The Dauntless Path Duology
As a long-time reader, I have many favorite books. I am likely to read and re-read The Lunar Chronicles, Serpent and Dove, and Little Thieves over and over again. However, I find that there are also books that I truly enjoy that aren't quite good enough to be my "favorites."
I once had a teacher who gave 100% only to those that went above and beyond (whereas most teachers give 100% to those who meet all the criteria expertly and bonus credit for going above and beyond). In order to get 100% in this class, I had to not only turn in excellent work but also go beyond what the rubric required (extra sources, longer essays, etc.).
Why do I say this? Because my favorite books (like those previously mentioned) go above and beyond what's required of a good book. Other novels are excellent books and deserve 100% though they don't go above and beyond. There is nothing "wrong" with these novels but rather I don't love them as much because there isn't anything about them that I can list as being done better than the majority of books.
The Dauntless Path duology is one of these books. The series starts with Thorn, a book that twists the tale of the Goose Girl, and continues with Theft of Sunlight (often nicknamed "Theft"), a story about a disabled girl finding a place in the palace in order to investigate people who steal children. Both books are thoroughly enjoyable but if I were to recommend only one Goose Girl twist, it would be Little Thieves which is even better.
Probably the only problem I had with the books was the confusion about the fairytale twist portion of them. I loved Thorn and thought the author did an excellent job of sticking closely with the plot of Goose Girl while also including her own insights and twists. However, Theft is not a fairytale twist, and is not until I did a lot of research behind the novel that I discovered this. Of course, this isn't really a problem, so to say, but it did frustrate me to be unable to work out whether or not the second book in the series followed a fairytale as well. Most often, when one book in the series is a fairytale twist, other books that follow it are also fairytale twists (whether that's characters living in a fairytale world, one story twisted throughout multiple books, or a set of fairytale twists one per book). There are exceptions, of course. Little Thieves (also a Goose Girl twist) has a second novel coming out next year entitled Painted Devils. The blurb has already been released and it doesn't seem to be a fairytale twist. Likewise, A Court of Thorns and Roses twists the Beauty and the Beast story while the rest of the series is a more generic fantasy (though it does seem to have random parts of fairytales woven in). So while I was frustrated by the lack of clarity, the fact that this was my only problem with the book speaks to how good the book was.
Both books had excellent plots and thoroughly developed characters. While the first is told from the point of view of the princess/goose girl, the second is told from the POV of her lady in waiting. Both characters have strengths and weaknesses and the author tells the story well enough that the reader can identify not only what the girls want but why they want it. Her villains also have clear motivations. She weaves villains that a reader can understand. What they do to the characters is awful but the reader has a higher appreciation for them due to their motives. In the real world, motives range across the board. One woman might kill in a fit of rage after finding out her abusive husband cheated on her. Another man might kill because he was next in line for his dream job and someone else got it instead.
But there are always serial killers and rapists who seem to have little motive for harming their victims. These are the criminals we are suitably afraid of because we don't understand them. Not only would we never commit the crimes they did (as the case is with the other criminals) but we also cannot wrap our heads around their reasoning for doing so.
The villains of The Dauntless Path series are more like the first type of criminal. By the end of the book, you begin to understand their motive despite hating them for the pain they cause the protagonist. I would advise any author looking to create bestsellers to work on having these kinds of villains.
I did also like the culture that the author wove into her novels. Thorn and Theft both bleed cultural significance. The author creates a culture for at least two different peoples and then goes on to show that culture in action on every page. This makes the world both more realistic and more magical. The perfect combination for a fantasy.
If you are a fan of fairytale twists, living breathing magical worlds, or books that teach us something about human life, then check out The Dauntless Path duology yourself.
Books like this: Little Thieves; A Court of Thorns and Roses;