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Damsel

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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 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.


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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 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.

30 review for Damsel

  1. 5 out of 5

    Emily May

    Secrets, like memories, do not disappear just because they are buried by snow or time or distance. What an ugly, awful little book. 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. What Girls Are Made Of ripped my heart to shreds last year, and this dark fairy tale just Secrets, like memories, do not disappear just because they are buried by snow or time or distance. What an ugly, awful little book. 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. What Girls Are Made Of ripped my heart to shreds last year, and this dark fairy tale just stomped on the pieces. Damsel 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. Content warning for: Rape/sexual assault; abuse; self-harm; suicide; animal cruelty. I would also say Damsel 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: (view spoiler)[The ending is so fucking satisfying. Trust me. (hide spoiler)] Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Youtube

  2. 4 out of 5

    Brittney ~ Reverie and Ink

    I honestly can't give this one a rating, and that is largely due to the number of triggers - including graphic sexual assault, rape, self-harm, mental and physical abuse, suicide, and animal harm. 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 - including graphic sexual assault, rape, self-harm, mental and physical abuse, suicide, and animal harm. 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, so the triggers were definitely done on purpose - with purpose. However, I felt sick to my stomach during 90% of this book. I'm shocked this is marketed to YA readers. 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. SPOILERS BELOW (concerning the triggers): (view spoiler)[ For those of you concerned about reading, here is a list of things you need to know about/expect. Emory constantly talks down to Ama, to the point where he degrades her very existence. She is 'his' creation, in his eyes. On their way back to his castle, Ama finds a lynx and her kitten. Emory shoots the lynx, when the lynx didn't actually pose threat to Ama. Emory also undresses in front of Ama, and his body parts are described in sharp detail. In fact, throughout the book, there are graphic descriptions of ALL of his body parts - in detail - and what sex feels like with him (from other girls he sleeps with). In fact, the kingdom discusses Emory's 'horn' or 'yard' as they call it several times all throughout the book. In her first night (I think it's the first night) in the castle, Emory barges into her room, removes her clothes and shoves his fingers into... places. Then he apologizes, blaming it on the wine. He tells her she will have to give him everything on their wedding night, however. Emory constantly hovers over Ama, controlling her every action. The 'Queen Mother' (Emory's mom, who can't rule because 'women' can't rule in this world) - tells Ama to accept everything. She also talks of the former Queen Mother who found ways to cope in the castle through harming herself. Detailed self-harm talk. Then she tells Ama how the queen killed herself. Near the end, Emory finds Ama doing something he doesn't approve of. He hits Ama twice. Later, we find out Ama was actually the dragon, and Emory 'freed' her of the dragon by RAPING her, therefore turning her into a human and making her 'beautiful'. Come to think of it, that - to me - counts as beastiality. I'm sure I've missed a lot - as this was a lot for me to take in. I had to constantly check my mental state while reading, and that meant sitting it down several times. (hide spoiler)] 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! My Blog ~ Instagram ~ Twitter ~ Etsy

  3. 5 out of 5

    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 The Kingdom of Little Wound 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 The Kingdom of Little Wounds, 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 The Yellow Wallpaper and Other Stories and The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty while reading Damsel, so I think you can get the gist of the mood of this "fairy" tale.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Melanie

    ARC provided by the publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. “For Emory to take his father’s place as king, he must do as his father had done, and his father before him. He must conquer a dragon and rescue a damsel, and take that maiden as his bride.” 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 ARC provided by the publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. “For Emory to take his father’s place as king, he must do as his father had done, and his father before him. He must conquer a dragon and rescue a damsel, and take that maiden as his bride.” 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 content and trigger warnings 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. “The damsels are a legacy of nothing—no memory, no past, no family. Accept your nothing, and pray it stays that way.” 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. “I saved you,” Emory said. And Ama believed him.” 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: The Book of the Unnamed Midwife, Her Body and Other Parties, and The Power. Blog | Instagram | Twitter | Tumblr | Youtube | Twitch The quotes above were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication. Buddy read with Candance at Literary Dust! ❤

  5. 4 out of 5

    destiny ♎ [howling libraries]

    When I first heard about this, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I saw it hailed as a dark fairytale retelling, 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. Damsel, on the other hand, is exactly what it promises—an incredibly dark fantasy story that pulls no punches. “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 diff When I first heard about this, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I saw it hailed as a dark fairytale retelling, 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. Damsel, on the other hand, is exactly what it promises—an incredibly dark fantasy story that pulls no punches. “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.” 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. “The tastes of men are not all kind.” 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 really 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. Before Emory had saved her from the dragon, Ama had never been lonely. 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. “And if something is the way it has always been, who are we to wish it otherwise? Who are we to want anything at all?” As for the dark subject matter: the heavy content is why this story meant so much to me. We see feminist fantasy stories released all the time in YA lately, but they’re usually tame and merely hint at issues. Damsel, on the other hand, takes those issues and shoves them right in your face, forcing you to address their existence. This book is full of sexual assault (some of it explicit), 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, and I applaud her for that brutal honesty. “I have learned, lady, that ‘why’ is a dangerous word.” A lot of people are questioning whether Damsel 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 it would be better if Damsel was marketed to an adult audience, simply because I don’t feel like this story deserves to be punished for its truthfulness. “Wild beasts are not meant to be tamed.” All in all, if you’re interested in picking up a copy of Damsel, 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 need to feel disgusted, to be reminded of just how toxic our society’s treatment of women can be. If you can stomach it, Damsel is the perfect resource to take you there. All quotes come from an advance copy and may not match the final release. Thank you so much to Balzer + Bray for providing me with this ARC in exchange for an honest review! You can find this review and more on my blog, or you can follow me on twitter, bookstagram, or facebook!

  6. 5 out of 5

    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!

