{Guest Post} When Girls Do the Saving by Sarah McGuire

Welcome to Magic, Myth, & Mischief in celebration 
of fairy tales, mythology, and fantastic beasts of lore such as dragons, fae, mermaids, and unicorns!
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When VALIANT first came out, I fell in love with it--its story, its cover, its author. When I heard that Sarah McGuire was publishing a new book this year, I was so excited! Even moreso because Jana and I both get to feature awesome posts from her today!

Check out Sarah's post about stinging nettles at That Artsy Reader Girl here!

Sarah McGuire is a nomadic math teacher who sailed around the world aboard a floating college campus. She writes fairy tales and would be just fine if one day she opened a wardrobe and stumbled into another world. Coffee and chocolate are her rocket fuel. She wishes Florida had mountains, but she lives there anyways with her husband (who wrote this bio in less than three minutes!) and their family.

Visit her at:

 When Girls Do the Saving
by Sarah McGuire

The heroines in my novels have sometimes been described as strong–which I love! My goal has always been to write the kind of girls I wanted to be: active, intelligent young women who look out for the people in their life. If that’s strong, so be it.

The thing is, strong heroines aren’t uncommon, even in fairy tales. I think it’s tempting to see all fairy tales through the Disney lens: we imagine someone like Snow White, a girl with a ridiculously high voice, waiting for her prince to come.

Yet there are quite a few fairy tales where a determined girl does the saving. Sometimes, she saves herself. Sometimes, she saves someone else. But she’s definitely driving the story.

So here’s an off-the-top-of-my-head list of fairy tales where the girls do the saving. I’m going to try and focus on the less common original tales, and then I’ll list some of my favorite retellings.

Let’s jump right in with The White Cat. A young prince is sent on a series of impossible tasks to win his father’s crown. He’s aided by a mysterious and beautiful white cat, who turns out to be an enchanted maiden. By the end, she asks his father for his hand in marriage! Aside from the romance and adventure and crazy-lush setting, I love that it was written by a woman: Madame d’Aulnoy. For a quick look at her amazing life, click here.  She wrote many other fairy tales as well.

Then there’s East o’ the Sun, West o’ the Moon. The heroine goes on a quest to save her enchanted husband. There have been many awesome novel-length retellings of this – EAST by Edith Pattou, SUN AND MOON, ICE AND SNOW by Jessica Day George, but I’m still in love with the picture book illustrated by P J Lynch. Seriously, you need to get your hands on it. The illustrations are breathtakingly romantic.

Then there’s a similar Russian tale called Finist the Bright Falcon. Again, a brave girl goes on a quest to save the man she loves.

In another Russian tale, Vasilisa the Beautiful, the heroine takes on Baba Yaga (who is an AMAZING character!) and saves herself with the help of a doll given to her by her dead mother.
There are also a few fairy tales where brothers are turned to birds (swans or ravens, typically) and their younger sister must save them. They are Six Swans, The Twelve Brothers, and The Seven Ravens.

(I have no idea why there’s a bird theme. My agent and I were recently wondering the very same thing….)

I feel like many of the fairy tale retellings we’ve seen in recent years feature girls who do the saving, whether it’s ELLA ENCHANTED by Gail Carson Levine, GOOSE GIRL by Shannon Hale, or the amazing Lunar Chronicles series by Marissa Meyer.

There are tons you’ve heard of; here are a few you might not be so familiar with:

VASSA IN THE NIGHT by Sarah Porter. This is an incredible YA retelling of Vasalisa the Beautiful. It’s set in Brooklyn and has all the wonder and horror that I love so much about Russian fairy tales.

KILL ME SOFTLY and TEAR YOU APART by Sarah Cross are both YA retellings that don’t shy away from the horrific side of fairy tales. I know so many folks who have loved reading the tales set in Beau Rivage.

SNOW IN SUMMER by Jane Yolen has hands-down the creepiest stepmother in this retelling of Snow White. It’s set in West Virginia and is amazing.

HUNTED by Megan Spooner is an amazing retelling of Beauty and the Beast– and it’s set in Russia. Yava is a fierce heroine who is every bit a match for the Beast.

Another favorite is BOOK OF A THOUSAND DAYS by Shannon Hale. It’s set in a world based on Mongolia, and the heroine is amazing. She’s only a mucker handmaid, but she’s compassionate, resourceful, and stubborn enough to save the land from the frightening Khan with otherworldly powers.

Here are two I’d like to read:

FINDING BABA YAGA by Jane Yolen and THE HOUSE WITH CHICKEN LEGS by Sophie Anderson. Both are about Baba Yaga, the witch from Russian fairy tales who isn’t always a villain. She’s certainly not the one-dimensional witches we often found in western fairy tales.

Now, please help me out! What are your fairy tales (original or a retelling) where the heroine saves the day? 


O F F I C I A   I N F O:

Author: Sarah McGuire
Release Date: October 1, 2018
Publisher: Carolrhoda Books / Lerner Books

Based on the Brothers Grimm's fairy tale Six Swans, THE FLIGHT OF SWANS follows Ryn's journey to save her family and their kingdom.

Princess Andaryn's six older brothers have always been her protectors--until her father takes a new Queen, a frightening, mysterious woman who enchants the men in the royal family. When Ryn's attempt to break the enchantment fails, she makes a bitter bargain: the Queen will spare her brothers' lives if Ryn remains silent for six years.

Ryn thinks she freed her brothers, but she never thought the Queen would turn her brothers into swans. She never thought she'd have to discover the secret to undoing the Queen's spell while eluding the Otherworldly forces that hunt her. And she never thought she'd have to do it alone, without speaking a single word.

As months as years go by, Ryn learns there is more to courage than speech . . . and that she is stronger than the Queen could have ever imagined.


Author: Sarah McGuire
Release Date: April 28, 2015
Publisher: Previously Egmont USA; now Carolrhoda Books / Lerner Books


Saville despises the bolts of velvet and silk that her father loves- he's always prized them more than he's ever loved her. Yet when he's struck ill, she'll do anything to survive, even donning boys' clothes and begging a commission to sew for the king.

Piecing together a fine coat is far simpler than unknotting court gossip about an army of giants led by a man who cannot be defeated. And they're marching toward Reggen to seize the throne. But Saville knows giants are just stories, and no man is immortal.

Then she meets them, two scouts as tall as trees. She tricks them into leaving, but tales of the daring tailor's triumph quickly spin into impossible feats of giant-slaying. And mere 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.



Today, Sarah McGuire is giving away one of her books--you can decide if it will be VALIANT or THE FLIGHT OF SWANS!

This giveaway is for NORTH AMERICA.

BUT!!! If you're International, you can still enter to win a copy in our big event giveaway!

You must be at least 13 years old to enter or have a parent's permission!

Enter now!
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