I love fairy tale retellings. It’s one of my favorite forms of fantasy writing, and it’s certainly one of my favorite types of fantasies to read. Valiant only further confirms this statement, because by the end of it, I was grinning like a giddy schoolgirl with figurative stars in her eyes.
by Sarah McGuire
Egmont USA, June 2015
Fairy tale fantasy
e-ARC provided by NetGalley
Valiant retells the tale of “The Brave/Valiant Little Tailor” inasmuch as it kept the essence of the tale and expanded on the world of the giants and the backdrop of the tailor. Of course, the Brothers Grimm version was merely a rough skeleton of the retelling, and Valiant itself emerged not so much a variant, but a full-blown story that could very well be a new tale to be AT-classified.
The story is about Saville, the daughter of a tailor who disguises herself as a boy in order to make ends meet after her father gets terribly sick. While posing as a tailor for the king, she is trapped in a city that is about to be conquered by a duke with an army of giants. There isn’t much for a tailor’s daughter to do, right? Well, you would think that. But then again, nobody in Reggen’s met the likes of Saville until now.
What I Loved
The tailor is a young woman named Saville. I’m already a sucker for fairy tales, but a fairy tale with a woman as the hero who gets by on sheer force of will, cleverness, and courage? YES PLEASE. I loved Saville as a character. She had her ups and downs, and there were times she said or did things that I found were a wee bit annoying, but I loved her for them anyway. The word “valiant” clearly defines her journey in the story, but she’d probably tell you differently.
The good, the bad, and the smart giants. THERE ARE GOOD GIANTS. THERE ARE BAD GIANTS. AND THEY’RE NOT DUMB. I emphasize these things because I swear they’re mostly considered bad. And they’re not in this story. In this story, they’re as much human as the humans are. And I loved that. It does remind me a bit of Gail Carson Levine’s Ella Enchanted in that respect, but obviously both stories are completely different. Also, Volar is awesome.
The little homages to the Grimm tale. I liked how McGuire incorporated that whole stone-cheese and stone-bird trick that was in the Brothers Grimm variant, because it reminded me that the story pulls loosely from an already-established tale. Yet as the story went on, it’s clear the tale will not end exactly as is. Plus, the fact that Saville didn’t exactly go goo-goo-eyed for the king or the princess made for a more interesting outcome in the romance portion.
The characters. Saville was undoubtedly my favorite character, but Will and Galen were close seconds. Will more so because his story was heartbreaking. I admit to having teared a bit at the end, but I won’t say more than that.
The romance portion. SO ADORABLE OMGAH. Okay, fine. Again, I owe this bit to the story itself being a fairy tale retelling. But it’s also probably because of the gradual way the romance grew. Not in a matter of days or weeks, but one that took months to come to fruition. Swoonworthy, that.
What I Was Iffy About
The redeemability of a few characters. Don’t get me wrong, I liked how there was redemption in a few of the characters, the king and his sister-princess in particular. At the outset, both were kind of silly to the point of me asking how they managed to survive so long as monarchs with the way they went about their daily business. It was tiresome to see (yes, I’m using their favorite word, apparently), and I was only too glad when Eldin and Lissa sucked it up and produced their own flavors of valiance. That said, while Lissa’s change had been a bit more obvious, it seemed sudden on Eldin. I guess it would have been nicer to develop him more as a character, but this is just me half-wishing the story had been a bit longer in that respect.
What I Didn’t Love
The Tailor. He’s supposed to be a wretchedly unlovable character, but gods, did I hate him. I don’t know why there was any point to giving him the stroke, though. I thought it would have been just as effective to keep him around as a secondary character who either redeems himself or doesn’t (seeing Saville get around the latter would have been interesting, too).
Overall, I cannot wait to re-read this again upon publication. I devoured this in a day and a half.
4 out of 5 Goodreads stars!