I’m not entirely sure what I expected out of this book and I’m even less sure that I got it.
It’s one of those books that I have to think very carefully about what to say because, while I was happy to finish it, it wouldn’t have killed me if I hadn’t. And I think that’s a shame. Saying that, there were some definite positives (The End!!) that have piqued my curiosity moving forward.
Maia is the youngest child of her once-famous tailor father. Maia has caught the dress-making bug and aspires to be the best tailor in the kingdom. As luck would have it, the Emperor is getting hitched and requests the presence of Maia’s father. Naturally, Maia assumes her father’s role in secret and becomes embroiled in the competition to become the Emperor’s personal tailor. But THEN (this stuff only lasts the first half of the book), Maia has to journey in order to find mythical ingredients to make the wedding dresses and become a better and strong person with the help of her hottie Love Interest etc etc.
This book is billed as “Project Runway meets Mulan” and that is such a disservice to both the book and Mulan. Honestly, it’s only the first half of the book that is “about” the dress-making competition. And while it was interesting to read, and while Maia’s passion for tailor-ing really comes through the page, Maia’s thoughts through the first half of the book are about as shallow as a kiddie pool. We get that she is angsty and determined to be the best tailor ever. But, she just didn’t really have enough (any) foresight or common sense for me to really take her seriously. (Like she really thought she was just going to live out the rest of her life pretending to be a boy in a palace with zero privacy? Was she never going to shower?)
It’s once that part of the book is over, and the latter half comes into play that things start to get moderately interesting. She has to go on a trek with her Love Interest (whom I actually kind of adore) and along the way, they encounter all sorts of trouble. And while Maia still lacks the spirit that I hope for (and! The! Common! Sense!) she does some growing up and has to make some hard decisions.
Edan, our love interest and the Emperor’s personal enchanter, was clearly the voice of reason in the novel. He is mature and level, and weirdly enough, his interest in Maia seems genuine. He must be a morosexual, because he was in to her naivete. (Also, shoutout to the author for finding a clever way to get around the fact that he is literally 500 years old and she is a child. Though it is still a lil weird.)
The pacing was… hm. It dragged a bit in the first, but once we got into the heart of the story– the journey to get the ingredients– it picked up. Saying that, the pages upon which she waxed poetic about Edan did get old really fast.
But the ending. The ending is what saved the book from being a total dud for me. Maia makes bad decisions throughout the novel. It’s just a byproduct of her youth and passion. However, how her choices come back to haunt her at the very end, the sudden sharp dark turn it took, I was very intrigued by. I’m not sure if I’m intrigued enough to pick up the sequel, but I will commend the author for that cliffhanger ending.