Review: Damsel by Elana K. Arnold

Title: Damsel
Author: Elena K. Arnold
Genre: Fantasy
Source: TeenReads
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Publication Date: October 2nd 2018 
Hardcover, 256 pages

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.
***Trigger Warnings: Rape, Self harm & Abuse***
***This review will also contain spoilers and I will talk about the Trigger Warnings***

Hi. Hello. I really liked Damsel and I am the black sheep on this, but please just hear me out: I know there is so much talk on Damsel and it's content. I will admit that I was a little standoffish considering the themes I heard that this book contained. But I was remembering something an English professor told me once: "If it makes you uncomfortable as you read, then its teaching you something." Damsel isn't your normal "Prince saves the girl and slays the dragon and they live happily ever after." It's Ama learning to have her voice, learning she is a person rather then an object for King Emory's entertainment and pleasure. Damsel is a book that is extremely feminist and showing how one girl took it upon herself to forge her own destiny. 

Arnold's writing is beautiful. It's a lyrical and full of imagery. The story comes alive right in front of your eyes. She didn't shy away from the harder descriptions of things as most authors would have which made me appreciate Damsel that much more. Hands down Damsel is an upper YA novel. I wouldn't give it to someone under the age of sixteen unless I was fully confident that they could handle the content that Damsel has. From the start of the book we are given descriptions of Emory's previous conquests and the "slaying" of the dragon. After that there  graphic description of a naked Emory as well as a description of his yard/tusk. (This is what Emory's penis is refereed as through out the entirety of the book.) In the castle there us a chapter where Emory comes into Ama's room forces a kiss upon her and then puts his fingers inside of her, he quickly blames the wine but tells her that she must expect this on their wedding night. There is another scene were they are in a carriage on the way to the palace that King Emory unlatches his belt, pulls himself out and uses her hand as a tool in masturbating. All with out Ama's consent, but at this point we are well enough into the story that Ama knows what will happen if she fights back. At the very end we learn about how he truly slayed the Dragon by raping it.

From the beginning of the book I knew Emory was going to be a problem. Woman are nothing more then objects for him. In the first chapter he talks about his previous sexual conquests as he is scaling a mountain to save Ama. He is extremely possessive of Ama and is controlling in everything she does. He touches her as he pleases, threatens her and says belittling things. Emory believes that Ama has no other rights then to please him and give him a son once they are married. In slaying the Dragon, Emory slashes the crevice of its arm and then uses is "yard" to turn the Dragon (who is actually Ama) into the Damsel.  

Am I the only one who see's how much of today's society is reflected into the pages of Damsel? Let's take away the fairytale atmosphere (if one could call it that) and replace it with the modern world, is this anything different then we see now? Woman are continuously belittled, forced to commit sexual acts that they would prefer not to have to take part in, controlled in society by the way  they act, dress, and appear. 

Through out Damsel we watch Ama gain a sense of self wanting. She longs to break the hold that Emory has on her. She wants a life to do as she pleases where she won't be looked down upon. Ama takes her fate in her own hand when she takes up the art of glass blowing, the moment she created the Dragon statue and used its shattered wing to kill Emory she took back her destiny. In the end Ama got her true wish, freedom. She ate Emory's heart, returned to her Dragon form and was free from his constraints once more. 

Can we please acknowledged about how feminist this book is? How important it is? Damsel is going to get so much hate based off its content. I've already seen it. This book is a QUICK read but not an EASY read. It is dark and it has a lot of dark and horrible themes. I understand that if you avoiding Damsel for the trigger warnings, it is very triggering and I by no means are telling you to read it. I'm suggesting that for the readers who already crossed this book off their list merely because its rating and the dislike it has received to just give it a shot. Ama's story is one that deserves to be told. Just like every other woman who has no control over her destiny. 

I want to hear everyone else's thoughts on DAMSEL! Have you read it or plan to? If you did did you like it? If you didn't like it why not? 

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