While this review is spoiler-free for Unravel the Dusk, it will contain spoilers for Spin the Dawn.
Title: Unravel the Dusk
Author: Elizabeth Lim
Publication Date: July 7th, 2020
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Age Range: YA
Trigger warnings: violence, death
Synopsis: 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. The boy she loves is gone, and 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.
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, but she will stop at nothing to find Edan, protect her family, and bring lasting peace to her country.
A personal rule of mine that if a book is able to make me cry, it’s an automatic five-star read. This was DEFINITELY a five-star read.
It’s difficult to articulate my thoughts about Unravel the Dusk because honestly, I’m still reeling. I’m pretty sure I was grieving for the majority of the book, and when it was finally over, I didn’t even know how to process all of my emotions – and God, were there a lot of emotions. It’s no secret that Spin the Dawn was my FAVORITE read of 2019, and that Maia is one of my favorite protagonists of all time, so I dove into this book with no small amount of trepidation for what was in store. I was definitely expecting angst and darker themes because of how Spin the Dawn ended, and Elizabeth Lim pulled no punches.
I loved Spin the Dawn so much, I wasn’t sure how Elizabeth Lim was going to top herself. But while Unravel the Dusk is different from Spin the Dawn in almost every conceivable way, I think it had to be. The beauty of Spin the Dawn is the whimsical adventure that takes place, and it’s so unique that to try and write Unravel the Dusk in a similar way would be a disservice to both books.
From start to finish, Unravel the Dusk is action-packed and fast-paced. Elizabeth Lim doesn’t give you a second to catch your breath, and at no point did I even have the chance to stop and think, wow, I’m kind of bored. There was no room for that thanks to the sheer ANGST. Whereas Spin the Dawn is more of what I consider a coming-of-age, fantastical adventure, Unravel the Dusk still manages to retain the magic as it shifts to focus on Maia’s descent into darkness as she gets closer and closer to becoming a demon.
While Spin the Dawn is obviously a love story, whether you consider it Maia and Edan’s or Maia learning to love herself, so is Unravel the Dusk. Despite the fact that Maia’s relationship with Edan is not the focal point of the sequel, it is still very much a love story, but this time, it is Maia’s love for her country and her family that takes center stage. There are still extremely sweet and tender moments between Maia and Edan that made me fall in love with them all over again, but at its core, Unravel the Dusk is about Maia’s quest to save her country and not lose herself in the process. Maia is quite literally dealing with her own demons, and that proves to be just as much of a struggle as defeating the shansen and saving A’landi. She has to rely on her internal strength, but she can’t fight all of her battles alone. One of the things I truly loved about Unravel the Dusk is that Maia finally learns how to ask for help, and sometimes, she finds it in the most unexpected of places.
This is Maia’s story, through and through, but everyone needs a little help from their friends every now and then. Unravel the Dusk, as much as it is about Maia, also allows other characters we know and love to shine. Like Maia, I had a grudging respect for Lady Sarnai in Spin the Dawn, and I was thrilled that I got to learn more about her in the sequel, including her motivations and values. Ammi was also a favorite of mine, and the only reprieve I got from the emotional torment Elizabeth Lim was inflicting on me was through the female friendships in the story, which were beautifully supportive and heartwarming.
In case you couldn’t tell, I LOVED Unravel the Dusk. In such a high stakes novel, I wasn’t sure how a satisfactory ending would be achieved – but while there are hints scattered throughout the book foreshadowing what Maia’s ultimate fate will be, the last few chapters still had me sobbing into my pillow, and later through text to my friend while she oh so helpfully plied me with some of her favorite quotes from the book (which just made me start crying all over again). I’m going to need more time to fully process everything that happened and recover from what Unravel the Dusk put me through, but as Maia and Edan’s story comes to an end, I can rest easy knowing that Elizabeth Lim will make me suffer yet again, with her upcoming book set in the same universe as Spin the Dawn.
If you’ve read Unravel the Dusk, leave a comment below, because I’d love to cry with you about it!!
About the Author
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 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 lives in New York City with her husband.
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