by Elizabeth Lim
Quick summary is that this book follows Maia who has to disguise herself as her brother to partake in a trial/competition to become the emperor’s new tailor. It’s said to Mulan crossed with Project Runway, which sort of is true but also not.
I like the writing a lot here, and it’s an easy read that never really makes me stop and wonder what’s going on. It’s a straight line, easy to follow, good worldbuilding, nice characters and overall an okay read.
This book, however, doesn’t stand out to me. It’s kind of generic in a way, which is a shame because the premise is really good and the world could have been wonderful. There was so much potential here that perhaps I was just disappointed that my own expectations weren’t met.
The main characters is likeable, which is great, and I feel for her and I want her to succeed. I can’t really see the likeness to Mulan here though, apart from the “has to dress up as a boy” part of the story. But it feels like that part isn’t even developed well enough to matter. It’s never a problem for her posing as her own brother, and often times I forget that she’s pretending to be a man. It’s just something that’s written out and not really used in the plot enough.
And then we have the love interest, Eden. On one hand, he’s my favorite character in the book. He’s sort of broody, but at the same time a little fun and sarcastic. There’s a good chemistry between the characters. And he also has a really interesting backstory.
However, and this is a big problem for me in this book, the guy is over 500 years old and she’s what? 16-18 somewhere? I think she’s 18, but I honestly can’t remember. It still doesn’t really matter though because she’s romantically involved with a guy who’s over 500. And this is like the fourth YA book I’ve read in a very short timespan that features a romance between a girl 16-19 and a guy who’s like over 100 years old.
Sure, age is just a number, but come on? Had this guy been 87 (and looked 87) and there was a novel where he’s hitting on a girl who’s 18, well, reader’s wouldn’t exactly be swooning over that romance. So just because he looks the same age as her, does that make it okay? Does that make it okay for a guy who’s 67 to hit on a girl who’s 16 just because he looks young?
Now, I know this is fiction, and the romance between them was cute, but it’s still creepy, and I can’t look past the fact that why on earth would a 500+ year old man act and talk like he’s still 18-23? Why would he be interested in someone who’s just 18? I get that she finds him intriguing, I get that she finds him hot etc, but him? He’s lived for more than 500 years and he still as immature as a young adult? It doesn’t make sense.
When it comes to the plot, I liked it. It was a good read and a well plotted story where things happened all the time and new revelations was made. It did, however, feel more like two books in one rather than one whole. This becomes especially clear when looking on how it was pitched as Mulan meets Project Runway, because both of those two parts have already played out before the halfway mark of the book. Meaning the book’s really about something else.
It’s, like I said, a good read, and I understand why many people have liked this book. It’s a little too generic in all aspects for my taste, and there was nothing that really surprised me or wowed me. So, I’m giving this book a solid 3 stars and I’ll dig into the second book in the series to see where that one takes me.