Damsel

Damsel

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...

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Title:Damsel
Author:Elana K. Arnold
Rating:

Damsel Reviews

  • Emily May

    I thought it was pretty awesome, too, but then I’m a fan of Arnold’s dark twisted feminist stories that most other people seem to hate.

    It looks like Arnold is continuing her trend of writing horrible, depressing books that leave me in a constant state of anxiety while reading.

    ripped my heart to shreds last year, and this dark fairy tale just

    I thought it was pretty awesome, too, but then I’m a fan of Arnold’s dark twisted feminist stories that most other people seem to hate.

    It looks like Arnold is continuing her trend of writing horrible, depressing books that leave me in a constant state of anxiety while reading.

    ripped my heart to shreds last year, and this dark fairy tale just stomped on the pieces.

    begins like many fairy tales. A prince takes on a dragon and sweeps a fair damsel out of the tower to be his future queen. This damsel - who the prince names Ama - has no memories of her life before waking in the tower. She only knows what Prince Emory tells her: that he has saved her, and she is bound by destiny to be his queen.

    The tale gets nastier and nastier from there. The handsome rescuer is not all he first seems and it's not a spoiler to say this is absolutely NOT a fairy tale romance. Ama finds herself in a land where women must behave, play their role, and shut up about it. And, behind it all, there is the matter of her lost memories. Who was she before? Can she ever recover her past?

    It is not particularly hard to guess some of the outcomes, but that didn't make it any less horrific or satisfying. I must also stress that this book contains very adult themes. It is being called YA, and yet I can't really understand why.

    I would also say

    is driven by emotion and introspection, rather than action. Much of the book is about discovering the truth of Ama's past and suffering through the suffocating atmosphere of her being completely out of control of her life. But if you enjoy/can stomach dark books and creepy literary fantasy, then I would highly recommend this. It's a book that makes you mostly angry and sad, but that emotional impact is honestly why I'll remember it.

    And open this spoiler if you're on the fence and wondering if the book might be too depressing:

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  • Tatiana

    4.5 stars

    Oh boy, this novel is going to get so many 1-star reviews! This is what happens when a book like this is marketed as YA. Are there going to be any teens that would read and like it? I doubt it. This is a novel created for lovers of literary fantasy and ugly ancient fairy tales. It is written in a simple language, it does not have a lot of characters or drama. It is quiet and dreamlike. It might get a Printz nod (I hope) from librarians (they did give honor to

    4.5 stars

    Oh boy, this novel is going to get so many 1-star reviews! This is what happens when a book like this is marketed as YA. Are there going to be any teens that would read and like it? I doubt it. This is a novel created for lovers of literary fantasy and ugly ancient fairy tales. It is written in a simple language, it does not have a lot of characters or drama. It is quiet and dreamlike. It might get a Printz nod (I hope) from librarians (they did give honor to

    , and that book was a very out there too), but does it have a wide appeal? No way!

    And yet, I loved it, I think? Although it is hard to love a story that keeps you in a state of perpetual dread throughout its entirety. It is a fairy tale about a young woman rescued from a dragon by a future king whose wife she is expected to become. She has no memories of her pre-dragon past, so her story is essentially a story of her "education" to transform into a suitable queen. It is the king's world, so she must become what HE (and men in general) expect her to become, regardless of what she herself thinks of these expectations.

    I got flashes of

    and

    while reading

    , so I think you can get the gist of the mood of this "fairy" tale.

  • destiny ♎ [howling libraries]

    When I first heard about this, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I saw it hailed as a

    but I’ve been promised that many times by other stories that delivered on the “retelling” while leaving aside any hints of the “dark” aspect.

    , on the other hand, is exactly what it promises—

    When I first heard about this, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I saw it hailed as a

    but I’ve been promised that many times by other stories that delivered on the “retelling” while leaving aside any hints of the “dark” aspect.

