Monday, September 24, 2018

ARC Review: Damsel by Elana K. Arnold

Damsel
Author: Elana K. Arnold
Publication: Balzer + Bray (October 2, 2018)

Description: 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.

My Thoughts: First of all, this book has a fairy tale-like feel but I don't know which fairy tale -- and it isn't a Disney version of a fairy tale. Prince Emory has a goal. He needs to find and kill a dragon and rescue its damsel before he can become king. With his father dying before Emory being fully trained, he is rather on his own in his quest. His mother, the Queen, advises him that he has three weapons -- his brain, his sword, and another she doesn't name -- to help him in his quest. The descriptions of his climb to the dragon's castle and his fight with the dragon are vivid and and show a young man who is determined, self-centered, and certain that his way is the best way to do anything.

The story then switches viewpoint and jumps in time to the rescued damsel who comes to consciousness in Emory's arms with no memory of how she got there or what happened before. Emory names her Ama and tells her that she's his destiny. When she briefly walks away to get a look at the world that she doesn't remember, she encounters a lynx pup and its mother. Emory kills the mother and is about to kill the baby when Ama begs for it. She names the pup Sorrow and takes it with her. But Emory tells her that it is a wild animal who can't live in captivity and which he will get rid of before their wedding.

Ama is determined to find a way to keep her pet. She is put under the tutelage of Emory's friend who is the castle falconer who tries to teach her to break her pet's spirit in order to train it. Ama quickly sees that she is also being broken and trained to be Emory's wife. Meeting Emory's mother does nothing to change her opinion about her fate but, with no past, she doesn't seem to have any other options for her future.

She becomes ill in the leadup to the wedding and the only thing that seems to help her is spending time in the heat near where the glassblower fashions his art and the eyes that decorate the city walls. Ama soon convinces him to let her work with glass and the work and heat help her to uncover secrets from her past and plan a course for her future.

I enjoyed this story despite the fact that is was rather dark and grim, but because of the sexual issues and content, would recommend it for older young adults.

Favorite Quote:
Perhaps that was the trick to living a life, Ama considered, stooping down to admire the purplish tinge at the base of the grasses, the way the color shifted partway up each blade to green and then to caps of gold. Perhaps the key to being content, even without a past, is to keep your eyes firmly on the present moment, and looking no further than what was most probably around just the very next bend--tonight, a fire--and not anticipating beyond that, or allowing oneself to cast backward, into the great black void of before.
I received this one in exchange for an honest review from Edelweiss. You can buy your copy here.

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