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.
A week or so ago I was part of the blog tour for the release of the final book In the Spellchasers trilogy by Lari Don. Lari shared an awesome post about witches and I let you know what I thought about the first book in the series.
I’ve finished books 2 and 3 now so below is my review of these, which will contain spoilers for book 1, so if you haven’t read that go back to the original post linked above instead.
Book 1 – The Beginner’s Guide to Curses
Book 2 – The Shapeshifter’s Guide to Running Away
Book 3 – The Witch’s Guide to Magical Combat
So in book one our protagonist Molly is cursed by a witch and has to join a Curse Breaking Workshop with a group of other teens all trying to break the curses set upon them. Some are successful, some find ways around their curse and poor Molly no joy for her. Like I said in my original review it was a great introduction to the magical world and the characters and I definitely wanted to read on.
In book two Molly’s curse gets worse and she is less able to control turning back into a girl. In an effort to find out what has happened the group delve more into the world of the Curse-Hatched Crows and we realise that it isn’t only Molly who is danger. Those who have cast curses are too, and that includes one of the group. Once the group find out what is happening they are sent on a challenge to find an item to save the Promise Keeper (controller of curses).
Finally in book three Molly’s curse gets even worse. Now she finds herself turning into the prey of whatever predator she hears. Being a speedy hare was bad enough but a worm?
Turns out the Promise Keeper is now a teenager and is after a bit of entertainment.
Still holding to their promise to help Molly break her curse the original curse breaking class work together once more but Dryad Beth is struggling with the use of dark magic amongst them and really doesn’t want Molly to transform into a witch to break her curse. But with Molly’s safety ever more at risk it doesn’t look like she has many other options other than magical combat.
I really enjoyed the series. All of the main group of characters were really interesting, and Molly in particular as the human girl thrust into a magical world was a very empathetic character. The baddies were a bit more stereotypical although there were some characters introduced in the last book that definitely worked more with shades of grey.
The story arc between the three books was cleverly plotted to build upon the previous book and the action was well paced. I liked the way the internal and external threat of Molly’s curse ramped up between and within books and I thought the ending was satisfying and a little unexpected.
All in all a great UK based middle grade fantasy series. Thanks once again to the publishers and Lori for the copies provided for the purposes of this honest review.