  7. 5 out of 5

    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 (view spoiler)[later revealed to be grossly sexual (hide spoiler)] 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.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Jeff Zentner

    Elana Arnold is a master of writing the struggles of young women and the violence they endure. DAMSEL is a story that feels both modern and ancient, a harrowing and compelling gothic fairytale of a young woman passing through fire to reclaim herself. It reads like a pre-Grimm-Brothers fairytale, before they were sanitized bedtime stories, when they went to the darkest reaches of the human heart to bear witness of who we really are. You will not be able to put this book down. You will not be able Elana Arnold is a master of writing the struggles of young women and the violence they endure. DAMSEL is a story that feels both modern and ancient, a harrowing and compelling gothic fairytale of a young woman passing through fire to reclaim herself. It reads like a pre-Grimm-Brothers fairytale, before they were sanitized bedtime stories, when they went to the darkest reaches of the human heart to bear witness of who we really are. You will not be able to put this book down. You will not be able to look away.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Alana • thebookishchick

    tw: rape, physical/sexual/emotional assault, mentions of suicide & self harm There were things I really loved about this and then there were other things that legitimately turned  my stomach. Because of that I've been struggling on what to rate this book. I simply can't justify the things I loved without shedding light on the topics I had trouble with because HOLY TRIGGERS, there's a lot. But at the same time I can't write a review on the things I had trouble with without recognizing the thin tw: rape, physical/sexual/emotional assault, mentions of suicide & self harm There were things I really loved about this and then there were other things that legitimately turned  my stomach. Because of that I've been struggling on what to rate this book. I simply can't justify the things I loved without shedding light on the topics I had trouble with because HOLY TRIGGERS, there's a lot. But at the same time I can't write a review on the things I had trouble with without recognizing the things I enjoyed. My main and biggest concern with this book is that it is YA, meaning 12 year old children who read YA can easily and unknowingly get their hands on this. And by no means am I dictating what children should be reading but there are no warnings about any of the triggering topics in this book. I personally understand the reason for all of these topics to be a huge part of the book, but I think a younger audience may not pick up on it so easily. (We're talking about a 10+ year gap between myself and 12 year old children) Initially, I really loved this story. The writing was phenomenal, and remained phenomenal throughout the book. I absolutely cannot take that away from the author. There are very few if any fantasy novels that I can devour in just about one sitting. However, as we got deeper and deeper into the story and got to see Prince Emory for who he truly is I became more and more unsettled that this was a YA book. I do have to admit though this was super unique and the ending kind of blew my mind (in good ways and super unsettling ways). All in all, I think this book would have faired better under the NA category to make sure it falls into the right hands. Blog | Twitter | Instagram

  10. 4 out of 5

    Sabrina The Trash Queen

    That end was just what I need it. Die fucker, bye you pissed of shit, you will not be missed. This is the sort of book that is going to get a lot of 1 stars rating our none at all. Is hard to give a rating for this one, being that involves so many triggers. But overall, a very interesting story. The writing is solid. Very short. “One should not make a pet out of a wild beast” TW: violence of all types; animal harm and self harm. ——————————————————————————— ➳Thank you Edelweiss and the publisher for That end was just what I need it. Die fucker, bye you pissed of shit, you will not be missed. This is the sort of book that is going to get a lot of 1 stars rating our none at all. Is hard to give a rating for this one, being that involves so many triggers. But overall, a very interesting story. The writing is solid. Very short. “One should not make a pet out of a wild beast” TW: violence of all types; animal harm and self harm. ——————————————————————————— ➳Thank you Edelweiss and the publisher for an ARC of this book.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Jackie

    This book is fucking terrible. “Damsel” tells the story of a prince off to slay a dragon and rescue a girl who he will take home to be his queen. When she awakes she has no memory of her rescue, her family or her very name and is left at the mercy of the prince who takes her back to his kingdom and mother, but things are not as they seem and she soon finds herself struggling to come to terms with her present while hunting for the answers in her past. Where to begin because holy shit. How about w This book is fucking terrible. “Damsel” tells the story of a prince off to slay a dragon and rescue a girl who he will take home to be his queen. When she awakes she has no memory of her rescue, her family or her very name and is left at the mercy of the prince who takes her back to his kingdom and mother, but things are not as they seem and she soon finds herself struggling to come to terms with her present while hunting for the answers in her past. Where to begin because holy shit. How about we start with the fact that this is categorized as a young adult but it is written as something far older, shout out to the c*nt insult being used here like it’s nothing! Speaking of which there’s not one, not two but three rape scenes all on the main character! We’ve got the actual act, interrupted penetration and a forced hand job! The word “breast” itself is used a whopping 25 times because this entire book is about a fuckboy royal who everyone just shrugs their shoulders at, and his dick is discussed 19 times. But that’s not all folks this charmer is also physically abusive and parades her around on a leash because that’s cool. It wasn’t even like this kind of awfulness was done in a way to make you realize how bad her situation was, that was done pretty quickly just given her ambiguous rescue and amnesia, and the payoff was a generous two sentences. I sat through absolute horror and the constant degrading of women (they’re referred to whores and sluts by every single character or called vessels to be filled when trying to be nice) for that ending? Absolutely not. I’m almost amazed a woman wrote this and not once thought maybe I need to rethink things. I would give this zero stars if I could and I’m deleting it from my kindle because I unfortunately can’t delete it from my memory. **special thanks to the publishers and edelweiss for providing an arc in exchange for a fair and honest review**

