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Review: Damsel - Elana K. Arnold

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Damsel by Elana K. Arnold
Series: Standalone

My rating: {★★★★☆}

YA Fantasy
Expected publication: October 2nd 2018 by Balzer + Bray

Source: ARC received from Publisher via Edelweiss
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.

There are some books that I just find incredibly difficult to rate and review... And this is one of them. It's the kind of book that made my skin crawl, that made me so frustrated with the world, the characters and the situation and it's the kind of book that has plenty of trigger warnings and will probably get a lot of either mediocre ratings, angry DNFs and/or horrified outcries. It can be so difficult to love a book that puts you through all of this, and yet this is such a meaningful and darkly twisted fairy tale that I found myself drawn in loving it despite the fact that it had me on the edge of dread and resentment the entire time I was reading.

This is the first Elana K Arnold book that I have read and I am definitely interested in more.

That is the way of being a woman, to carve away at herself, to fit herself to the task, but, also, to be able to carve herself in a different way, when a different shape is needed.

We all know it, fairy tales are already fairly sinister and disturbing but we have managed to romanticise and 'Disneyfy' so many aspects of these originally gruesome anecdotes. Somehow a fairy tale has evolved into something wonderful and magical and yet even the Disney versions manage to gloss over some pretty horrific themes (Snow White's step-mother tries to KILL HER for the simple fact that she is prettier? And let's not even start on the topic of insta-love!).


'Damsel' is an extremely introspective and character driven novel and I struggled somewhat with the repetitiveness in places and the fact that I normally enjoy a far more fleshed out plot... But it's a quick read and while the ending (and payoff) could have definitely been a little longer and somehow this oblivious reader guessed the 'twist' straight out of the gate, I thoroughly enjoyed the writing (which is gorgeous and descriptive) and the sheer nastiness of this one kept me glued to the pages.

Damsel takes the original malevolence of fairy tales and the traditional roles of the characters and smacks you in the face with it all; abrupt and satirical this is such a a clever and angry little story that I think needs to be read by people that understand exactly what they are getting themselves into.

wild beasts are not meant to be tamed