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.
Whew! This book was amazing. I was hesitant at first, because I am a HUGE Mulan fan, but the author manages to stick to the main themes of the story while bringing in fresh and intricate tid-bits from other well known fairytales. I simply could not put this book down.
Maia is such a kick-ass character. The only one of her siblings who managed to inherit her fathers skill with sewing. When tragedy strikes the family, her skills are one of the few things that bring money into the house, even if she has to claim her father made it all. When she gets the chance to enter a competition to become the Emporer’s Tailor, she finds herself pretending to be her youngest brother, a task she does not instantly take to. Seeing Maia trying to act like a man was rather hilarious in parts. Quick witted and not one to run from danger she finds herself linked, unwillingly, to the Emporers sorcerer who for unknown reasons wants her to excel in the competition. Little do they know how their fates are entwined and they will either save or doom each other.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading the story from Maia’s perspective. Told from a very early age to bow down and make herself seem as small as possible, pretending to be a man gives her the freedom to act like herself. Smart mouthed at times and beautifully strong, seeing her face the trials and tribulations thrown at her head on gave me joy. All she wanted in life was to be the best tailor there ever was, and man does she exceed expectations.
The writing in this book flowed with so much ease, the pages would fly by without me noticing and before I knew it I had come to the end. Though there are parts from the story of Mulan we all know and love, the author makes the story completely her own. Weaving in parts from other myths an fairytales making for a truly original and enthralling story.
The authors world building was sublime, I couldn’t get enough of her descriptions of all the mystical places Maia and Edan visited on their journey to make the magical dresses. Her descriptions had me on the journey right along side them, and made the book fast paced and truly enjoyable. The ending made for a bit of a shock, I did not see that coming at all. However, it just made me more eager to get my hands on the sequel, and knowing I have to wait over a year is torture!
Another 5/5 read! I will be sure to pick up anything else Elizabeth Lim writes, and I already have ‘Reflection’ her Disney twisted tale novel on my shelf.