I am so grateful to be a part of the #MatatagAtMatapangTour for Dauntless by Elisa A. Bonnin, hosted by Kate @ Your Tita Kate (https://yourtitakate.com/blog-tour-dauntless/)! Ever since I got into reading more, I’ve been looking for books by Filipino authors. Now, I’m happy to say that Dauntless will be joining my collection of books by Filipino authors.
Dauntless starts out as an adventure novel. Seri is a valiant, and is a part of a group of warriors that hunt beasts and explore the unknown part of their world. I felt that the story increased in action and my anticipation increased with every (virtual) page I turned. I was excited when Seri met Tsana, a mysterious girl, in a market. By this point, the pacing of Dauntless really drew me in to the story.
One aspect that surprised me was that Tsana narrates some chapters! I love it when the two main characters narrate a novel – I like seeing how they see each other. Both Tsana and Seri challenge each other. Tsana challenges Seri to see the world differently than what Seri thought she knew. Elisa A. Bonnin has done a great job of seamlessly crafting the history of the world into the overarching story, and Seri and Tsana’s romantic relationship. I also liked Eshai and Lavit’s relationship. They had a great dynamic.
As Dauntless progresses, it becomes so much more than an adventure story – it’s a story of the powerful bonds between living beings and how the unknown can be challenging to face at first, but it becomes easier when you have people beside you. The characters battle supposed beasts, the truth, and fight to understand their own paths. This sapphic fantasy novel is one of my favorites of 2022, and I hope there is a sequel; however, the ending makes this a great standalone too!
“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.
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.
*I received an e-ARC from Netgalley as a part of the tour. This did not influence my opinion of the book.
Everyone, I have just read one of my #1 books of 2020 (I refuse to pick favorites because guess what? I’ve given up on choosing just ONE favorite because I don’t need to.). The other best books are: The Silvered Serpents, These Violent Delights, The Archer at Dawn, Incendiary, and A Song of Wraiths and Ruin. Side note: I could go on but then this would just be a best books of January to August 2020 list. I also haven’t read Now That I’ve Found You by Kristina Forest yet and it’s just sitting at the bookstore WAITING FOR ME. So I need to wait before adding more books to my list of faves.
Listen: I am improving my review skills BUT I want to do something fun: an interview with and by myself. So: here is an interview with me, Isabella, from me, Isabella, about Where Dreams Descend by Janella Angeles: NO SPOILERS.
Me: Why did you want to read this? Naysayers might say it’s a knockoff Caraval. Me: Who would say that? If so, you’re probably one of those who compares The Gilded Wolves to Six of Crows: WDD and Caraval are NOTHING ALIKE!!!! I’d say WDD is better because 1. It’s more interesting, and 2. Basically EVERYTHING.
Me: Ok but why? What made you continue reading? Me: The cover, the plot description, the fact that this was in a book box, the fact that so many people I trust loved it! It starts off slow but builds to a crescendo that was so unexpected and incredibly well-done. In spite of the fact that I would rather have good worldbuilding and characters OR good worldbuilding and plot, this was an excellent combo of a plot and character driven story.
Me: So who was your favorite character? Me: Kallia. Absolutely. She is the protagonist of WDD, and is super ambitious. You know how there are those stereotypical “brooding bad boys” in YA? Or those girls like Aelin who want power but are just horrible people, so their thirst for power doesn’t read well? Kallia was a power-hungry, take no prisoners, brooding, secretive, angry, soft, and all around amazing heroine. She fights for herself in a world of sexism and in a world that is dominated by male magicians. However, Kallia also makes friends: I loved her friendship with Canary and with Aaros because she wasn’t using them. Kallia is a leader, but also knows that she doesn’t have to compete with the girls around her.
I’d also say that Aaros reminds me a bit of Kitay from The Poppy War. They have very different personalities, but both are there for their power-hungry friends no matter what, which I love! More friendships between girls and boys in YA are so needed.
And Canary! I would read a story with her POV for sure. I wish she played a bit of a bigger role instead of Jack, because the fact that she is in the Conquering Circus is so amazing and a lot cooler than Jack.
Demarco. Damn. It’s very rare for a love interest to captivate me since so many YA love interests are so alike (looking at Cardan, Rhysand, Rowan, Cal, Mal). Demarco was so sweet while also maintaining a hint of mystery around him (in a non-creepy way). It never felt like there was a power imbalance between him and Kallia.
Finally, Jack. Wow. This story’s villain wasn’t a person, more like sexism and girls being blamed for no reason. However, Jack was a super interesting character who I would also love to see more of. How did he get to Hellfire House?
Me: What did you think of the plot? Did the romance take over the story? Me: The plot was more character driven while also incorporating action at the right moments. Janella balanced her intense descriptions with action and snappy dialogue. However, Kallia’s thirst for power never felt overdone or out of place. After all, it’s Kallia who saw the world and said no thank you, while also maintaining a sharp and intriguing personality.
This book is like stepping into a fancy restaurant dressed up to eat fancy foods and to also have a bit of fun with a mysterious stranger. The descriptions of Kallia’s dresses, how Demarco sees her, and the atmosphere all fit so well together. I just felt so empowered by how Kallia went after what she wanted while also being vulnerable at times.
The romance. Again, the fact that the LI asks for consent? One of the many reasons why I love Demarco. In fact, asking explicitly for consent? Hell yes.
Me: What do you want to see in the next book (no spoilers)? Me: Janella Angeles could go A LOT darker. I would say that this book is definitely not juvenile, but with that ending, Angeles has the skills to try to write more intenesly. I would also like to see more worldbuilding because again, Angeles has the skills. This book is a freaking debut and it really does not read like one. Angeles put so much into this book, and to see her take some risks to make the sequel straddle the line between YA and Adult fantasy would be amazing to see (however, the romance is so perfectly written. I wouldn’t change anything.). A darker sequel would just be so cool. I mean, come on. Kallia has powers and I want to see her fight someone with them.
Well, me, how do you feel?
I feel shocked. She is the embodiment of who I want to be: confident, stands up for herself, and doesn’t care what others think of her. Janella Angeles is a voice in YA who needs to be read. I look forward to Kingdom of Cards Book 2, and I hope anyone reading this will pick up Where Dreams Descend. If you like strong girls, intense magic, girls who hunger for power, girls who dominate, and a book that flips the roles of girls and boys in a romance, then this is the book for you. (Also, Kallia looks like me, so that’s cool! I guess I also added this to my Wikathon TBR because I read it in a little over a day.)