  12. 4 out of 5

    Amy

    ARC provided by the publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. Okay, this is going to be one of those books with very polarizing reviews. You’re either going to love it, hate it, or be in the middle (like me) where you like the writing and message, but you’re also shaking your head going, WTF? Firstly, here are the trigger warnings: Sexual assault/rape, mental and physical abuse, harm to animals, suicide and self harm (it’s discussed), imprisonment. Even though this is a dark fairy t ARC provided by the publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. Okay, this is going to be one of those books with very polarizing reviews. You’re either going to love it, hate it, or be in the middle (like me) where you like the writing and message, but you’re also shaking your head going, WTF? Firstly, here are the trigger warnings: Sexual assault/rape, mental and physical abuse, harm to animals, suicide and self harm (it’s discussed), imprisonment. Even though this is a dark fairy tale retelling I feel like it would benefit more if it were marketed as an adult book rather than YA. While dark subject matter doesn’t bother me, I do believe this book brings up ugly scenarios that may not be suitable for everyone. Damsel opens like a typical fairy tale: a prince slays a dragon to save a damsel in distress. This is what is supposed to happen after the rescue; the “happily ever afters”. The prince will become king and he needs a queen. However, after Prince Emory brings Ama back to his kingdom, Ama is full of questions. But she doesn’t remember what happened to her before she was captured by the dragon. While Ama has no memory of her family or previous life, Emory assures her she’s safe now and she will be his queen. This book explores some very heavy themes, one of which is women’s rights. It is mentioned several times that women are just vessels for child bearing; that they must do whatever the man says because it is a man’s world. And that a woman’s wants do not matter as long as the man is pleased. This type of abuse isn’t only directed at Ama but at the other female characters as well. Later Ama’s happiness is stripped layer by layer through different forms of mental abuse. I won’t go into spoilery details, but there are some scenes that made me feel so much anger. And, yes, there are sexual abuse/rape scenes (one that goes into beastiality territory), which I had to sit the book down and say WHAT THE F*CK? Did I really just read that!? And don’t get me started on the euphemisms the author uses for “penis”. Like, it’s cringe worthy. It is referred to as an “ivory tusk” and “yard” several times. I just… why? It was so awkward. But despite that WTF-moments, I actually liked it? I appreciated the feminist message behind this book, which is so important and reflective of how women are still treated today. I totally felt for Ama and I loved watching her character grow. And the ending is hella satisfying (even though it wraps up way too fast). I loved Arnold’s writing and how she was able to invoke so many emotions from me. That’s the thing about books like these; they might be ugly and dark, but they sure as hell stick with me for a long time. Blog | Instagram | Twitter

  13. 4 out of 5

    Ellie (faerieontheshelf)

    ↠ 3.5 stars I received a copy in exchange for a honest review. This is going to be such a divisive book; looking down the ratings my friends have given it on Goodreads, there is such a variation between 4 stars and 2 stars. It is a dark, provocative and slightly terrible novel, but it doesn’t promise to be anything different. It is a book about the treatment of women in a world dominated by men, and it is depressing. Before I go on, I want to state something: I don't believe this book can be easil ↠ 3.5 stars I received a copy in exchange for a honest review. This is going to be such a divisive book; looking down the ratings my friends have given it on Goodreads, there is such a variation between 4 stars and 2 stars. It is a dark, provocative and slightly terrible novel, but it doesn’t promise to be anything different. It is a book about the treatment of women in a world dominated by men, and it is depressing. Before I go on, I want to state something: I don't believe this book can be easily classified as a YA book despite the fact that I feel like the marketing, cover, and a host of other factors seem to point towards the fact that it is. I would genuinely feel uncomfortable giving this to a 14 year old (which is the youngest end of the targeted demographic according to the proof copy). This book has explicit non-consensual sexual acts (described in detail) amongst other content that that could be potentially triggering for readers who are not expecting it. I feel, additionally, that people have problems with it because it “went too far” for a YA book, and that it’s darkness would be better viewed if it was framed as an adult read. Now that this is stated, I can admit Damsel is a very carefully-crafted tongue-in-cheek book about gender and the treatment of women in a male-dominated world. It is based upon the idea of what happens after the “happily ever after” and is inspired by the original dark fairytales, the ones where the princesses didn’t come off all that well at the end (The Little Mermaid commits suicide; Sleeping Beauty is raped whilst asleep, and so forth.) I would not go so far as to say Damsel is feminist; the heroine doesn’t really attempt to break from her patriarchal chains until the very end of the novel. She is pushed and manipulated into filling a womanly role, and often she does submit, as there is no other choice for her to make. Sentence choice is painstakingly selected in this novel. The speech given to Emory (the prince, and later, king) is not, at first, shocking, but it becomes insidious and you slowly become aware that he is, in fact, an awful man and the villain of the story. The thing is, he is charming at times, too, which makes it even more complex, because readers find it harder to see him just as a plain old villain. His lines (such as “I rescued you from the dragon”, and “a women’s name should begin with an open sound”) slowly unnerve you with their masculine entitlement. The latter, about the open sound, is also subtly sexual in nature, like so many offhand comments that the male characters make. Then there are lines such as “Please. She knew it would become her most popular word” (*I’ve paraphrased this, as I can’t find the actual line) which reinforces the submissive position of the heroine. Plus, there was the psychological manipulation performed by Emory which basically tricks Ama, the heroine, into being grateful to him and subjugating her further into a submissive role and into a position where she believes she should be thankful to men and their masculine brilliance and their natural role as saviour and protector and I just ??? Like damn, that really aggravated me the wrong way, which was obviously deliberate on the author’s part. Another really clever thing was the use of wild animals as mirrors for the heroine’s predicament. There was Sorrow, Ama’s lynx, and then Isolde, the falconer’s hawk. Both are creatures whose natural wildness was culled by men to ensure their tameness, and in turn only if they are tame can they be “useful”. Sorrow, in the end, is let loose by the heroine as she knows the lynx could never be happy in a submissive role – the act is one that mirrors the heroine’s internal feelings, and setting up for her final decision. There is a twist at the end of the novel, though if you’re paying attention, I think most readers will begin to guess (likely accurately) part of it before the end. The ending itself was left very open and most will view it as a positive end, I think. The book was well-paced at just over 300 pages, and I absolutely sped through it. I was also very fond of the author’s writing style; it had a subtle prettiness to it. Also this book had a lot of cats in it, and I liked that. Plus, glassblowing is an art I love but you never really see in books, so I enjoyed that too. The one thing that made me die a little inside every time (and not in a good way), were the word choices for male genitalia. “Tusk” and “yard” were the most often used, and I swear I will never look at those words the same again. “Tusk” obviously is an intentional choice for the subliminal message of violent impalement that it brings, but damn. Honestly, I admit I got a lot of pleasure out of this book just for the amount of layered material it provided to me as a reader. I could think over the intention behind the word choices and metaphors, and I openly admit that I enjoy books that provide layers of meaning and make me think about their creation. It brings me back to the days where I’d analyse sentences intensely in English, ha. Some people say that The Little Mermaid-based The Surface Breaks by Louise O’ Neill has the same idea of a subjugative, patriachal society behind it, but it’s done much better. I can’t comment, as I haven’t read it, but when I read it I will be certain to compare the two. It also sounds like The Surface Breaks didn’t push as far as Damsel did (honestly I’ll keep everyone updated when I read) and was more faithful to the YA limitations, which may be one reason why more people liked it? Not many people like reading overly dark books, and the truth hurts. But the fact is, the patriarchal world in Damsel used to exist in our world (and still does, in some places), and you can’t hide the fact that women were treated abysmally, as nothing more than objects and vessels for childbirth. TL;DR: This is a very dark book, and please only go into it if you feel mentally prepared. It is a provoking examination on a patriarchal society wherein women are lesser, with a fantasy, “fairytale” twist, and if you aware of what you’re going into and enjoy these kind of books, I would happily recommend it. EDIT: the author herself has commented on the fact people believe this book isn’t “YA” in a post on her blog and her response is well-articulated and thoughtful. As a reviewer, it is also my job to make sure that readers (especially young readers) are aware of what they’re going into, and certainly when there are so many triggering subjects. But if they’re aware and happy to read it, then those YA readers are more than welcome to read. this review is also available on my blog, faerieontheshelf.wordpress.com

