Yikes, I have interesting feelings about Damsel. The first being, I don’t think this should be a YA book. Sure it may have cross over appeal, but I think for the content, locating it in the adult sphere is a safer bet. I think people will come to this book still, but be aware of the triggering content (rape, sexual assault, self-harm, mental/physical abuse, animal harm, suicide).
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.
That being said, I’m going to review it like it was an adult title. I’m not saying we can’t have YA books with this type of content, but I think that this was just mainly thrown into the book with not a lot of discussion or ‘after care’ for the reader. And so because of that, I think it makes it hard to be described as a YA book.
The overwhelming feeling I’m left with at the end of this book is – what the actual heck? The book establishes a very terrifying tense read from the very beginning. The main male character in this book from the very beginning makes my skin crawl. You can just tell this is going to go downhill very fast. And that he’s a creep. There’s something immediately ominous about him, like I feel like it’s alluded to in brush strokes and hidden shadows. And it just goes on and on. He truly is an awful person, naming her, objectifying her, and being emotionally abusive (TW: Rape and sexual assault).
(That being said, I feel like all the male characters are awful. To be clear, that doesn’t mean I’d hate the book, I’m just throwing it out there right now).
There are clever aspects, like having her lynx be a pseudo metaphor for Ama’s subjugation and emotional duress. But I feel like the whole thing was all together a little too simple. For one, the major ‘plot twist’ I could see coming from the very beginning. And yet at the same time, the story seems to want us to root for Ama’s figuring out the mystery of the Damsel, and how she can find some glimmer of happiness, but it just wasn’t enough for me. To me, this had an Angela Carter vibe to it, but with more gratuitous violence and less wit. Check out Damsel on Goodreads.