    , on the other hand, is exactly what it promises—

    The story itself is genuinely intriguing, and I loved Ama as a character. She’s so unapologetically herself, and she simply doesn’t grasp why things are the way they are, or why she’s expected to act or look certain ways. Even when she tries to make herself look small and sweet for the sake of self-defense, the rope always snaps and she comes out swinging in the end, a fighter in every sense of the word.

    Emory, on the other hand… I wanted to punch Emory in the throat from literally the first chapter. (I actually made a note in my eARC in chapter 1 saying as much.) He’s obsessed with himself and what he considers to be his heroic nature, and all of that’s even before the

    terrible things about him come into play. Never trust the prince whose life goal is murdering a dragon, that’s what I always say… Emory embodies everything that’s wrong with the “damsel in distress” trope, the “Prince Charming” nonsense that films and books have fed us over the years, and the idea that any woman owes anything to a man who “saved” her from a dragon she never even sought rescue from.

    Though there are multiple awful characters you will hate every moment of the way, and though the content is heavy and uncomfortable most of the time, the writing behind it all is so gorgeous and whimsical (despite a few phrases for genitalia that made me snicker), and Arnold is clearly skilled in her art. There are so many subtle things that came together in the end to surprise me, and I couldn’t put the story down because I constantly needed to know what would happen next.

    As for the dark subject matter:

    We see feminist fantasy stories released all the time in YA lately, but they’re usually tame and merely hint at issues.

    , on the other hand, takes those issues and shoves them right in your face, forcing you to address their existence.

    abuse of humans and animals, misogyny, rape culture, self-harm, and suicide. Through all of that, it’s clear that Arnold is fed up with the state of the world and has refused to pull any punches in her writing,

    A lot of people are questioning whether

    should be marketed as YA fantasy. While I wouldn’t otherwise have a problem with it being YA (as I’m a big believer that what teens read should be between them and their parents—plenty of teens will be able to handle this content without issue), a part of me thinks

    simply because I don’t feel like this story deserves to be punished for its truthfulness.

    All in all, if you’re interested in picking up a copy of

    , please be aware of the trigger warnings going into it. I have read a ridiculous amount of YA fantasy in my life, and very rarely has any of it made me feel quite as bothered and anxious as this book did. That said, I genuinely believe that sometimes—if we can handle it—we

    to feel disgusted, to be reminded of just how toxic our society’s treatment of women can be. If you can stomach it,

    is the perfect resource to take you there.

    You can find this review and more on my

    , or you can follow me on

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    , or

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  • Mackenzi

    Wow. Okay. So. Holy shit. Yes. This book. Yes.

  • Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽

    2.5 stars. Are you REALLY angry about how men treat women, dismissively and as sex objects? If so, read on. If not, your mileage may vary with this allegorical fantasy about a prince, a damsel and a dragon.

    Prince Emory is on a quest, a traditional rite of passage: He is traveling to the gray lands to conquer a dragon, and bring back a beautiful young damsel to be his wife, as his father and forefathers have done before him. The novel goes into some detail about his quest and his tension-filled f

    2.5 stars. Are you REALLY angry about how men treat women, dismissively and as sex objects? If so, read on. If not, your mileage may vary with this allegorical fantasy about a prince, a damsel and a dragon.

    Prince Emory is on a quest, a traditional rite of passage: He is traveling to the gray lands to conquer a dragon, and bring back a beautiful young damsel to be his wife, as his father and forefathers have done before him. The novel goes into some detail about his quest and his tension-filled fight with the dragon, which ends mid-scene in a bizarre

    way.

    Then, suddenly, we shift forward in time: Emory is riding home with a young girl in his arms. She has no idea who she is, no prior memories except vague shadows. Emory explains to her that he rescued her from the dragon, and gives her the name of Ama. The rest of the novel is told from Ama's point of view. Ama is pampered but unhappy in the castle, as everyone around her cheerfully prepares for her wedding to Emory, but her concerns and point of view aren't respected.

    I don't think there are any admirable male characters in the pages of this book. It's a one-note story, but it will resonate with a lot of readers. "The Husband Stitch" by Carmen Maria Machado deals with similar issues in a more interesting and literary way, for my money.

