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.
Damsel sounds like something amazing. The story sounds like it would be great twist on ‘damsels in distress’. And it is, but it’s a lot more than that too. Damsel was nothing like I expected.
This book is a lot heavier than it is portrayed to be. I’m honestly floored that it is marketed as YA when some of the subject matters are very graphic. If you decide to read this one, please, please be aware of the trigger warnings. I’m so happy I had prior knowledge about some of the things to come. I’m including my list of the things I noticed, but please tell me if I missed something. TW: sexual/physical/emotional/animal abuse, self-harm, suicide, gaslighting, sexism, bestiality, misogyny, gore.
The writing was beautiful. I’ve never read anything like it and I’m not sure if I’ll ever read something like that again. It’s easy to read and you just get caught in the sweeping motions of the words. It hooks you in and urges you to keep going.
The cats/lynx was probably my favorite part. I’ve never read a book where they are such a part of the story! But even they cannot escape the sadness and the cruelty of this word. Ama’s pet lynx, the names she is given, was beautiful. I cannot say more without spoilers, but that was wonderfully done and I honestly think it was a summary of the whole book. In just those two names.
Just, the journey that Ama is forced to endure takes a kind of strength that I don’t usually see. I admire her, for how she handled herself and how she reacted to the situations that were put in front of her.
The last 20 pages was a freaking adventure. I have never been so confused, grossed out, and simply confounded ever when reading a book. It was smart, since I will definitely remember it and the rest of the book. I think what throws me off is that it so bizarre, so completely out there, and yet it fits the story perfectly. It wraps up a bunch of threads and drives home the point the entire book was trying to make. Weird, but wonderful.
I definitely recommend giving Damsel a shot if you feel like you can handle it. But please, be sure that you can handle it. It’s very heavy and very graphic at parts.
Thank you for reading!