Damsel by Elana K. Arnold
★★★★☆ // 4 out of 5 stars
Goodreads review: here
Wow. This is basically literary fiction. I think you could teach an English lit course or a unit using this book because it’s that expertly crafted. Fun fact: I found my own copy in half-priced books SIGNED (made out to somebody else… but it’s mine now).
So yeah, this book’s full of misogyny, but it is very much a commentary about sexism. The entire book is constructed to be like that from the start, and if Emory talking about constantly conquering shit like he already owns it in part 1 didn’t tip you off to his male entitlement, well… there’s lots more of that to come.
Note: Wouldn’t recommend this for younger teens because wow. A lot of bad shit happens in this book. You can find a whole list of content warnings for this on other reviews – I will say they use the word c*nt, so if that itself offends you, stay away. Otherwise, I feel like there’s a lot worse that happens in this book than a girl calling Ama a c*nt. That’s like the least of your worries when there’s sexual assault, heavy misogyny, and the fact that Emory can’t stop talking about his dick (i.e. yard/horn) every chapter he’s present and has no concept of boundaries.
I don’t really have any complaints besides the fact if the dragon eyes turning black can be reversed – it’s very much shown that the glimmer in a dragon’s eyes disappears based on how crushed her soul is but I wonder if let’s say… the queen mother even has a chance of getting the glimmer back. Because I don’t wanna say that it’s sex with the king that’s crossing the line from dragonhood to not-dragonhood, but rather the continuous soul-crushing living at the castle can do. Also if the kings always marry dragon damsels, would the bloodline not be saturated with dragon-blooded sons?
I do like how much dragons are tied to the sun, fire and heat. Elana K. Arnold’s writing is very precise in how it gets its point across. I was hooked in by the writing on page 1 (I’m not exagerrating). The prose itself is very straightfoward, so it’s not a difficult book in terms of the vocabulary. It’s difficult in terms of content, I guess.
Overall, this book isn’t for everyone, but if you care to pick it up despite the supposed controversy surrounding the subject matter, this is a pretty dark, poignant entry into YA that is worth checking out. I personally would not categorize this as YA if I had any power, but as a general commentary book about sexism, it’s pretty great and achieved what it set out to do.