Valiant by Sarah McGuire


3 out of 5 stars.

I received an ARC of this work.

Despite the description, this book actually incorporates two different fairy tales. The Brave Little Tailor and Koschei the Deathless are both referred to.

Saville is the daughter of a Tailor who has dragged her and his precious fabric to the capital city of the kingdom. When he falls ill, Saville must dress up like a male apprentice and seek work to keep them both fed. Since her skills are equal to that of her father, she is able to work for the king. When a young boy she has rescued is captured by two giant scouts, Saville springs out to save him, and tricks the giants into leaving. Unfortunately, this causes her to become the city’s hero and now everyone is expecting her to defeat the army of giants commanded by an immortal Lord marching towards them. Since this is a war that cannot be won by strength, Saville is going to have to use all of her wits to save the kingdom.

This is one of those strange books that hangs right between the junior and YA designations. It is short enough, and the characters are uncomplicated enough that it could fit easily into a collection for older elementary kids. There is not a heavy moral or philosophical background to the story that a lot of YA books are now introducing (such as reproductive rights for women and proper responses to terrorist threats). Also, the main character, despite some romantic leanings, reads very young. The picture initially in my head was of Saville being between 10 and 12. She is not very emotionally complex. That all being taken into consideration, the romance in the end is more what you would see in a teen novel. I am not sure where I would put this if I were cataloguing it for a collection. Thematically it is very young, and the style of writing is very straightforward, but there is enough romance and thinking about romance that might not appeal to younger readers.

I liked the mashup of two very different fairy tales. Koschei is a very Russian/ Eastern European tale, where The Brave Little Tailor is very Western European. The Russian-ness of Koschei did not come through at all with the entire setting of the book and all of the characters being very Western European, but I love that McGuire tried. Usually the cool Eastern European stuff is either ignored or left in its own little bubble so it is great to see it included next to a very well know tale.

The tailor being a modest girl instead of a braggart boy was also a twist, and I do appreciate a protagonist winning because of wits instead of brawn. Saville’s entry into the political intrigue of the palace and her issues with her father add to the 3-dimensionality of the character, but because the writing is so straightforward, Saville never became as real to me as many other characters do.

I think this story is too short and simple to really be a huge deal to older readers, but I think it will work well for younger crowds and for anyone older who is looking for a really quick and cute read.


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