When I first saw the cover for Dauntless by Dina Sleiman, my initial reaction was, “Oh, so like Robin Hood only for girls.”
After reading the book, I’m happy to say that was a shallow assumption and a horrible first impression. (Disclaimer: I received a free copy of the book from Bethany House in exchange for my review.)
Dauntless does feature a strong female lead in Merry Ellison, a former noblewoman who has been forced into outlaw living because of the fickle and ruthless King John who ordered the murder of her family. And Merry does lead a band of fellow outcasts, mostly children, who steal to survive. But her story is much more than a retelling of Robin Hood. The similarities to that legend are few, but if you like Robin Hood, you’ll probably like this one.
This is the first in Sleiman’s Valiant Hearts series and each book will feature a strong, young female lead. (The next book has an aspiring knight on the cover!) Set in Medieval times in fictional parts of England and Britain, the books are classified as juvenile fiction, but I think they have a wider appeal.
I enjoyed the story and appreciate tales where the female is not always the “damsel in distress.” Merry has a leadership role among her group but learns that she cannot, nor does she need to, handle everything all by herself. She leads with wisdom but lets others in. She learns to trust her instincts but also to delegate and trust others.
These are valuable lessons for women of any age. I’m excited for what this series has to offer.
Yes, there is a love story in this also, and while Merry tries to deny any ideas of romance because of her situation, she discovers it is a natural part of life. The romance is not what carries the story nor does it give false impressions for younger readers.
Overall, this is a great book to share with younger readers (and then read for yourself!).