    Full review to come, after it posts on Fantasy Literature. I received a free copy of this book from the publisher for review. It has an absolutely gorgeous cover, by the way; it's just too bad that the cover doesn't really match the contents of the novel.

    Content note: Sexual content, abusive relationships.

  • ☘Misericordia☘ ~ The Serendipity Aegis ~  ⚡ϟ⚡ϟ⚡⛈ ✺❂❤❣

    ***BEWARE OF SPOILERS!*** Rating: we start at 5 stars:

    - Bestiality: -1 star

    - 'Yard'? Can't body parts be named properly if we already are considering bestiality? There is a whole chapter in there aptly named 'The King's Yard', in which they valiantly try to discuss the aforementioned 'yard'. And I'm not kidding. -1 star

    + Some ideas that I loved (see above): +1 star

    - Some ideas I hated (see above): -1 star

    +- Feminism: eh... while it's totally cool, we should consider that

    ***BEWARE OF SPOILERS!*** Rating: we start at 5 stars:

    - Bestiality: -1 star

    - 'Yard'? Can't body parts be named properly if we already are considering bestiality? There is a whole chapter in there aptly named 'The King's Yard', in which they valiantly try to discuss the aforementioned 'yard'. And I'm not kidding. -1 star

    + Some ideas that I loved (see above): +1 star

    - Some ideas I hated (see above): -1 star

    +- Feminism: eh... while it's totally cool, we should consider that

    it should be

    , which I would totally endorse: +- 1 star

    + Reasonable language and writing: +1 star

    + I like the cover: +1 star

    - Self-harm and debates of 'release'... I don't think it's a 'light' subject that should be treated 'oh, so you burned your hand crispy, well, you've gotten your release, haven't you? good for you!': -1 star

    - Tacky (and wacky!) plot in basically a kids' book: -1 star

    Overall: 3 stars should be fair and square, I think.

    Q:

    It was true, what Emory said: as long as there had been kings, there had been conquered dragons and damsels brought from their lair. (c)

    Q: “three weapons to conquer a dragon and free a damsel. My brain. My steel. And my yard.” (c)

    Q:

    But these last trees would not fall, and when Emory struck them with his sword an awful clang rang out, and the impact of the blow vibrated up through Emory’s sword arm and rattled all of his bones.

    Not even a dent. Unacceptable.

    Yet he had been forced to accept it, (c)

    Q:

    Then, knowing the dragon was watching, he unbuttoned the front of his trousers, freed his yard, and pissed a steaming stream right there, at the top of the cliff, marking it as his own. (c)

    Q:

    ... his great hot jet of urine, ...(c)

    Q:

    took his water bladder from his side and sucked like a babe at the teat until it was empty. (c)

    Q:

    “You dare to burn the hand of my bride?” ...

    “Do you mean . . . my hand?” Ama asked.

    “Your hand does not only belong to you, Ama. (c)

    Q:

    “I made you beautiful,” Emory said again, again.

    “You keep saying that,” Ama answered. “But I did not ask for your beauty. I made beauty all on my own. I did not need you then.” (c)

    Q:

    “You shall have to learn for yourself, I suppose,” he said grudgingly, “that wild beasts are not meant to be tamed.” ...

    “One should not make a pet out of a wild beast,” Ama said. (c)

    Q:

    “I think,” Ama said, “that I do not wish to marry you. Or to be queen. I want none of it.” (c)

    Q:

    “Why would I want a burn?” Ama asked, reapplying the bandage.