  14. 5 out of 5

    Billie

    This is not the Prince-rescues-Princess-from-Dragon book you expect, but it may very well be the book that you—or someone you know—needs. Embrace your Sorrow. Free your Fury. Be the Dragon.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Hollis

    Guuuuys I think my reading mojo is baaack. Because while I could hardly tear myself away from my last read, I was pretty much incapable of putting this down. DAMSEL consumed me. “All kings, for as far back as our memory goes, are made the same way. The prince must venture alone away from Harding. He must find the dragon. He must conquer the dragon, and free the damsel from captivity. When he returns home with his prize, he has proven himself worthy of the crown and is made king.” This is a weird d Guuuuys I think my reading mojo is baaack. Because while I could hardly tear myself away from my last read, I was pretty much incapable of putting this down. DAMSEL consumed me. “All kings, for as far back as our memory goes, are made the same way. The prince must venture alone away from Harding. He must find the dragon. He must conquer the dragon, and free the damsel from captivity. When he returns home with his prize, he has proven himself worthy of the crown and is made king.” This is a weird dark little read. I’ll admit that I did go into it with some trepidation because I heard murmurs of strangeness and unpleasantness and those are valid and accurate claims. However oh man however. I still loved this. “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.” Arnold toys with all the tropes of the shining knight, the dashing hero, and the rescued princess, or damsel, and twists them. This book is uncomfortable and brilliant and achingly sad and awful but everything still manages to unfold with a happy ending to wrap it up. Well, a happy ending of sorts. She was too much and not enough, both in the same instant. Too big and too small; too bright and too dull; too affectionate and not affectionate enough. I totally see why some people struggle with this, I don’t know who, if anyone, I would necessarily recommend it too, and I seriously doubt it’ll be on many top lists or recommendations, but this worked for me in ways I did not expect and I am so happy I didn’t push this aside for something else. Also okay the cover totally makes sense now. Right on. ** I received an ARC from Edelweiss and the publisher (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. **

