Damsel
by Arnold, Elana K.






Required to slay a dragon and rescue a damsel to be his bride in order to inherit, a crown prince astonishs the girl of his choice, who has no memory of her capture by a dragon and who discovers unsettling truths about the legends shaping their lives. 5, first printing. Simultaneous eBook.





*Starred Review* A prince ventures into the wilderness to slay a dragon and save a damsel. When he returns home with his rescued bride, he becomes king. That is how it has been in the kingdom of Harding, and how it will always be. Sound familiar? Perhaps, but it's not how this story ends. The first thing Ama knows is waking up in Prince Emory's arms as they ride toward his home. "I saved you," he tells her, and though she has no memory of the thing he saved her from, she believes him. In his castle, as their wedding approaches, she learns to become the perfect queen: calm, obedient, gentle. Ama works at becoming small, but flashes of memory are starting to return to her, and there is more in this castle-and in her heart-than can be contained. Arnold's (What Girls Are Made Of, 2017) pitch-black fairy tale is not subtle in its delivery, but, as its volcanic ending attests, this is not a tale that requires subtlety. It's not an easy read: physical, sexual, and psychological violence all come into play, and adults may want to be on hand for discussions. But for teens, especially girls, learning to transform sadness and fear into active, productive fury, it's an essential allegory. Eat your heart out, Sleeping Beauty: this brutal, devastating, powerful novel won't soon be forgotten. Grades 10-12. Copyright 2018 Booklist Reviews.





Arnold (Bat and the Waiting Game, 2018, etc.) blends an abusive romance-novel relationship and intense feminist and patriarchal imagery with the classic storyline of a prince saving a damsel from the lair of a dragon. In a gray, medieval world, Prince Emory of Harding makes his way toward a dragon's lair to rescue a damsel and make her his bride, in the process bringing light to the land and glory upon himself. The damsel cannot recall who she is, and so Emory names her Ama. They return to Harding, where Prince Emory is crowned king, and his mother announces they will be wed in a few months' time, and Ama will give birth to his heir. Ama must learn how to be a queen and is reminded repeatedly that Emory's desires are what matters—she is never allowed to forget that he "saved" her. When she does not comply with his wishes, she is brutally and sadistically punished, sexually, psychologically, and physically. What if, instead of being the hero's beloved, you are your abuse r's captive? The symbolism and imagery, as well as the meaning of the sexual violence that is perpetrated upon Ama, may go over the heads of less sophisticated readers. All characters are white. While Arnold has written a compelling flipped fairy tale and commentary on misogyny, she's missed the mark for her intended audience. (Fiction. 15-adult) Copyright Kirkus 2018 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.






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