Book Review: Dauntless by Dina L. Sleiman


Book: Dauntless (Valiant Hearts series, book 1)

Author: Dina L. Sleiman

Publisher: Bethany House (March 3rd, 2015)

Upon King John’s ruthless revenge against her family, Lady Merry Ellison takes refuge with her band of homeless children within the forests of England. Merry and the “ghosts of Farthingale Forest,” as she and the other orphans are called, take risky measures to ensure their survival amidst threats against their lives. The ghosts almost always remain hidden—until a high-jacking of gold goes wrong. Timothy Grey, Merry’s former best friend and now an assistant to an earl loyal to King John, managed to stay alive after the destruction of Ellsworth. Now an assistant to an earl, Timothy is working to make a name for himself; however, the price for recognition could came at Merry’s expense. When the two of them come together—and Timothy’s reputation rests upon his capture of the ghosts—Merry and Timothy face their greatest adversaries…knowing their own hearts.

Dina Sleiman’s Dauntless is a young adult novel with so much more than what can be held within those two words. Young adult, or YA as the genre is referred to in the publishing industry, revolves around characters who experience a coming of age. While the Dauntless characters certainly experience maturation over the course of the novel, this story is about so much more than the transition from childhood to adulthood. Sleiman has created a world of both magic and reality within the confines of medieval England that brings readers into the hearts of teenagers and the world of adults. With a gripping tangle of faith, friendships, romance, and survival, Dauntless should be on everyone’s to-be-read list regardless of the reader’s age.

Hailed amongst some readers and reviewers as a female version of the story of Robin Hood, Dauntless stands on its own as a strong story that teaches readers about faith and love from the perspectives of teenagers fighting to survive during a time in which loyalty to the monarchy ensured your life. Merry, Timothy, and Allen—three of the main characters of Dauntless—form a dichotomy of beliefs and backgrounds that support the themes of the novel. Through Merry, Sleiman weaves such ideas as women’s roles, gender equality, and feminism; through Timothy, recognition within family; and Allen, leadership and perseverance to pursue one’s goals in life. Each of these characters experienced trials and tribulations in his or her life but found the courage to fight for their lives and dreams. All readers, but especially teenagers, will find Merry, Allen, and Timothy worthy examples of inspiration.

As a Christian fiction YA novel, I found Dauntless to have strong threads of faith that bring the messages of Christianity to readers without becoming overbearing. Sleiman presents her messages in both overt and subtle manners, making Dauntless an excellent choice for readers familiar and unfamiliar with the faith. Christian readers will appreciate the overt themes of staying strong in your faith through trials and blessings and of questioning God’s will, while readers not as familiar with Christianity will draw upon the subtler themes of kindness and unexpected blessings. I am not one who necessarily looks for preaching in novels, but when reading a Christian book I do want a strong presence of Christian themes, morals, ideals, messages, and description—Dauntless has all of these, and I hope to find more novels such as this one in the future.

I happened upon Dauntless through an email thread within the ACFW, with no previous knowledge of Sleiman or the novel. Now just a short time later I have found a new favorite author, novel, and series. I could not be more pleased to have read Dauntless and am eagerly anticipating Sleiman’s next novel in The Valiant Heart series, Chivalrous (to be published by Bethany House in late 2015).

Rating: 4.5/5 stars


Though once a baron’s daughter, Lady Merry Ellison is willing to go to any lengths to protect the orphaned children of her former village. Dubbed “The Ghosts of Farthingale Forest,” her band of followers soon become enemies of the throne when they hijack ill-gotten gold meant for the king.

Timothy Grey, ninth child of the Baron of Greyham, longs to perform some feat so legendary that he will rise from obscurity and earn a title of his own. When the Ghosts of Farthingale Forest are spotted in Wyndeshire, where he serves as assistant to the local earl, he might have found his chance. But when he comes face-to-face with the leader of the thieves, will he choose fame or love?


DINA SLEIMANDina Sleiman writes stories of passion and grace. Most of the time you will find this Virginia Beach resident reading, biking, dancing, or hanging out with her husband and three children, preferably at the oceanfront. Since finishing her Professional Writing MA in 1994, she has enjoyed many opportunities to teach literature, writing, and the arts. Her debut novel, Dance of the Dandelion with Whitefire Publishing, won an Honorable Mention in the 2012 Selah Awards. Also look for her novels, Love in Three-Quarter TimeDance from Deep Within, and her Valiant Hearts series with Bethany House Publishers. Dina serves as an acquisitions editor for WhiteFire Publishing as well, and she loves to teach at writers conferences throughout the US. For more info visit her at her primary website.

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