Author: Elana K. Arnold
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, High Fantasy
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Publication date: October 2nd, 2018
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.
CW: graphic sexual assault, rape, abuse, self harm, suicide, animal cruelty.
“Stay too long in this gray world, the legend went, and risk your eyes turning gray too. Risk your skin turning ashen. Risk your hair dulling to iron.”
I honestly don’t know where to begin. I was so excited to read this book; the premise sounded like it was going to be an epic story with a lot of elements I usually enjoy, but I felt so uncomfortable reading this story that I was shocked to see it’s labelled as young adult, because not only it had a lot of content warnings, but also a lot of graphic scenes that could be triggering to many people, so if you’re interested in reading this book, please be aware of them (I mentioned them above).
The premise of this novel sounded so intriguing and interesting, and though I have to say I really loved the writing and how atmospheric it all was, I didn’t enjoy the story as much as I expected to. This was supposed to be a feminist retelling of a fairy tale, and it clearly had some elements of the original stories it was based of, and I totally get that this author was trying to make a point and telling us the things that were wrong from the old classic tales, but I think the way she did it and wrote it could be so harmful.
The characters, even though they were really complex, weren’t easy to connect with. There were some parts in Damsel where we’re inside prince Emory’s point of view, and not only he was an asshole and so abusive towards the Damsel and harmed her in so many ways (physical and mentally), but also I feel those parts weren’t really addressed until the very end of the story. Everyone in the castle seemed to ignore what was happening, and I was sick to my stomach reading about those things.
“Secrets, like memories, do not disappear just because they are buried by snow or time or distance. Snow melts. The sun finishes its orbit and begins, again, where it started.”
I’m not going to be talking a lot about everything that happened in the story, because they are spoilers and I want to keep this review spoiler free, but I was so terribly sad to read about how our damsel Ama was abused and degraded by so many people throughout the story. I feel it took a while to see her development, and it wasn’t until the last 20 pages that I started to love her as a character and see her development and how much she’d grown.
Also I was pretty disappointed with the world building and the plot, to be honest. At the beginning there were some snippets about how the world was in the story, and I found them so intriguing and interested, and I was hoping to read more about those while continuing with Damsel, but they really weren’t and I was a bit sad about it. And it happened the same with the plot. It was so focused on the characters and the toxic relationship between them that the storyline was a bit left out, and I was bored at times reading it.
However, I have to say that what redeemed this book a bit for me was the ending. Everything that I was expecting to see throughout the novel happened towards the last 20-30 pages, and though I feel it was a bit rushed considering the pacing of the book, it was only then that the whole story started to make sense to me, and I liked Ama as a character.
So overall, be so aware if you want to read this book because of all the trigger warnings it contains. I, unfortunately had such high expectations, and was uncomfortable read
I recieved an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. This doesn’t change my opinion whatsoever. All thoughts are my own.
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