The rite has existed for as long as anyone can remember: when the prince-who-will-be-king comes of age, he must venture out into the gray lands, slay a fierce dragon, and rescue a damsel to be his bride. This is the way things have always been.
When Ama wakes in the arms of Prince Emory, however, she knows none of this. She has no memory of what came before she was captured by the dragon, or what horrors she has faced in its lair. She knows only this handsome prince, the story he tells of her rescue, and her destiny to sit on the throne beside him. Ama comes with Emory back to the kingdom of Harding, hailed as the new princess, welcomed to the court.
However, as soon as her first night falls, she begins to realize that not all is as it seems, that there is more to the legends of the dragons and the damsels than anyone knows–and that the greatest threats to her life may not be behind her, but here, in front of her.
This book. I thought I had an idea of what I was getting into when I first opened this book, but I was not prepared. In Damsel, Elana K. Arnold has woven a dreamlike, feminist fairy tale that turns so much about the genre and its tropes on its head.
There's been a lot of discussion around if this book is YA or not, if its plot is too mature for younger readers, if, if, if. I'm not into getting into what ages this is appropriate for or not; I think that is more for the individual reader (and his or her teachers/parents/guardians to decide).
What I will say is that Damsel is dark, it's beautiful, it's upsetting. It's smart and sad, and will definitely not be appropriate for certain readers. What I'm trying to say, without giving it all away, is that this book feels very important. I loved how Arnold spun the story around fairy tales, giving it this kind of timeless feeling, and it definitely made me think about my own love of retellings.
Damsel is both a heady book and a very visceral one. There are scenes that made me cringe, that made me want to step away from the book for a bit. I didn't devour this book in a day or anything, but I never thought about not coming back. It was my first Elana K. Arnold novel, and it will definitely not be my last.
Should you read it? Yes. TW for sexual assault and mental abuse.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Expected publication October 2, 2018 by Balzer + Bray
Check it out on Goodreads