    “Everyone takes release somewhere,” the queen mother answered. ... “The queen before me—the mother to my king—they say she found her release in pain. (c)

    Q:

    And we shall meet at the altar, and be wed, and I shall be king, and you, queen, and you shall birth me a son, and you shall find all the beauty you have need of in my arms and in his eyes. For that is the way it has always been, and that is the way it shall always be, from the beginning of time to the end of it. (c)

    Q:

    For he knew it was the dragon’s blame that the trees had turned to gray stone, just as it was the dragon’s blame that this part of the world was misted dark with unspilled rain, and the dragon’s blame that the sea was slate gray instead of blue-green, and the dragon’s blame that the unblinking eye of the sun was dulled by a cataract of gray. (c)

    Q:

    She opened her eyes to gaze at her beloved, the sun, and found that it had grown closer. (c)

    Q:

    The way the grasses dipped and swayed as if in waves of green water; the brown and gold birds that flew up out of the grasses, like hidden treasure, when Reynard startled them; the one diamond-backed snake that slithered across their path, emerging suddenly, gazing at them through slit eyes, causing Emory to draw Reynard up short, then disappearing just as quickly into the thick deep grass on the other side of the trail, its skin as shiny as polished wood. (c)

    Q:

    And though she did not speak, she told the lynx, with every hair on her head, every inch of her flesh, I respect you. I honor you. I leave you in peace. (c)

    Q:

    Secrets, like memories, do not disappear just because they are buried by snow or time or distance. (c)

    Q:

    “The weak wish. The strong act.”

    “Perhaps sometimes,” she said, “the wish is the action.” (c)

    Q:

    “Sorrow is no more your name,” Ama announced, her voice louder. “Now I call you Fury.” (c)

  • Melanie

    I get what this book was trying to do, I really do, and I appreciate it, but I just don’t personally think it was well done. This is a play on the “damsel in the tower, guarded by a dragon, and a brave knight comes to save her” b

    I get what this book was trying to do, I really do, and I appreciate it, but I just don’t personally think it was well done. This is a play on the “damsel in the tower, guarded by a dragon, and a brave knight comes to save her” but I don’t even feel like that was very powerfully done either. This just reads really boring, really forced, and really overly graphic. And a few of my friends have five starred and really loved this one, and I obviously don’t want my personal feelings to invalidate anyone, especially abuse survivors.

    But this is a really graphic and dark book, so

    so much animal abuse and death, sexual abuse, sexual assault, threats of rape, physical abuse, emotional abuse, humiliation, captivity, talk of past rape, self-harm, gaslighting, grey area cheating, misogynistic and sexist comments, and I don’t really know if I want to call this rape or bestiality: but a scene where a guy has sex with an opening that his sword made on a dragon. (I can’t believe I just typed that!) But I just wanted to put this all out there before I really start this review, because these topics are going to get brought up.

    Basically, in this world, from this small kingdom, a prince always goes to slay a dragon once the king dies so that he can prove himself a worthy ruler and become the new king. Once the prince, or king in waiting, slays the beast, he will rescue the damsel in distress, bringing her back to his kingdom so that he can get crowned and they can get married. She will then produce him one, male heir and the cycle will repeat forever and ever. The dream, right? Wrong.

    The book starts out with us seeing Emory approaching this tower, then slaying the dragon, and then rescuing the girl to take back with him. He names her Ama, since she has no memory or recollection of her past and promises her that she will have a life that others only dream of having.

    But you will quickly find out that this book is a statement on abuse, and how the cycle continues and continues throughout relationship and throughout generations who go on thinking abusive actions are okay and justifiable. Ama has no choice in any of the actions she performs, and her only escape is her pet lynx, Sorrow, who Emory constantly threatens to kill and uses as leverage for Ama to do his bidding.

    And Emory is awful; he sexually assaults her, physically abuses her, allows his friend to do the same, and completely controls every aspect of her life and happiness. And he expects her to thank him for it. Again, there are a lot of parallels to our world, and this entire book is more of a statement to that testament. Yet, this book isn’t fun to read. And I don’t mean that in the, “books about abuse are always hard to read!” because hard and not enjoyable are two very different things. Yes, this was a hard book to read at times, but it was also ungodly forced, heavy handed, and boring, too. Oh, and if I ever read the word "yard" referring to a person's penis again, I am going to scream.

