Review: Damsel by Elena K. Arnold

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 is not the book I wanted to read, but it was a book that was important to read. 

Damsel is not the strongest book plotwise, the plot itself is very simple. Girl wakes up, she's been rescued by a prince and is not his betrothed, girl learns secrets about herself, the end.

But not quite.

The strongest point of this book is not the plot, it's the things that happen between the lines. It's the character development that Ama goes through. At the start of this book she is a blank slate, and it's hard to watch her slowly go from this strong optimistic person to this beaten down, fearful person. It's dark and deep and painful and in this #MeToo world that we live in, it's also way too real. Ama is abused, mentally and physically and sexually. Arnold does not write these things lightly, she doesn't cower from the details. This whole book is sexual and dark in a way that to more conservative readers may seem... tactless. To me, it seemed important.

There's very little that I can say on this book other than the above. It's not a love story, it's not a fairytale, but it has a very heavy meaning. The ending was as satisfying as I could have hoped, and yet the whole thing left a bitter taste in my mouth. 

It's hard to rate this book. As a fiction novel, I would call it underwhelming. As a cautionary, important social commentary, I cannot rate it highly enough.

Book released 2nd October 2018 by Balzer+ Bray
Book received from the publisher/author in exchange for an honest review

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