  16. 4 out of 5

    Vicky Who Reads

    5 stars TW: rape, self-harm, abuse, animal abuse, graphic violence, bestiality This is not a book for everyone, but it was the book for me. I can feel all the people cringing away from this book, and know that you don't have to read it, and no one will fault you for not reading it. I can feel all the DNFs coming this way, as it's a very graphic book marketed towards the YA audience, and DNFing is a completely valid thing to do. As you can see by the long list of trigger warnings, this can be very da 5 stars TW: rape, self-harm, abuse, animal abuse, graphic violence, bestiality This is not a book for everyone, but it was the book for me. I can feel all the people cringing away from this book, and know that you don't have to read it, and no one will fault you for not reading it. I can feel all the DNFs coming this way, as it's a very graphic book marketed towards the YA audience, and DNFing is a completely valid thing to do. As you can see by the long list of trigger warnings, this can be very dark and VERY surprising if you're unprepared. Right off the bat, I say this book is for 16+, mayyybe 15+. I wouldn't really hand this to a freshman. I'm 17, and although I never struggled with reading the content and it's graphic scenes, nor did I ever feel tangible, physical discomfort, it was still very emotionally impactful. (I've also never had personal experience with any of the TWs, which is largely why.) Because this is a powerful, powerful book, hidden under layers and layers of anger and hurt and pain. It's ugly, it's twisted, and it's not something everyone can love. But it was something I loved. Right off from the start, there were so many subtle hints dropped about Prince Emory and how he's a terrible person and basically the epitome of the patriarchy. In retrospect, the way it was done is completely genius in the way it was done and Arnold is AMAZING. Even in chapter one, you can start seeing the true nature of Emory's character and how he begins to "brainwash" Ama into following his rules and acting how he wants her to act. This is shown in the very act of naming her Ama, in the way he kills the lynx, in the way he intentionally leaves information out, in the description of his first kill, in how he pees all over the mountain top and stakes his claim. The signs are everywhere. And it builds and builds and builds into this really strong and devastating (yet quietly triumphant) story. There's genuinely nothing happy about this story (except those couple lines at the end) and it is dark and twisted and ugly and gruesome and overall, really depressing. But it's the truth, and I found a strong sense of triumph about how the ugliness of man was exposed in a way that emphasizes the flaws of fictional tales from our past (see: Sleeping Beauty). Arnold wrote it really well, and it felt like a fable was being read to you with the luscious descriptions and purposeful narration. The atmosphere was just so on point and extremely heavy I wanted to cry reading the first few pages even though nothing was really happening and off the atmosphere (and some of the hints about Emory) alone. It's how Damsel manages to really grab at your heart that I found to be this book's best quality. For many other writers, telling this tale would end up just being sad and depressing and overall a bring-everyone-down (see: I Stop Somewhere by T.E. Carter). But the way Arnold writes it makes everything so stark and shocking and yet truthful and that's really what I felt redeemed this book. I've heard so many women say that they almost didn't believe it happened and it still doesn't really register the sheer significance of the acts that were committed against them. (see: Maureen Johnson's thread on her experience & how it hasn't really registered for her), and this is what Damsel does in a way. Damsel exposes all the things that we've somehow become conditioned to accept as nearly normal, and it shows us that this is not right and that society and the people in society need to change. She shows us just how ugly we humans are, and in a way, how the princes in our fairytales are so similar to Emory. Sure, they can be charming, but they've also probably never worked for equality in any of the fairy tales, either. Damsel lets us explore the gruesome yet true side of humanity and oppression in a way that is the most horrifying in the way that it rings true. It's a social commentary of our real world. It's terrifying and disgusting and gruesome but it's the truth for so many people out there. If you're looking for a rallying tale of women taking down an oppressive system, find something else to read. But if you're looking for a stark and true commentary on the realities of what women have gone through and what they continue to go through, keep reading. I want to end my review with this quote from the author: "Damsel is about waking up female in a man’s world. It’s about power, and abuses of power by powerful men. It’s about secrets. It's about pride, and anger, and action. I put my anger into this book, and I surprised myself with what my anger and I created." I do want to talk about the graphicness of this story and why I felt like even though it is really really graphic and has a high potential for triggers, it also doesn't necessarily need to NOT be marketed as YA. I get that it's a lot of really graphic content and I wouldn't want a 13 year old picking it up. But as a teen myself, I've seen so many adults talk about how this doesn't really belong in YA and how it's too much, and I think this isn't completely true. First, if you're triggered by it, you shouldn't be picking it up, regardless of age. And yes, it doesn't belong in lower YA. But I feel like it's something that needs to be said. Damsel is a story that demands to be told, and if we tell it to an adult audience, the message will never really travel connect. I feel like the triggers had a purpose and they really contributed to this story. It wasn't just random throwing around rape scenes for the fun of it. It was purposeful. It has a meaning. And I personally think that Damsel would have been called out regardless of what age it was marketed for. I think people would still clamor about it and say that it's too much, and although it is too much for some people, it's still a really important story to tell. But I also acknowledge that although some teens like me can handle this type of content and still appreciate the huge consequences, others can't--even if they haven't had any personal experience with the triggers. Either way, what's done is done, and this book is almost published. Just wanted to add my two cents in. Thank you so much to Harper Collins & Edelweiss for providing me with a digital review copy in exchange for an honest review! Blog | Instagram | Twitter

  17. 4 out of 5

    Allison C

    This was a very dark book, and went the opposite way that I expected altogether. The “twist” wasn’t even a twist, and the entire book is stuffed with so much disgusting content that it became repulsive. It is also very dark, and the supposed good ending is dark in its own way. The messages that are portrayed in this book are horrible, as the King’s mother simply tells the damsel that even if you’re suffering, it’s simply the way it’s always been. I won’t even bother talking about the king, as he This was a very dark book, and went the opposite way that I expected altogether. The “twist” wasn’t even a twist, and the entire book is stuffed with so much disgusting content that it became repulsive. It is also very dark, and the supposed good ending is dark in its own way. The messages that are portrayed in this book are horrible, as the King’s mother simply tells the damsel that even if you’re suffering, it’s simply the way it’s always been. I won’t even bother talking about the king, as he is a horrifying excuse for a “evil” protagonist. There are so many trigger warnings present in the book, that make the book uncomfortable. I don’t really want to rate this one, as the content wasn’t for me. The author explains many aspects of the book in great detail, but the bad aspects overcome anything good about the book. The review is pretty short, but I hope that it provides a warning for those deciding whether they should read this or not.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Shannon (It Starts At Midnight)

    You can find the full review and all the fancy and/or randomness that accompanies it at It Starts at Midnight This is quite a unique, feminist fairy tale! First- let me just put out a trigger warning for... Idk, literally everything? Perhaps I should have made more note of this as I was reading, but I didn't, so just... lots of awful junk goes down, but if you are able to read it, it does lead to a story that will make you as furious about our misogynist society as you need to be. It poses, at fi You can find the full review and all the fancy and/or randomness that accompanies it at It Starts at Midnight This is quite a unique, feminist fairy tale! First- let me just put out a trigger warning for... Idk, literally everything? Perhaps I should have made more note of this as I was reading, but I didn't, so just... lots of awful junk goes down, but if you are able to read it, it does lead to a story that will make you as furious about our misogynist society as you need to be. It poses, at first, as a quaint fairy tale, with a prince and a dragon. Though you can kind of tell that the prince is a bit of an asshat from the start, he isn't wholly awful. At first, anyway. But I think that's part of the genius- he isn't the most awful, so he thinks he's a real swell guy. (Don't worry, the story delves much deeper!) It's dark to be sure. The stuff that happens to Ama, that happens to all the women, isn't pretty, and it isn't pleasant. But of course, everyone wants Ama to accept it because that's "just the way things are". Which... who among us hasn't heard that line of B.S. before? I really think that this is a story best experienced with knowing as little as possible going in, so I am done. The only thing I'd have liked a little more of is possibly a stronger connection with Ama, but overall I absolutely flew through reading this. It wasn't as much the story (though I did enjoy the story itself too!) as the idea that the author truly understands how it feels to be... well, not a man in a male-dominated society. It's a feeling of someone hearing you, in a sense.  Bottom Line: Definitely dark, definitely unsettling, but absolutely worth the read if you're game. 

