Hello again, everyone! Last time I posted I had just finished up my spring semester, and now suddenly here I am having finished my summer term as well (more or less, with the exception of a final paper…). While recovering from an amazing but exhausting 2-day weekend conference on children’s literature, I had the chance to dive into the soon-to-be-released Dauntless for this blog tour hosted by Kate at Your Tita Kate.
- Title: Dauntless
- Author: Elisa A. Bonnin
- Publisher: Swoon Reads, an imprint of Macmillan
- Release Date: August 2nd, 2022
- Genre: Young Adult Fantasy, Adventure
“Be dauntless, for the hopes of the People rest in you.”
Seri’s world is defined by very clear rules: The beasts prowl the forest paths and hunt the People. The valiant explore the unknown world, kill the beasts, and gain strength from the armor they make from them. As an assistant to Eshai Unbroken, a young valor commander with a near-mythical reputation, Seri has seen first-hand the struggle to keep the beasts at bay and ensure the safety of the spreading trees where the People make their homes. That was how it always had been, and how it always would be. Until the day Seri encounters Tsana.
Tsana is, impossibly, a stranger from the unknown world who can communicate with the beasts – a fact that makes Seri begin to doubt everything she’s ever been taught. As Seri and Tsana grow closer, their worlds begin to collide, with deadly consequences. Somehow, with the world on the brink of war, Seri will have to find a way to make peace.
Dauntless is a book that really made me go, “wow, what a ride” after I turned the last [digital] page. As the bold title and cover illustration suggest, it is a story packed with action and adventure, but it holds much more than that.
One of the things that stood out to me as I was reading is the thoughtfulness of the worldbuilding. Sure, there are aesthetically and conceptually cool aspects, such as the magical armor made from slain beasts that literally molds itself to the owner, the large human settlements built on giant trees, and so on, but what I found most compelling was the thematic messages embedded in the worldbuilding decisions. Seri’s and Tsana’s respective cultures have very different ways of viewing not only human-beast relations but also intra-human relationships, and I like that both have strengths and flaws that are addressed by the narrative through the experiences of the major characters. I also liked the commentary on history and historiography and the ways those shape a person’s worldview for better or for worse. I can’t say too much more without spoiling parts of the story, but I definitely enjoyed learning more about the world and watching the different pieces come together.
One aspect of the book that surprised me at first but I appreciated later is the alternating narrative viewpoints, split three ways between the primary protagonist Seri, who is a reluctant fighter for various reasons; Seri’s love interest Tsana, who feels torn between competing loyalties; and Seri’s mentor, Eshai, who is only a few years older than Seri but is already a seasoned warrior and has been hailed as a hero by their society for an incredible feat she accomplished at a young age. Seri, as the protagonist, has a lot of learning and growing to do over the course of the story, and it was satisfying to see her gradually clarify her values and commit to fighting for what she believes in despite her initial reluctance to be a fighter at all. Tsana’s point of view helps heighten some of the romantic tension and overall narrative conflict while also offering insight into the culture of a different people from Seri’s. I found Eshai’s perspective (which is the one I wasn’t expecting to find in the story) fruitful for exploring the concept of heroism and how being placed on a pedestal as a symbol of hope for an entire society at a young age can affect the person in question. Her perspective also serves as an interesting foil to Seri’s because unlike Seri, she has established her identity and is used to taking on the mantle of leadership. I also loved that the platonic bond between Seri and Eshai was emphasized and given similar weight to the romantic bond between Seri and Tsana.
As mentioned earlier, Dauntless is an action-packed story, and frankly I spent a lot of the time Very StressedTM because I wasn’t sure how various fights/battles would play out and be resolved. While certain characters (e.g. the protagonist) tend to have a bit of plot armor ensuring their survival (especially in YA), that wasn’t a guarantee for everyone, and there are potentially devastating outcomes that don’t involve death. I felt the weight of those possible outcomes in each fight/battle scene. Great for the storytelling, not great for my blood pressure!
Conclusion: Dauntless, at its core, is a story about three flawed but fierce young women who are forced to make tough decisions and fight against seemingly impossible odds, and how they are able to find the strength to carry on in the face of everything. Come for the epic fight scenes, stay for the character growth arcs, sweet sapphic romance, and thematic food for thought!
Purchase a copy of Dauntless:
- Barnes & Noble
- Kinokuniya USA
About the Author
Elisa A. Bonnin was born and raised in the Philippines, after which she moved to the United States to study chemistry and later oceanography. After completing her doctorate, she moved to Germany to work as a postdoctoral scientist. A lifelong learner, Elisa is always convinced that she should “maybe take a class in something” and as a result, has amassed an eclectic collection of hobbies. But writing will always be her true love. Publishing a book has been her dream since she was eight years old, and she is thrilled to finally be able to share her stories. Dauntless is her first novel.