Review: Unravel the Dusk by Elizabeth Lim

Thanks to NetGalley and Knopf for providing an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.

Unravel the Dusk (The Blood of Stars #2)
Publisher: Knopf
Release date: 07 July 2020
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy

Panda Rating:

The thrilling sequel to SPIN THE DAWN, a magical series steeped in Chinese culture.
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.
YA fantasy readers will love the sizzling forbidden romance, mystery, and intrigue of UNRAVEL THE DUSK.

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Note: The quotes below are taken from an advanced/unfinished copy and are subject to change in the final version.

🥳 Happy book birthday to Unravel the Dusk! 🥳

“Seize the wind.” My brother smiled sadly. “Don’t become the kite that never flies.”

After reading Spin the Dawn earlier this year, I wanted to immediately get my hands on book two and I was beyond surprised (and incredibly thankful) that I managed to snag an advanced copy. I thought Unravel the Dusk was a good ending to this series, however, it was very different to what I expected and as a result it has left me with very mixed, although still mostly positive, feelings. Unsurprisingly, this was a much darker read and the tone was also more serious than the fun, adventurous tone of book one. Possible minor spoilers ahead for those who have not yet read Spin the Dawn!

“But hope was a valuable weapon, and we were sharpening its every edge.”

Lim’s writing was lyrical and flowed effortlessly off the page. It was descriptive enough that it was easy to re-immerse myself in this Chinese/Asian inspired fantasy world, which was one of my favourite aspects about the story. Picking up exactly where we left off in book one, there is plenty of action that continues throughout the story and keeps the plot moving at a pretty fast pace. Combined with the writing style, this made it an easy read. Quite a few side characters that we meet in book one make a reappearance in this sequel and I enjoyed getting to know them more–especially Ammi, Master Longhai and Lady Sarnai. Both Ammi’s and Longhai’s unwavering support and friendship was heartwarming and I’m glad that Maia had them to lean on even when she didn’t want to. I didn’t like Lady Sarnai much in book one and I honestly didn’t like her much more here, but I admit to developing a deep respect for her character by the end of this book 😅 She doesn’t back away from what she believes, even if that means going against a person she loved and admired, and Lim’s descriptions of her character surprisingly left me in awe and without doubt about her ability to lead well.

“What little I had left of my tailoring gift wasn’t for sewing with needle and thread, it was for crafting a future, stitch by stitch, for the people I loved.”

I still mostly enjoyed Maia’s narrative and it was interesting to watch her internal battle against the demon taking over her. Despite her flaws, I thought she was a really strong character who remained constant in her determination to protect A’landi and her loved ones. Although I felt she unnecessarily took on all the burdens upon her shoulders while constantly pushing everyone away, the sacrifices she made were admirable. Alongside Maia, Edan was probably my favourite character in book one and I’m a bit disappointed that we don’t see much of him here. In my opinion, it seemed like he was relegated to being a very minor side-character; although his support to Maia was invaluable, and you could feel how much he adored her, he experiences no growth. This might be an unpopular opinion, but I feel like if he didn’t make an appearance it would make no difference because he had such a minimal supporting role! However, their love for each other is undoubtable and it’s still one of my favourite aspects of this story. It’s so pure and wholesome. Edan definitely made my heart swoon with his declarations!

“My mother believed in fate.[…] She told me there was an invisible thread tying me to someone else.[…] Someone I was destined to meet and would be bound to all my life.”

That being said, I felt less connected to the characters in this book and I think that’s what made it easy for me to put it down and not feel the need to immediately pick it up again. I also felt like the challenges that Maia faces in the book were resolved so easily that it left me feeling unsatisfied; not to mention that because the pace moves very quickly it leaves very little time to process events. The way the magic worked could’ve also been better explained; it confused me at times because I wasn’t sure if I really understood what was happening but then the story moved on so quickly with the next conflict/challenge, and my focus was diverted, so I didn’t have time to think about it. I will say that there were some scenes towards the end that had a few tears tracking down my face and made me feel really connected to Maia and her battle. Ugh, the feels! 😭

“Then let your heart be at peace, […] no matter what you become, you are always my Maia. Always my strong one.”

All the elements were wrapped up very neatly in the end and while I wasn’t mad about it, I was a bit underwhelmed, so I can understand why people wouldn’t enjoy it. Still, I thought it was a satisfying ending to the series and I’m glad that we got an uncomplicated HEA for the characters. I really enjoyed Lim’s writing and characters, and I loved exploring this Chinese/Asian inspired fantasy world. I’m definitely looking forward to reading more of Lim’s work in the future!

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.

Website | Twitter | Goodreads | Instagram | Facebook

Have you read Unravel the Dusk or is it on your TBR?

8 thoughts on “Review: Unravel the Dusk by Elizabeth Lim

  1. This arrives today and I was so excited. Now, I’m nervous!! haha. Great review though. I feel like endings are always so hard to wrap up sometimes.


  2. Glad you enjoyed this! I have seen mixed reviews, but to be honest, I had mixed feelings about the first one anyway. So I preordered a copy, which has not arrived yet, and I’m hoping I like it but not really expecting it to be the best book ever or anything.


  3. Great review! I really like the covers of her book but the first book just missed the mark for me and I have no interest in read this one, heh.


  4. I thought it made sense that Eden wasn’t in the book much. It was realistic within the context of the story ARC. The tone of the book, considering what was happening was well written. I hadn’t thought about whether Maia should have taken everything on. That is a good point.

    I did absolutely love this book until the end, though. The end killed it for me, unfortunately


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