Book: Damsel | Author: Elana K. Arnold | Publisher: Balzer + Bray | Pub. Date: 2nd October 2018
What is it about?
The rite has existed for as long as anyone can remember: When the king dies, his son the prince 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, she knows none of this. She has no memory of what came before she was captured by the dragon or what horrors she faced in its lair. She knows only this handsome young man, the story he tells of her rescue, and her destiny of sitting on a throne beside him. It’s all like a dream, like something from a fairy tale.
As Ama follows Emory to the kingdom of Harding, however, she discovers that not all is as it seems. There is more to the legends of the dragons and the damsels than anyone knows, and the greatest threats may not be behind her, but around her, now, and closing in. (Source)
This was not what I expected. It was completely different. And it was definitely not the typical prince-rescues-damsel-and-they-live-happily-ever-after. Oh no, this was much darker. I try to keep this as spoilerfree as possible, but there might be some slight ones anyways.
So, the plot. Was great! Because as I said, it was not the typical damsel story. And it only gets darker, secrets piling upon secrets. And Ama has to wade through them all alone because nobody believes her or tries to help her, even when she becomes the queen of Harding with king Emory at her side. Everyone seems to have one, keeping them close.
The characters were… eh, I don’t know. I did not like any of the characters. To sum it all up: men are trash and women are weak cowards for them to use. Yeah, doesn’t sound too good, right?
I mean, there’s Emory, who manipulates people (including Ama) to do as he likes. He takes what he wants, especially when it comes to women. And because he is king, he is allowed to. So there’s no stopping it. Even when he tries to rape Ama and everyone else is just like “okay, alright. nice, why not?” Urgh, that was the worst!
And then there are the city guards who also want to rape Ama. And Emory’s best friend who wants his pet to fight Ama’s pet, most likely to death and Ama is pseudo-saved by Emory which then tricks her again into thinking she needs him?
God, I hate Emory. I hated him from chapter one. Worst character ever. Not that he’s written badly. Nono, not at all. Arnold manages to write him beautifully terrible, sometimes tricking not only Ama, but the reader as well.
To be honest, I don’t like Ama either. She is shown as an innocent, beautiful, naive girl without memory, who is dependent on Emory and the people around her to show her what’s right. She often ignores her own mind, because she does not know any better. But I liked her development, especially towards the end.
I don’t even want to start with the other people. I’m still unsure what to think about the queen, on one hand she seems nice and helpful enough, but then she is also just a subject for the king to be played with. The maids and servants are all very into Emory or loyal subjects to the queen, so they act unfriendly towards Ama or just feel uncomfortable with her and her requests. This book is marketed as ‘feminist’ but I really don’t see it. The only feminist thing is the ending, everything else is just men being above women, using them, hurting them, manipulating them. And the women just take it and say it’s normal and they don’t really care? Sorry, but where is the feminism in this?
While this all sounds not quite positive, there were two things I liked. And that was the ending for once. All this stuff I had to go through to get this wonderful piece of literature. The other was the writing. Slow, sometimes prosaic, beautiful but quite dark it was perfect to describe such a story.