Elisa A. Bonnin
Published by: Swoon Reads
Publication date: August 2nd 2022
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
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.
“Dauntless captures the best parts of every action-packed fantasy—breathtaking scenes of power and victory that push the limits of human tenacity. This is a triumphant tale of courage and self discovery that will make you believe in your own strength.” —Kyllie Lee Baker, author of The Keeper of Night
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“What research and/or life experiences went into building the world within Dauntless?”
I grew up in the Philippines. Writing a fantasy novel set in the tropics was fun for me, because I was able to use so many of my own experiences in the book. While I didn’t spend my childhood trekking through the rainforest like Seri, Eshai, and Tsana did, it wasn’t too hard for me to imagine what sort of things the characters would have to deal with.
For example, I grew up always trying to protect myself from insects. Mosquitoes are a big deal in the tropics, because they carry diseases and because they tend to come en masse. So while all the windows and doors in the house I grew up in were covered with screens to keep the bugs out, my childhood bed was also covered in mosquito nets, and my family always burned these green, strong-smelling coils to keep bugs away. Seri and company do the same thing, covering up their sleeping places with insect netting and burning incense to keep away bugs, but that doesn’t stop them from being affected by mosquito-borne diseases.
It didn’t stop me either, and I had the advantage of technology. When I was six years old, I got dengue fever during an epidemic and spent some time in the hospital. While I never had memory loss as dramatic as Eshai’s, there was apparently a time when my condition worsened and some of my relatives drove down from the city in case they needed to donate blood to me. I have absolutely no memory of this, and when I think back to my days at the hospital, I mostly remember being very bored. So Eshai getting sick from a blood disease and losing most of her childhood memories was a fantastical exaggeration of this event.
The food in Dauntless also came from my own lived experience. The characters in Dauntless eat Filipino food, both because I wanted to write Filipino food into a story and because the ingredients of Filipino food are the ones that they would have access to. When I imagined Seri picking up street food to eat at the market, my mind immediately went to bananacue, and when I thought about what food Eshai’s childhood friend, Lavit, would bring her on her first day back in town, I thought of chicken inasal. My life experiences come out in the little details of the worldbuilding, and I think that’s why writing a story set in this world felt more natural to me.
I did have to research rainforest survival, though, because that was one thing that I couldn’t take out of my own life experiences. I bought a wilderness survival guide and learned that traveling through the rainforest, as Eshai and company do frequently, is not for the faint of heart!
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.