Valiant, by Sarah McGuire, was published in 2015 by Egmont.
Saville despises the velvets and silks that her father prizes far more than he’s ever loved her. Yet when he’s struck ill, she’ll do anything to survive—even dress as a boy and beg a commission to sew for the king. But piecing together a fine coat is far simpler than unknotting court gossip about the army of giants marching toward Reggen, led by a man who cannot be defeated. Saville knows giants are just stories, and no man is immortal….Then she meets them, two scouts as tall as trees. After she tricks them into leaving, tales of the daring tailor’s triumph quickly spin into impossible feats of giant-slaying. But stories won’t deter the duke and his larger-than-life army. Now only a courageous and clever tailor girl can see beyond the rumors to save the kingdom again.
I’m pleased to see one of the more obscure fairy tales, “The Brave Little Tailor,” (one of my favorites) being adapted rather than yet another iteration of Cinderella/Sleeping Beauty/Snow White/Beauty and the Beast. Valiant stays true to most aspects of the fairy tale, but also spins out a fantasy all of its own, and I love when adaptations do that.
Unfortunately, I did think the plot was a bit “ho-hum,” and full of a little too many abrupt leaps in logic and convenient things happening. Saville jumping from rocks to the cheese in her pocket could have flowed much more smoothly, and towards the end of the novel I was completely lost, with characters mentioning things that I couldn’t even remember being mentioned and Saville making large leaps in her thoughts that I couldn’t follow. How she went from someone mentioning a high king to Big Plot Reveal is beyond me. Also, those little leaps of logic made Saville out to be rather clever and quick-thinking—so the moments when she wasn’t just seemed out of place and uncharacteristic.
I did, however, adore the romance. And McGuire completely threw me off at first, because Saville’s love interest in the novel is someone different from the person I assumed would become her love interest due to the rather obvious (I thought) interaction between her and him. I was pleasantly surprised when the person I thought would be the love interest never shows up again and instead a rather pleasant, slow-burn romance appeared in its place.
So, I liked Valiant—I just thought some things in terms of mechanics and writing could have been done better, and unfortunately the book itself is a tad forgettable. But I liked that an obscure fairy tale was adapted and that the romance wasn’t the normal YA variety.
Recommended Age Range: 14+
Warnings: Some violence.
Genre: Fairy Tale, Fantasy, Young Adult
“Watch!” I commanded, and held the cheese aloft.
Their heads moved closer, and I began to squeeze. The dust had absorbed all of the cheese’s moisture. For a moment, I didn’t think I could squeeze anything from it. But water gathered underneath it almost as soon as I tightened my hand. A drop fell to the dusty road.
The giants jerked their heads in surprise.
‘You heard it, didn’t you?” I shouted, wrapping the last of my courage around me. “Now listen for the other two. I am ashamed to take so long.”