Publication Date: April 28, 2015
Saville hates sewing. How can she not when her father, the Tailor, loves his bolts of velvet and silk far more than he’s ever loved her? Yet, when he is struck ill shortly after they arrive in the city of Reggen, Saville must don boy’s clothes in the hopes of gaining a commission from the king to keep them fed. The kingdom is soon on edge when stories spread of an army of giants led by a man who cannot be killed. But giants are just stories, and no man is immortal. And then the giants do come to the city gates, two larger-than-life scouts whom Saville cunningly tricks into leaving. The Tailor of Reggen is the hero of the kingdom, the king promises his sister’s hand in marriage, and by the time Saville reaches the palace doors, it is widely known that the Tailor single-handedly killed the giants. When her secret—that she’s a girl—is quickly discovered by Lord Galen Verras, the king’s cousin, Saville’s swept into the twists and turns of court politics. The deathless man is very real, and he will use his giant army to ensure he is given the throne freely or by force. Now, only a tailor girl with courage and cunning can see beyond the tales to discover the truth and save the kingdom again. Valiant is a rich reimaging of “The Brave Little Tailor,” artfully crafting a story of understanding, identity, and fighting to protect those you love most.
Valiant is a compelling fairy tale retelling, based on an original tale and featuring a strong female protagonist. The story follows teenage Saville as she struggles to make her way independently in a new town and as she inadvertently becomes the kingdom’s champion while trying to help a friend. Events quickly escalate as the people make further demands on her heroism and she becomes embroiled in both politics and battle.
As a take on “The Valiant Little Tailor,” Valiant stands out among YA fairy tale retelllings. It does not rely on pure novelty, however, but fully takes advantage of its source material, crafting a female protagonist who is as loyal and brave as she is clever. Many readers will doubtless fall in love with Saville as she tries her best to save her friends and the kingdom she quickly learns to call her home. A bit of vulnerability and a stubborn streak round her out and make her realistic. The entire cast of characters is drawn with equal attention to complexity.
Of course, the love interest is alluring: bull-headed himself but tempered with kindness and wisdom. He and Saville play off each other well and build true chemistry. Saville also makes a number of unlikely friends, and they all exhibit a blend of personality traits. No one in Valiant is at first what they seem—which may be entirely the point. The plot they all play out is equally entertaining.
There are several moments that are not entirely logical—times Saville chooses to spill vital information, ways she solves problems, etc.—but she gets a pass for being a teen without all the answers. Also, character mistakes make for interesting action. Only the first part of the story is heavily based on “The Valiant Little Tailor,” when the tailor tricks a group of giants. The rest is McGuire’s imagination, and it leads to wonderful places of palace intrigue and giant/human politics. A bit of kingdom history also plays a role, which McGuire manages to deftly weave into the book.
Overall, Valiant is a fantastically fun fairy tale retelling, replete with everything fans of the genre will want: a strong protagonist; a swoony love interest; a plot filled with tricks, fights, and intrigue. Valiant is beautifully crafted and a pleasure to read. Recommended.