September 24, 2019

REVIEW| Damsel [ARC]

Elana K. Arnold

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UK Publisher | HaperCollins
UK Release Date | November 15th, 2018
Format | Hardback
Page Count | 320
RRP | £12.99
DISCLAIMER: I received this Advanced Readers Copy from the publisher, for free, in exchange for an honest and truthful review. All views are my own.

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 her 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 by the court. 
However, as soon as her first night falls, she begins to realize that not all is what 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, as this book contains: graphic sexual assault, rape, abuse, animal mutilation, and self-harm.
It's been several months since I read Damsel, so before I could sit down to write this review, I had to go over the notes I had put down on Goodreads, my reading wrap-up and in my reading notebooks. In doing so, I have seen the mass of polarizing reviews and other reader's relationship with the text, however, I firmly remain middle of the road, with no strong positive or negative opinion.
This book is incredibly blatant and on the nose with the misogyny and abuse towards women and women that won't submit to the role that "man" has carved out. In relation to my own reading taste, I prefer a different kind of depth and metaphorical layering that allows me to interest with the text and come to my own conclusion of purpose and themes. So, for that reason, that might be why I didn't love this story and what Arnold set out to accomplish.
Ama, the protagonist, consistently felt like a self-insert character that was very bland and completely passive to the abuse she is subject to. Then add in a lot of introspection, that I found uninteresting because of my lack of care and connection to Ama. The nature of introspective narratives leads to action scenes becoming limited in novels like this, which also didn't help to keep me engaged with the story.
On a final note, despite how publishers have marketed this book (and I've had to double-check on the Waterstones website) I would not recommend this to the general teen and young adult audience. This book very much feels like how I would have thought the New Adult label would have been effective to contain titles like this, that explore dark themes and complex issues - of that Arnold tackles in Damsel

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