  19. 4 out of 5

    Kate (Reading Through Infinity)

    2.5 stars TWs for sexual abuse, sexual assault, domestic violence, animal mutilation I have so many thoughts about this book and not all of them good. There's a lot of sexism written into the story, and the women are treated as vessels for childbirth and objects of men. While, it's easy to see that the author purposefully included this as a social commentary on our real world, it was painfully uncomfortable to read at times, and some scenes felt unnecessary. If sexual assault is a trigger for you, 2.5 stars TWs for sexual abuse, sexual assault, domestic violence, animal mutilation I have so many thoughts about this book and not all of them good. There's a lot of sexism written into the story, and the women are treated as vessels for childbirth and objects of men. While, it's easy to see that the author purposefully included this as a social commentary on our real world, it was painfully uncomfortable to read at times, and some scenes felt unnecessary. If sexual assault is a trigger for you, I wouldn't recommend picking up this book, as there are numerous references to it and one more graphic scene involving an active assault. The narrative is quite introspective and we stay very much in the head of Ama, the protagonist, meaning the plot is slow-moving and lacking in action. Ama comes across as quite bland and passive, so although I sympathised with her plight and felt anger on her behalf, I didn't find myself investing in her future. For me, there were just too many instances of women being threatened with sexual violence for the sake of a plot device. There's also once scene involving bestiality which was just downright bizarre and awkward. The book's only saving grace comes in the final two pages, where, in a delightful twist, Ama instigates revenge for her treatment, and saves herself. I'd hoped for a lot more from this book than just the usual gender binaries and abusive romance tropes, but unfortunately that was all I really got. There were no queer or diverse characters, and the book felt flat and one dimensional without them.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Kayla Brunson

    ARC provided via Edelweiss for an honest review. I couldn’t finish this one guys. This was was a book where I should have read the reviews before requesting a copy. I saw a beautiful cover and thought the synopsis was promising. Ya’ll, I couldn’t have been more wrong! This book needs to come with a freakin’ trigger label attached to it. TRIGGERS: →Self Harm →Rape, Attempted Rape →Beastiality →Abuse And the list literally goes on! I had to put the book down and step away. I honestly don’t understand ARC provided via Edelweiss for an honest review. I couldn’t finish this one guys. This was was a book where I should have read the reviews before requesting a copy. I saw a beautiful cover and thought the synopsis was promising. Ya’ll, I couldn’t have been more wrong! This book needs to come with a freakin’ trigger label attached to it. TRIGGERS: →Self Harm →Rape, Attempted Rape →Beastiality →Abuse And the list literally goes on! I had to put the book down and step away. I honestly don’t understand how this is being categorized as Young Adult. There is no way I would want my kids to read this. Heck, I’m 27 and I can’t even stomach this book. Bottom line, don’t be fooled by the beautiful cover and synopsis. Read some reviews and see if this is a good fit for you. Blog | Instagram | Twitter

  21. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer

    I am at a lost of words on what I just read. I think I'm mostly at a lost on what I read.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Lorraine

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I am going to keep spoiler free. I enjoyed this book but so think that YA is not the best description. It is dark, but also enchanting. I could not put it down. The only reason it's a 4 not a 5 is that the big finale I assumed by page 50. Nonetheless, I really enjoyed the book and got on really well with Arnold's writing. Would recommend

  23. 5 out of 5

    Madison

    A deeply dark and twisted fairytale reimagining, Damsel takes all the usual fairytale gender roles and dials them up to eleven, creating a shockingly reflective story about the worst of gender roles and subjugation. From the cover and synopsis of Damsel I expected a sweet and adventurous novel about a girl who didn’t fit the damsel mould, who was brave and fought and showed the world how awesome strong girls can be. I expected a celebration of female strength. Instead, going into this book with A deeply dark and twisted fairytale reimagining, Damsel takes all the usual fairytale gender roles and dials them up to eleven, creating a shockingly reflective story about the worst of gender roles and subjugation. From the cover and synopsis of Damsel I expected a sweet and adventurous novel about a girl who didn’t fit the damsel mould, who was brave and fought and showed the world how awesome strong girls can be. I expected a celebration of female strength. Instead, going into this book with nothing but the cover and synopsis as a guide, I found a deeply disturbing story about the worst of human behaviour. When Ama is rescued from a dragon by Prince Emory, she must accompany him back to his castle and prepare to become his wife. But Prince Emory is not a kind nor gentle man and Ama wants to discover the truth about the way he freed her from the dragon. Damsel is certainly no pretty, little fairytale retelling. It’s far more like the dark, original fairytales of cruelty, pain and a place where women have no power. It quickly became clear the Emory is a horrible, vile character. As I was reading I slowly started to get this sick feeling. Stopping, I headed to GoodReads to see what other readers were saying, only to find that I wasn’t alone and that my fears for the book and its tone were not only going to be realised but become far, far worse. While a mature reader may see the parallels drawn between the gender roles assigned in fairytales and society, may see it as a stark reminder of how bad it can be, it is hard to find a positive message to take from this story. And while readers are provided with a mildly satisfying ending, I was sad that it only benefitted Ama -deserving though she was - leaving the other women with no change, no great message of hope or seeing that while some men might be as vile as Emory, others are not. There is no way I will be putting a copy of this book on our library shelves. It’s a book that certainly has a place within the wider publication market, but I simply cannot recommend it for teenage readers. Unlike I was, please be aware when deciding to read this book about the many triggers within the story, including crude references and strong derogatory language, physical and sexual abuse, rape, animal cruelty, self harm and suicide. The publishers provided an advanced readers copy of this book for reviewing purposes. All opinions are my own. Find more reviews, reading age guides, content advisory, and recommendations on my blog Madison's Library