    And the animal abuse in this was some of the worst I’ve ever read. That is a personal trigger for me, but something that I knew going in and believed I was in the right headspace for. Yet, it was very hard to read, especially because it continues to happen throughout. So, again, just, use caution, and I wanted to make note that this probably added to me not really enjoying the book even more so.

    The one element I really did enjoy about this book is its minor discussion on gaslighting and sympathizing with your abuser. There were times that Emory was really sweet, kind, and giving to Ama and would make her question everything. There were times Emory was really convincing that the bad things that happened to Ama were her own fault. And there were times that you actually thought that maybe Emory wasn’t a complete piece of shit. Well, these are all tactics that abusers know and love, and I really did like how the author showed that in this story.

    Overall, I think you’re going to love this one or you’re just not. For as many friends that I have that have five starred this, I have even more that have DNFed it. This just reads so introductory and forced, to me personally. But I think both ends of the spectrum are very valid. And again, I’m sorry if this is one of your favorite reads of the year. But if you’re looking for feminist novels with a little more substance, that pack just as an emotional punch without feeling forced, I very much recommend:

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  • Brittney ~ Reverie and Ink

    I honestly can't give this one a rating, and that is largely due to the number of triggers -

    Please please please be aware of that while making a decision on whether or not this book is for you. I sincerely hope the publisher adds warnings to the book itself and to the description on Goodreads. (More below...)

    First off, the writing is gorgeous. Elana is extremely talented. This is a feministic

    I honestly can't give this one a rating, and that is largely due to the number of triggers -

    Please please please be aware of that while making a decision on whether or not this book is for you. I sincerely hope the publisher adds warnings to the book itself and to the description on Goodreads. (More below...)

    First off, the writing is gorgeous. Elana is extremely talented. This is a feministic Sleeping Beauty reimagining, with one of the most unique spins I've ever seen. I'll also add that the author was trying to make a point in this book,

    However, I felt sick to my stomach during 90% of this book. I'm shocked this is marketed to YA readers without any warning about triggers.

    In the first few chapters, we are thrown into the middle of Prince Emory's rescuing of the 'Damsel' he will wed to become king. I absolutely loved it, and I loved Emory - until his inner narration grazed over thoughts a previous sexual relationship. It was warning sign number one.

    After Emory rescues the 'Damsel', we switch POVs. The rest of the book is told from Ama's perspective. She wakes up in Emory's arms with no recollection of who she is, where she was before, or her rescue.

    Slowly, Emory becomes less of a prince and more a monster. In fact, his entire kingdom has jaded views of women.

    So my ending thoughts are this - I have no idea what to make of the story. While I believe Elana is making an important point, I think the words could be harmful to those who aren't prepared. Please be 100% certain you are ready before you dive into this book!

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  • Candace Robinson

    I'm all about equality for everyone, but I felt like this book definitely put men to shame, and that's a real effing shame.

    Also, Emory was a weird guy, like sometimes he felt cocky but okay, but then he would have these strange times where he'd do weird things like drag Ama around by a leash. Another thing was, I hated Ama too, so it was hard for me to feel sorry for her, or anyone really. I think I felt sorry for Tillie the most—she needed to get the hell out of that castle! Pawlin was also sup

    I'm all about equality for everyone, but I felt like this book definitely put men to shame, and that's a real effing shame.

    Also, Emory was a weird guy, like sometimes he felt cocky but okay, but then he would have these strange times where he'd do weird things like drag Ama around by a leash. Another thing was, I hated Ama too, so it was hard for me to feel sorry for her, or anyone really. I think I felt sorry for Tillie the most—she needed to get the hell out of that castle! Pawlin was also supposed to be a "man's man" but I liked him better than Ama too—who I'm supposed to feel sorry for.

    I will say that I loved the ending. It was pretty cool and awesome, but that didn't save this book. I think if I didn't feel like it had this weird agenda against men, then it would have been better, like the ending could have totally been the same but with less man hate! Also, why is the guy's dingaling referred to as a yard almost the entire time??? Weird!

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