Fierce, Fearless and Free by Lari Don (Illustrated by Eilidh Muldoon) – International Women’s Day Blog Tour Book Review
Happy International Women’s Day everyone.
Today I have a review of Lari Don’s collection of fierce, fearless and free girls from myths and legends around the world.
About the Book
A brilliant, inclusive collection of traditional tales from around the world featuring amazing women and girls. Once upon a time, there was a handsome prince who – no, that’s not right! Once upon a time, there were strong, fierce women who plotted, schemed, took action, showed kindness, used magic and trickery, and made their own destiny. From the long-haired Petrosinella who escaped the tower and broke the spell that the ogress had cast over her and Nana Miriam who beat a hippo using politeness and magic, to Kate Crackernuts who tried to save her stepsister from her mother’s curse, these are stories of girls doing it for themselves! With stories drawn from all over the world, including China, Scotland, Armenia, Italy and Nigeria, Lari Don presents heroine stories that don’t leave girls sitting around waiting to be saved by the handsome prince.
About the Author
Lari Don is an award-winning writer for young people of all ages. She loved Scottish traditional tales as a child, and now loves gathering myths, legends and folktales from all over the world to inspire her novels. Since becoming a full-time author, she has written more than 30 children’s books, from picture books and early readers to middle-grade adventure novels and a teen thriller. Lari is passionate about visiting schools and libraries to share the traditional tales she loves, to show how those old stories can be used to inspire new stories, and to encourage young people to create their own adventures. Fierce, Fearless and Free is her fifth collection of traditional tales for Bloomsbury, returning to the theme of her first, the bestselling Girls, Goddesses and Giants. She lives in Edinburgh with her husband and two fierce, fearless and free daughters.
About the Illustrator
When Eilidh Muldoon isn’t drawing she’s thinking about drawing and she loves nothing in no more than to immerse herself in the world of traditional stories. Her sketch books are packed with detailed drawings and plots and plans. An illustrator and designer, she loves the variety of working one day on one of her popular colouring books or city-scape prints, and the next on one of Lari’s extraordinary heroines. This is her first book for Bloomsbury.
What I Thought
I really enjoyed the fact that there were tales inspired by local and international myths and seeing how fairytales such as Rapunzel and Red Riding Hood have a different spin in different areas.
Each story opens with a beautiful black and white illustration, with title and locality of the stories inspiration. Then comes Lari’s version of the tale. They are perfectly bite sized for a bedtime story or for readers to read independently.
At the back of the book Lari also briefly looks at the tale’s origins and I love how she highlights how and if she has adapted the stories. Each one has always been about the girls taking things into their own hands though – and the only thing Lari has usually changed is removing the trite “and she married a prince and lived happily ever after” endings. They aren’t needed – the resourcefulness and determination shown by the girls is the end goal.
My favourites were Neringa and the Sea Dragon (Lithuania – where you can visit the peninsula inspired by the tale), Bridget and the Witches (don’t leave your feet water out!), The Lace Dragon (even lace dragons breathe fire) and Medea and the Metal Man and now I’m just wondering how to slip that latter tale into my own Medea retelling.
I have one criticism and that is we needed a gorgeous hardback edition with full colour illustrations by Eilidh. After all girls deserve the best.
Fierce, Fearless and Free also has the well deserved title of hive’s Children’s Book of The Month – https://twitter.com/hivestores/status/1235572450647146496?s=21
Thanks to @fayerogerspr and @bloomsburyed for the #gifted copy for the purposes of an honest review and to @laridonwriter and @EilidhMuldoon for giving us some fabulous #FierceFearlessAndFree tales for #IWD. Do check out the rest of the stops on the tour.
You make me feel like there’s something good in the world I can hold on to,’ Aaron says. He kisses me again, draws me so close it’s almost hard to breathe. ‘I love you, Gem. And I promise I’ll hold your heart forever.’
When Gemma meets Aaron, she feels truly seen for the first time. Their love story is the intense kind. The written-in-the-stars, excluding-all-others kind. The kind you write songs about.
But little by little their relationship takes over Gemma’s life. What happens when being seen becomes being watched, and care becomes control?
Told in both Gemma’s and Aaron’s words, this is a raw, moving exploration of gaslighting in teenage relationships that skewers our ideas of what love looks like.
Karen Gregory has been a confirmed bookworm since early childhood. She wrote her first story about Bantra the mouse aged twelve, then put away the word processor until her first child was born, when she was overtaken by the urge to write. Her first novel, Countless, published in 2017, was shortlisted for the Leeds Book Award and longlisted for the Branford Boase. Her second novel, Skylarks, was published in 2018. Karen lives in Wiltshire with her family.
