Review: Unravel the Dusk by Elizabeth Lim

Reading Unravel the Dusk definitely brought me back into the incredible world and story built up in the previous book, but it also brought back a lot of the same problems.

Minor Spoilers for Spin the Dawn below

Maia succeeded in her quest to sew the legendary dresses of the heavens, but paid a terrible price for it. The demon Bandur’s touch has already begun to change her; her eyes glow red as the darkness inside her grows, threatening to destroy her: mind, body, and heart. With her kingdom on the brink of war and the boy she loves far from her side, Maia must call upon the magic of her dresses – the sun, the moon, and the stars – as well as the demon growing inside of her to protect her family and her home, before she loses herself completely.

© Knopf: July 7, 2020

It’s not often that my main critique of the book centers around the fact that it could have been much, much longer, and not just because I didn’t want it to end. I still didn’t want it to end, but that’s beside the point.

At the end of this book, I was left with the same feeling I had when I finished the first one: good book, could have been two. Just like in Spin the Dawn, the reader is given two very good, and basically independent storylines smashed together into one book. 

Where before we had Project Runway followed by an epic quest, here we have courtly intrigue and the outbreak of civil war – with demons. All of these are excellent plotlines, and both books do a good job of combining them into one cohesive narrative, but they are still forcing a lot of plot into half a book when this series could have very easily been split into two further volumes.

“One cannot unravel a demon’s curse on an empty stomach.”

― Elizabeth Lim, Unravel the Dusk

That probably would have helped with the pacing here. Everything in this book happens so fast. I felt like I blinked and I was already past the first third of the story. I can’t say it doesn’t match Maia’s sense of urgency – her impending doom has a schedule to keep, apparently – but it’s a bit jarring to feel the story run through plot points like it’s trying to sprint to the finish line. 

This means that, unfortunately, a lot of the quieter moments are lost, particularly when it involves Maia slowly losing herself to the curse. Her struggle against the demonic influence inside her is meant to be the real threat. The kingdom is in peril, of course, but it’s the loss of Maia – her ability to feel, to experience, to love so very deeply – that looms over the reader like a shadow. Unfortunately, some of this is lost among the breakneck speed of the narrative. If this had been given a bit more time to slowly develop, it could have had an even greater impact.

There’s also not nearly as much tailoring in this book as in the first one. It fits with Maia losing all that makes her Maia to the curse, but some of the unique feeling I enjoyed from the first book is lost as a result.

“I will stay by your side until the fire in the sun grows cold and the light of the moon is no more. Until time blots out the stars.”

― Elizabeth Lim, Unravel the Dusk

It’s a little disappointing, but by no means does it make the book unreadable. There are still lots of nice little moments between characters. We get some nice development from some of the secondary players, and towards the end of the book the ‘calm before the storm’ of the final encounter is equal parts quiet contemplation and creeping dread, making for some excellent atmosphere. Lim’s writing lends itself to some truly beautiful passages, and all of the characters have returned, and continue to be just as charming and enjoyable as they ever were.

Maia remains the heart of this story, as she should be, bringing emotional depth and weight to the narrative, even as she rushes from one place to the next in her quest. Edan remains incorrigibly charming and their romance is stupidly adorable, and you really can’t help but root for them against increasingly desperate odds. We want to see her succeed, we want to see her break the curse, and we want to see her reunited with her family and with the boy she loves. 

For readers eager to return to the world of Spin the Dawn, this book will definitely be a welcome read, and a truly satisfying end to this series.

Rating: 3.5/5
Final Thoughts: With incredible magic, a kingdom at war, and characters you can’t help but love, Unravel the Dusk  is an endearing – if rushed – finale to a beautiful series.

Thanks for reading everyone.

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