I am a sucker for historical fiction. I've admitted this many times and when I heard the premise of Sleiman's Dauntless featuring the teenage daughter of a slain baron around the time of Robin Hood . . . I couldn't resist. Better yet, I'm glad I didn't!
Sleiman's novel has some classic trademarks of the genre. A young hero struggling with their faith following a wounding, a love interest (or two), and a strong cast of supports to help move the plot along.
Instead of being annoyed by the presence of another love triangle, I was impressed at the honesty of Allen's journey.Wren's childhood innocence could have seemed an overused device to move along the plot but instead her essence continually delighted me as she turned up on the pages, proving a needed contrast to Merry's wounded guarding and Timothy's warring ambitions.
Merry, herself, provides the target audience (Dauntless is classified as juvenile fiction) with a fascinating role model. She's brave, smart, and loyal while openly wrestling with her need for vulnerability and her views on faith and religion in a world that no longer makes sense. This issue, if memory serves, can be quite timely for readers in the target age range.
Overall, I appreciate Sleiman's work. The characters aren't perfect but there are lessons in their growth and struggle, even for those characters who choose poorly (sorry I refuse to give away the villain's true identity!) Much like Timothy's first encounter with the survivors the children of Dauntless naturally draw their audience in through the charm and honesty they continually manifest. The pacing felt natural -rushing where needed for extra anticipation and slowing in natural ebbs and flows. Sleiman is honest at the books end where fantasy and fiction collide but the end result is still a highly satisfying read.
I would recommend this novel to fans of historical fiction, youth fiction, and stories with a female lead.
I received a copy of this book through Bethany House Publishing in exchange for my honest opinions. The above review is my own.