What I Thought
This starts out like a love at first sight teen romance, where main character Gemma gets swept away by the enigmatic Aaron. As do we to a certain extent, despite knowing that something is going to go wrong.
Gemma is overshadowed at home by her football playing younger brother Michael and Aaron sees this – and her.
With beach picnics and expensive gifts Gemma falls deeper and despite friends concerns she fails to see the warning signs. And that’s because they are so subtle at first. Things that are easily dismissed or put down to coincidence.
This is an interesting look at gaslighting in a relationship, made even more complex by the addition of Aaron’s point of view, one that doesn’t immediately portray neon flashing lights but indicates that something has gone wrong in a past relationship.
The author makes it clear in a postscript that having his point of view included doesn’t excuse any behaviour but it helps the reader explore the psychology of the phenomenon from both sides.
I loved the inclusion of Gemma’s family dynamic and it was intriguing how particularly her parents relationship set some foundations for certain behaviours to be seen as normal. That’s what is very tricky with emotional abuse in particular, in most relationships – even with friends – things are said that can be hurtful or occasionally manipulative, when does it become abuse?
Set in college we see how important friendships are to teenagers in navigating their transition between child and adulthood. Gemma’s great love is country music and songwriting and her changing relationships with her family, friends and activities are powerful indicators of what is happening. In isolation her relationship with Aaron can definitely be seen as romantic, but in the wider context the cracks show.
All in all this is a very powerful read that reminded me of You by Caroline Kepnes. Trigger warnings for emotional, physical and sexual abuse.
Do check out what the other reviewers on the tour thought.
Thank you to Faye Rogers and Bloomsbury for the gifted copy for the purposes of this honest review.
Bobby Seed has questions.
What’s another word for ‘thesaurus’? How can I tell Bel I want her as my girl friend, not my girlfriend? How much pain is mum in today? Has she taken her pills? And sometimes, secretly, Why us?
Bobby’s little brother Danny has questions too
Will Bobby let him have Rice Krispies for dinner? Can he stay up late on the computer! And why won’t Mum’s stupid illness just GO AWAY?
But it’s Mum’s question for Bobby that could turn everything on its head.
It’s the Big One. The Unthinkable One. If Bobby agreed, he won’t just be soothing her pain. He’ll be helping to end it.
Brian Conaghan was born and raised in the Scottish town of Coatbridge but now lives in Dublin. He has a Master if Letters in Creative Writing from the University of Glasgow. For many years Brian worked as a teacher and taught in Scotland, Italy and Ireland. His first YA novel for Bloomsbury, When Mr Dog Bites, was shortlisted for the 2015 Carnegie Medal, and his second, The Bombs That Bought Us Together, won the 2016 Costa Children’s Book Award. We Come Apart, a verse novel co-authored with Carnegie Medal winner Sarah Crossan, won the 2018 UKLA Book Award, and his fourth novel, The Weight of a Thousand Feathers, won the 2018 Irish Book Award for Teen & Young Adult Book of the Year. Now Available in paperback.
What I Thought
This is a fairly difficult review to write because I have quite conflicted thoughts about this book. It looks at a very controversial topic – assisted suicide/euthanasia – so it was always going to be an emotive read.
Bobby’s mum has Multiple Sclerosis (MS). This is a condition I am familiar with through my work and so this is perhaps where some of the difficulty I had with the book comes from. It’s like when my dad used to complain about London’s Burning because that wasn’t what real firefighting was like.
It’s not completely inaccurate of course, and everyone experiences MS in different ways, but this seemed like a overly sudden progression.
I really enjoyed the first half of the book. Bobby is 17 and classed as a young carer. His younger brother Danny also has undisclosed special needs so he looks after him too. Bobby’s teacher introduces him to a support group with other young people in the same situation. Much of this part of the book is about the connection he makes with the other people there. It reminds me a little of the group scenes in The Fault in Our Stars for that reason. There is some romance too. It was positive to see LGBT rep that wasn’t the main focus of the story too.
His mum asks a couple of big questions so don’t be fooled when the first isn’t the one indicated in the synopsis. My wish would have been a greater exploration about possible reasons for the first question.
School seems to drop off the radar for Bobby although it is his life outside that is the focus of this book.
My biggest difficulty I think is with how the euthanasia topic is handled and there are some quite shocking discussions and scenes around this. It definitely shows the need for a fuller discussion around this societally because there is a definite acknowledgement that young people should not have to be put in this situation.
And the ending was very abrupt. I don’t know if there are plans for a second book.
I did feel empathy towards Bobby and the scenes with his younger brother Danny were good. I liked their connection.
Personally I think I’m just maybe too close to this particular topic to read it completely as fiction.
Thanks to Ian and Bloomsbury for the gifted copy for the purposes of honest review.