Project Runway meets Mulan in this sweeping YA fantasy about a young girl who poses as a boy to compete for the role of imperial tailor and embarks on an impossible journey to sew three magic dresses, from the sun, the moon, and the stars.
Maia Tamarin dreams of becoming the greatest tailor in the land, but as a girl, the best she can hope for is to marry well. When a royal messenger summons her ailing father, once a tailor of renown, to court, Maia poses as a boy and takes his place. She knows her life is forfeit if her secret is discovered, but she’ll take that risk to achieve her dream and save her family from ruin. There’s just one catch: Maia is one of twelve tailors vying for the job.
Backstabbing and lies run rampant as the tailors compete in challenges to prove their artistry and skill. Maia’s task is further complicated when she draws the attention of the court magician, Edan, whose piercing eyes seem to see straight through her disguise.
And nothing could have prepared her for the final challenge: to sew three magic gowns for the emperor’s reluctant bride-to-be, from the laughter of the sun, the tears of the moon, and the blood of stars. With this impossible task before her, she embarks on a journey to the far reaches of the kingdom, seeking the sun, the moon, and the stars, and finding more than she ever could have imagined.
Steeped in Chinese culture, sizzling with forbidden romance, and shimmering with magic, this young adult fantasy is pitch-perfect for fans of Sarah J. Maas or Renée Ahdieh.
This book has been claimed as a Project Runway-meets-Mulan type of book. I have never seen Project Runway, but Mulan is one of my all-time favorite Disney movies so obviously, I was intrigued. And the very gorgeous cover also made me pick it up.
The book starts with Maia running her father’s tailoring shop as her father is sick and no longer the same since her mother passed away. She had 3 brothers but two of them died in a war that the King of Alandi, the place where Maia belongs from, had with the Shansen. Only one brother of Maia, Keton, has returned from the war alive but crippled. One day, a royal messenger summons her father to court but as her father is ailing, Maia assumes the role of her brother Keton to vie for the job of the imperial tailor by competing in a contest with 12 other tailors.
It was fun to read about the contest. Lady Sarnai, who is the Shansen’s daughter and the bride-to-be of Alandi’s king, was an interesting character. She appears to be brutal and cold-hearted, yet Maia finds her to be vulnerable and compassionate at times. I am keen to see her character arc in the later books. Just like in Mulan, most of the tailors pick on Maia and make life difficult for her, since she is the youngest and the most impoverished of all the other tailors. She has magic scissors too, given by her father. However, unlike Mulan, Maia’s disguise is revealed to everyone in the first part of the book itself. She is sentenced to death but pardoned due to her magic scissors.
The second part of the book deals with the journey of Maia with Edan, the Lord Enchanter, to get the ingredients of the sun, moon and the stars to sew Lady Sarnai’s wedding dresses. I liked the bickering and banter going back and forth between Maia and Edan. I expected a slow burn romance, but one second Maia accepts Edan’s request to court her, and the next second both are dreaming of settling in together for life.
But the thing that bothered me was the inconsistencies. Maia is required to climb a snowy mountain for a task, wearing enchanted boots that shouldn’t get wet due to the snow. And Maia succeeds in climbing a snowy mountain without stepping on snow! I mean, how is that even possible? There’s also a part where a demon named Bandur breaks apart Maia and Edan, yet after a paragraphs, Edan is blocking Maia from Bandur with his arms. And no explanation is provided as to how Edan reached Maia.
Other than that, I liked the book. The story was engaging and the worldbuilding was good.
So, have you read the book? Did you like it? Let me know in the comments below!