  24. 5 out of 5

    Emma

    dnf around 35%. this was one of the most painfully boring things I’ve read in a while. I can see that the author tried to go for some kind of fairy tale satire, but trying to keep reading this felt like being force fed stale communion bread. I don’t even know how to describe this. it’s a story that tries to highlight the problems with the traditional narrative of a handsome prince rescuing a damsel in distress, and the power imbalance inherent to this kind of patriarchal framing. which is someth dnf around 35%. this was one of the most painfully boring things I’ve read in a while. I can see that the author tried to go for some kind of fairy tale satire, but trying to keep reading this felt like being force fed stale communion bread. I don’t even know how to describe this. it’s a story that tries to highlight the problems with the traditional narrative of a handsome prince rescuing a damsel in distress, and the power imbalance inherent to this kind of patriarchal framing. which is something that ordinarily I would appreciate in a book......*sigh*. in Damsel, though, this all felt so heavy handed and obvious. reading this feels like being slapped across the forehead with a steel shovel, like the author doesn’t believe readers have ever heard of nuance. I predicted the entire plot after reading the first chapter (and my predictions were confirmed by other reviewers). I didn’t get far enough to be able to give a comprehensive list of triggers, but please be advised that this book deals with abuse and sexual assault.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Cindy ✩☽ Savage Queen ♔

    Love at first sight! Honestly, something about the cover just works for me. And the synopsis sounds promising as well, so I am in =D

  26. 5 out of 5

    Kate

    ARC provided by Edelweiss. I don't remember the last time I was so indecisive about rating a story. My initial reaction was quite a negative one and some of those initial reservations are still here with me at the end of the book. On the other hand, when I look at the bigger point I think the author was trying to make - I have to admit it's quite brilliant. So now onto the details - The prince is set to slay the dragon and save the damsel. Prince and the damsel are each other's "destiny", "mates" ARC provided by Edelweiss. I don't remember the last time I was so indecisive about rating a story. My initial reaction was quite a negative one and some of those initial reservations are still here with me at the end of the book. On the other hand, when I look at the bigger point I think the author was trying to make - I have to admit it's quite brilliant. So now onto the details - The prince is set to slay the dragon and save the damsel. Prince and the damsel are each other's "destiny", "mates". The prince's role is to become a king and rule and the damsel's role is to stand by his side and attend to his needs. And all lived happily ever after, right? NO. I get the purpose of this book – it’s supposed to be this dark fantasy, a sort of anti fairy tale twist on “Sleeping Beauty” and similar stories. Even the title is rather telling – because to most characters in this story, especially Emory (the prince), Ama has no identity apart from being “the damsel”. She is only there to be saved and to stand by her prince's side. She is not to have any deeper thoughts or ambitions, or - THE SCANDAL - her own opinions on things. Thankfully, Ama has a different take on how things should be. Now, onto the things that I really liked in this book: 1) The writing itself - the story is well-written, it flows nicely and the pacing is good, apart from maybe a few instances here and there when it gets a tad too slow. But I definitely liked the author's voice and how she delivers the punchline. 2) The structure- first we are drawn in with Emory’s POV, who seems like a real prince (although THERE ARE some small warning signs - the way he seems to fixate on "saving" Ama and how he's not so gracious about it, more like "BE THANKFUL" kind of way; the way he just decides to give the damsel name "Ama" without even stopping to think that she could have an opinion on her own name) and then with Ama’s POV, we quite quickly learn that he’s the actual monster she should be rescued from 3) Simple short sentences that pack an emotional punch and remain relevant in today's world. Like Ama's promise to herself - "I'll be less" (in order to survive, in order to be more appealing to Emory so that her life will be easier). Is there a woman out there who hasn't felt pressured at least once to be less intelligent, less ambitious, just less, to make some man in her life comfortable? And there are many more of these throughout the book. 4) The ending - that vermin of a king is stabbed to death and the dragon is set free again. What didn't quite work for me: 1) It's marketed as YA, WHYYYYY??! I don’t care how many times you replace the word “penis” with “ivory tusk” or “great thick horn” – there’s a casual use of the C word in this book, scenes of rape and sexual assault (and one that can actually count as bestiality when you think about it) as well as animal abuse and depression - it should AT LEAST come with some trigger warnings but honestly, despite the fairy tale setting, I can't imagine it being suitable for all of YA target group (which I believe is readers from 12/14-years old to 18 and older?). I know that if I realized before just how much sexual assault is featured in this book, I would've thought twice about reading it. 2) While I would say that the topic of sexual assault is treated respectfully (and with a bigger purpose in mind, it's not just "thrown out there" for the sake of drama), I was missing one crucial thing. After it happens, Emory, the disgusting excuse of a human being that he is, blames it all on Ama - you know, how lovely she is and what men could restrain himself, it's really commendable of him that he stopped when he did, CAN HE BE MORE DISGUSTING, I DON'T THINK SO. But that he blames it on the victim is, sadly, predictable. However, what I wanted to see in this story and it wasn't there was Ama realizing that it was NOT her fault - or someone being there for her, telling her that. 3) The ending - I loved it but it also left me a bit unsatisfied? After all Ama went through and all the stress and anxiety I was feeling while reading it (despite the negative emotions, that's another thing on the "plus" side - the way the author can keep up the suspense and this overwhelming feeling like something bad is about to happen), the payoff was rather abrupt. Perhaps it was supposed to be empowering conclusion and in a way, it was. I just think that after everything, it could've been more elaborate. All in all, this book is not an easy one. It will make you uncomfortable and to be honest, it's supposed to make you uncomfortable. It makes you think. And in the end, I wish I could give it more than 3.5 stars but due to all the points I made in "didn't like" column, I don't think I can. Still, the quality of the writing and the original idea made me that much more curious about other works of this author and I will surely add her other books to my "to be read" pile.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Beth

