As a big fan of all things science-fiction and fantasy, I was super excited to get my hands on Dauntless by Elisa A. Bonnin–an upcoming, Filipino-inspired, young adult fantasy novel about an orphaned teenage girl who must step up to bring peace to a war-torn world.
Set in a lush, vibrant tropical world–one where dangerous beasts roam the earth and humans are forced to build entire villages and cities amidst giant spreading trees—Dauntless by Elisa A. Bonnin follows a young girl named Seri, who is hired as an assistant for Eshai, a battle-hardened legendary commander whose life is dedicated to protecting humans against the attack of beasts.
However, Seri’s world quickly turns upside down when she runs into Tsana, a mysterious girl who can communicate with these wild beasts and seems to be in league with them.
Dauntless By Elisa A. Bonnin
A teen girl must bring together two broken worlds in order to save her nation in this lush, Filipino-inspired young adult fantasy novel from debut author Elisa A. Bonnin.
“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.
Ratings: 4 out of 5
Release Date: 2nd August, 2022
Trigger Warnings: Death, violence and gore, loss of a parent
~ Book Review: Dauntless By Elisa A. Bonnin ~
I’ll admit, that diving into this book wasn’t easy. Dauntless by Elisa A. Bonnin is a sapphic fantasy novel that tells the story of a very complicated, strange and practically an alien world–and as such, there’s quite a lot of information to process to understand this world, its history and backstory, the magic system and the culture represented.
And yet somehow, Elisa A. Bonnin guides the reader through this strange world masterfully; through the eyes of Seri, and eventually Eshai and Tsana, we discover a world that is set in a wild, humid rainforest, where people survive by building “settlements” around giant trees and rely heavily on the protection of the valiant–explorers and warriors who discover new territories in the “unknown world”, fight off the violent beasts who live there and create magical armors from their remains.
In other words, the world-building in this book is absolutely phenomenal and I loved how the author balances the world-building while also unfolding the plot. Dauntless by Elisa A. Bonnin is a very action-packed novel; there’s never a dull moment in the story. And each of the fighting scenes was spectacular–it’s quite rare for me to come across a book that depicts battles so brilliantly and with such lush details.
I particularly loved every fighting scene that had Eshai at the forefront, because that’s when we truly understand why she is called Eshai Unbroken, and why she is regarded as a hero of legends by her people.
Speaking of Eshai, the characters in this book absolutely stole the show. Dauntless by Elisa A. Bonnin features not one, but three incredibly strong, brave, and admirable female characters that you cannot help but fall in love with.
Our main character and protagonist, Seri, is an awkward, quiet girl who learns to find the courage to face violence and death head-on. Her love interest, Tsana, is fiery and passionate. And of course, then we have the legend herself, Eshai, whose dedication to protecting innocent people is awe-inspiring to say the least. I loved watching all three women grow and evolve throughout the course of the story.
The plot itself is quite intriguing–I loved learning the intricate, complex politics portrayed in the novel, and how, in many ways, they mirrored real-life politics too.
However, I do have a few small criticisms to share about this book. For a novel that is being pitched as a ‘Filipino-inspired fantasy’, Dauntless by Elisa A. Bonnin could have done more to deliver. Aside from the tropical setting and the food references, there isn’t much Filipino representation in this book.
Even the physical description of our characters felt a little too vague for me to imagine them as Filipino characters–to me, they simply seemed to be people of color rather than people of any particular ethnicities. I make this judgment by comparing Dauntless by Elisa A. Bonnin with other novels where diverse people and their ethnicities are described more accurately–think about the characters in The Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco or The Young Elites by Marie Lu.
One other thing that I didn’t quite like about Dauntless by Elisa A. Bonnin was the romance. I absolutely love sapphic novels, but the romance in this book was underwhelming and underdeveloped, and it was more on the side of “telling” rather than “showing”.
These small criticisms aside, Dauntless by Elisa A. Bonnin is a fantastic novel, and if you are looking for a refreshingly new sapphic fantasy novel to pick up, I highly recommend this book.
~ Meet The Author: Elisa A. Bonnin ~
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.
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~ Tour Schedule: Dauntless by Elisa A. Bonnin ~
I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own (my opinions are not for sale anyway). Thank you so much to Elisa A. Bonin, SwoonReads, NetGalley and Giselle from Xpresso Book Tours for having me on this blog tour. <3
Do you enjoy sapphic fantasy? Share your top, favorite sapphic fantasy recommendations in the comments below, and let me know what you think of this book too!
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