s name, she sets off for the competition.
But magic and the emperor’s mysterious enchanter have their hooks in her, and Maia will be tested beyond her comprehension.
Okay, so this is billed as Mulan meets Project Runway, and that’s true—for part 1. Part 1 was absolutely fucking amazing. Lim has a way of writing that swept me off my feet, and I loved the court intrigue, the nuance with Lady Sanai, the marriage alliances, the backstory of magic and demons and betrayal and traitors and war. Maia’s family and their grief was so real, along with her passion for creation and sewing. And I enjoyed Edan as the mysterious and broody morally grey character who is helping her out for ~reasons~, and I also enjoyed reading about all of the other tailors and their long histories.
However, all of this quite literally gets thrown out the window in Part 2. Maia is discovered (this happens literally in the middle of the book, so I do not consider it a spoiler), and is sent on an impossible quest to create the three impossible dresses of the goddess Amana—a dress woven from sunlight, a dress embroidered with moonlight, and a dress painted by the blood of the stars.
Along the journey, Maia struggles with her relationship with Edan, and honestly as fascinating as the quest was, I was kinda disappointed? It felt like there were a lot of moving and unresolved plot points and motivations, and many of these motivations (and newly introduced characters) were dumped as soon as Maia and Edan pronounced their love for each other.
As soon as they get together, the plot transforms into a Twilight-esque “I must sacrifice myself for this boy because our love is forever and true.” (This feeling was exacerbated by that prologue—my recommendation? Skip the prologue completely).
While it does dissolve into angst-ridden and purple prosey euphemisms for kissing and whatnot (why YA, why are you like this? Kissing is not stardust and moonshine wtf), at least it wasn’t insta-love. My Goodreads review has a major spoiler btw.
BUT. Aside from that kinda major critique, I really loved this.
The writing is incredible. The world-building is fascinating and layered. There’s a lot of backstory and emotion and I just wish that those elements were focused on more instead of dropped for the ~love story~ elements. Seriously, that love story, while cute at times, completely derailed the rest of the plot—and where the book seemed to be going. Granted, the story drastically changed directions once before that, but the love story overrode everything.
And there’s enough going on for book two, and I’m interested in where the hell that ending is going to take us.
So. With that, I will definitely continue, because I want to know what’s going to happen next.
Five stars for Part 1, minus one for the Angsty YA Love Story
I received this ARC from NetGalley for an honest review.