    DNF at 26% I'm not really sure what I expected, I'm hoping to pick this up again possibly at a later date, but it's putting me in a bit of a reading slump and I need to power through with my reading this month. Hopefully when I come back around to reading this I might find it easier and more engaging.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Minni Mouse

    Admittedly, I skimmed this book in an hour. On the other hand, it was boring and senseless and one star is being generous. This reminds me of the tone behind Beast: A Tale of Love and Revenge in its attempted creativity and dark themes...(view spoiler)[but all I got from this book was Emory is like a little Joffrey from Game of Thrones and he climbed up a castle wall for a few chapters before stabbing a dragon in the armpit with his sword and wiggling his dick around in the armpit wound until t Admittedly, I skimmed this book in an hour. On the other hand, it was boring and senseless and one star is being generous. This reminds me of the tone behind Beast: A Tale of Love and Revenge in its attempted creativity and dark themes...(view spoiler)[but all I got from this book was Emory is like a little Joffrey from Game of Thrones and he climbed up a castle wall for a few chapters before stabbing a dragon in the armpit with his sword and wiggling his dick around in the armpit wound until the dragon tuned into a beautiful girl with red hair. Then, many chapters of Ama and her kitten tromping around while Emory prepares for their wedding. (hide spoiler)] Yep, definitely a one star. THE GOOD The author does a fair job of making Emory an unlikable character. THE BAD 1) Literally everything. 2) From the three books I've read on the topic, I can't stand this new wave of "feminist" books among the fantasy genre. Surface Breaks was just as painful and negative to read, which is a book often compared to Damsel. FINAL THOUGHTS Nope. Nope, nope.

  29. 5 out of 5

    hannah ✧/ᐠ-ꞈ-ᐟ\ (on hiatus)

    Tentative rating: 3.5 stars This is how he likes me best... when I am in need of rescue. So the author wrote this in the cover reveal for Damsel, and I think it sums up the book quite nicely: Damsel is about waking up female in a man’s world. It’s about power, and abuses of power by powerful men. It’s about secrets. It's about pride, and anger, and action. I put my anger into this book, and I surprised myself with what my anger and I created. RTC! 💖 _______ PRE-REVIEW I've seen a lot of mixed review Tentative rating: 3.5 stars This is how he likes me best... when I am in need of rescue. So the author wrote this in the cover reveal for Damsel, and I think it sums up the book quite nicely: Damsel is about waking up female in a man’s world. It’s about power, and abuses of power by powerful men. It’s about secrets. It's about pride, and anger, and action. I put my anger into this book, and I surprised myself with what my anger and I created. RTC! 💖 _______ PRE-REVIEW I've seen a lot of mixed reviews on this, but it oddly just makes me want to read the book more. I've been waiting for a dark fantasy Sleeping Beauty retelling practically all my life! [also I'm confused as to why this isn't being marketed towards an older audience because the content matter seems v mature for YA?]

  30. 4 out of 5

    Alice

    4 stars Wow. This is basically literary fiction. I think you could teach an English lit course or a unit using this book because it's that expertly crafted. So yeah, this book's full of misogyny, but it is very much a commentary about sexism. The entire book is constructed to be like that from the start, and if Emory talking about constantly conquering shit like he already owns it in part 1 didn't tip you off to his male entitlement, well... there's lots more of that to come. Note: Wouldn't recomm 4 stars Wow. This is basically literary fiction. I think you could teach an English lit course or a unit using this book because it's that expertly crafted. So yeah, this book's full of misogyny, but it is very much a commentary about sexism. The entire book is constructed to be like that from the start, and if Emory talking about constantly conquering shit like he already owns it in part 1 didn't tip you off to his male entitlement, well... there's lots more of that to come. Note: Wouldn't recommend this for younger teens because wow. A lot of bad shit happens in this book. You can find a whole list of content warnings for this on other reviews - I will say they use the word c*nt, so if that itself offends you, stay away. Otherwise, I feel like there's a lot worse that happens in this book than a girl calling Ama a c*nt. That's like the least of your worries when there's sexual assault, heavy misogyny, and the fact that Emory can't stop talking about his dick (i.e. yard/horn) every chapter he's present and has no concept of boundaries. I don't really have any complaints besides the fact if (view spoiler)[the dragon eyes turning black can be reversed - it's very much shown that the glimmer in a dragon's eyes disappears based on how crushed her soul is but I wonder if let's say... the queen mother even has a chance of getting the glimmer back. Because I don't wanna say that it's sex with the king that's crossing the line from dragonhood to not-dragonhood, but rather the continuous soul-crushing living at the castle can do. (hide spoiler)] (view spoiler)[ Also if the kings always marry dragon damsels, would the bloodline not be saturated with dragon-blooded sons? (hide spoiler)] I do like how much dragons are tied to the sun, fire and heat. Elana K. Arnold's writing is very precise in how it gets its point across. I was hooked in by the writing on page 1 (I'm not exagerrating). The prose itself is very straightfoward, so it's not a difficult book in terms of the vocabulary. It's difficult in terms of content, I guess.

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