Unravel the Dusk by Elizabeth Lim
Releases: July 7, 2020
It's here! The sequel to one of my favorite books of 2019 is here (on my birthday) and I was so excited to get my hands on an eARC of it.
Before I get too excited, let's do a little summary on what this book is all about:
Maia Tamarin is now the imperial tailor, but the cost of sewing the dresses of the Sun, Moon, and Stars is taking its toll. Touched by the demon Bandur, Maia is slowly losing herself to the curse. But, with her country once again on the brink of war and the love of her life, Edan, gone, Maia knows it's up to her to save the country and people she loves. Flowing with Chinese influences and adventure, Unravel the Dusk takes readers deep into A'landi and the brewing tension that Maia will stop at nothing to end, even if that means turning into a demon herself.
First, can we just look at that cover? I mean, it's gorgeous! Spin the Dawn and Unravel the Dusk will go down as to of the most beautiful covers in history.
Anyways, back to the actual book.
I loved Spin the Dawn and was so excited to get my hands on this one early, too. I liked the slow build of the first novel and how Lim really dug into the characters throughout the book. The second books leaves that behind in favor of quick action right from the beginning. (Which is the really the only reason this second book didn't resonate with me as much as the first.)
Unravel the Dusk picks up where we left Maia: readying for the marriage of the Emperor and Lady Sarnai and, of course, Maia dealing with turning into a demon. Nonstop action and adventure follows clear to end of this sequel, leaving readers turning the page to find out what could possibly happen next.
The opening chapters of the book were really interesting, and I think I would have liked to see that play out a little more before we moved on from it, but there is a LOT going on in this book and that would have taken too much unnecessary time away from more important things. Like demons.
We definitely dig more into the world of the demons and what it means to become one throughout the book, which is nice since we kind of left off not knowing much. Maia's fight for herself is really what drives the entire narrative, and it's interesting to see the fight between what she thinks is good and evil, right and wrong, play out inside of her. She wants to free her country, bring it back to the land of peace she's dreamed it could be--but what price is she willing to pay to make that dream a reality?
But, I really enjoyed reading the change in Maia as she fought for her humanity against the demon inside her. It was quite different from who we got to know in the first book. However, it was such a change from the Maia I knew that it felt like I was almost reading someone else entirely.
But, when Edan and Maia defeat Bandur so early on, it left me thinking--well, what comes next for them? I felt that Bandur was really talked up for someone (something?) that was defeated so easily and early on in the book. Since the rest of the book was really about Maia turning into a demon and the war, I think it would have been good to put more emphasis on those two things rather than Bandur.
And, for such an important war, there's an awful lot of lack of important people dying. Depending on how happy or realistic you like your endings, you may actually like that.
Of course, Edan's back and fighting for his and Maia's love. We didn't really get to delve into their love story like we did with the first book (I mean, there is a war going on) so that was sad. But I think it would have been a little silly to have too much of it in their considering the more serious tone this book took as opposed to Spin the Dawn. But, I do like that we got more of a look inside what magic is in their world. I wish we could have gotten more, but like I said, there were more important stories to tell.
Although I wish we had more of Edan, I was also disappointed that Lady Sarnai kind of took a backseat to most of the novel. It isn't really until the end that she comes out to play, and I feel like she could have been a more powerful player throughout the book if she was included.
Another point I enjoyed was the story of the Princess and the birds that Ammi, and later Edan, tell Maia about. I'm not sure what story that may be drawing on, maybe from Chinese myths or legends, but I really enjoyed that bit of culture (whether real or made up). And, of course, the food descriptions just make me hungrier each time I read them. I feel like these aspects really help ground the characters in a real world.
Overall, I really enjoyed Unravel the Dusk, despite some of its flaws, and loved being back in the world that Lim created. I can't wait for her future books!