“If I still believed in God, I might have whispered a thanks. But I do not. I only believe in me. And the children I must protect. Robyn of the Hode might steal from the rich and give to the poor, but we are the poor, and I concern myself only with caring for us.” – Lady Merry
I love re-tellings. Re-tellings of fairy tales, Biblical stories, or, any other type of re-tellings you can think of. But what I love most is a re-telling with a twist, and Dina L. Sleiman’s Dauntless is just that. Though it might be tempting to think that Dauntless is a female version of Robin Hood, we must give Lady Merry and her band, the Ghosts of Farthingale Forest, the credit of standing on their own merit in originality since the opening quote in this review suggests “Robyn Hode” as living in the same time period. After the first few chapters, it becomes evident that this novel isn’t just a hero and a side-kick saving the world, but a band of teenagers and children trying to survive in a cruel, unfair country.
While Lady Merry’s story does have elements of Robin Hood in it, I loved how the author made the plot original by adding in lots of children, older boys whom are Merry’s “knights in training” and a little bit of a love story between Merry and the hero, Timothy. With these kids hiding out in the forest and causing villages and castles to think that a band of bandits were in the area, it was easy to be swept up in an intriguing game of cat and mouse in the plot. These kids had the authorities convinced an army was upon them, when in actuality, it was just teens and kids trying to survive after the king ordered their village slaughtered. If anyone remembers the television show Kid Nation – which basically was a test to see if kids could survive without adults caring for them – then I’d suggest this as the fiction version with a medieval setting. Personally, I thought the novel was brilliant. There were so many of the children’s characters who made the story so delightful. For example, Wren and her “sunshine men,” has to be a favorite for everyone who has read this book. I’ll also mention that the story was very engaging and had an element of suspense to it – it kept me on the edge of my seat!
Conclusion: Dauntless is the first book in the Valiant Hearts Series and ended up being my pick for England in the “Around The World In 80 Books” reading challenge. With so many options for this country, I found it hard to pick, but this book had sat forever on my TBR pile and I just had to have an excuse to pick it up! I’m glad I did! Not only did I discover a new author, but I thoroughly enjoyed this tale of Lady Merry, Timothy and the children who made up the Ghosts of Farthingale Forest! I recommend to anyone looking for medieval fiction, Robin Hood like story lines or books that involve a lot of children in the plot.