Timely, dark, and compelling, Damsel is an intense feminist read, an anti-fairy tale, and definitely a crossover adult title. Arnold's writing is impeccable, her voice powerful, her style sly and captivating. She turns the damsel in distress trope inside out here with a tale that deals creatively and unflinchingly with violence and sexual assault and more, reminiscent of such other powerful titles as Margo Lanagan's Tender Morsels. One of my favorite titles of the season.
*A 2019 Michael L. Printz Award Honor Book*
A dark, twisted, unforgettable fairy tale from Elana K. Arnold, author of the National Book Award finalist What Girls Are Made Of
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.
Praise for Damsel
★ “This incisively written allegory rips into a familiar story and sets it aflame.” — School Library Journal (starred review)
★ “Arnold’s pitch-black fairy tale isn’t subtle, but this isn’t a tale that requires subtlety. For teens 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.” — Booklist (starred review)
“Exquisitely written and unflinchingly, furiously feminist, Damsel is a gorgeous inferno of a fairy tale and my new obsession. Searing and audacious, with an ending that will leave you howling at the moon. A must for every collection.” — Claire Legrand, author of Furyborn
“Damsel is a lush, sweeping, gorgeous fantasy, tied up tight with an inexorable and winding dread. This is the best sort of novel—part journey, part discovery, abundant with beauty and truth and rage. It is sharp and quick and cuts like a blade. Keep your eyes open. Be ready. — Kelly Barnell, New York Times bestselling author of The Girl Who Drank the Moon and Dreadful Young Ladies and Other Stories
“Brutal and unflinching, Damsel is a gorgeously twisted fairy tale that lures you in with pretty words and then shows you its thorns.” — Justina Ireland, New York Times bestselling author of Dread Nation
“A meditation on the smothering uselessness of weaponized kindness, Damsel will have you reaching for the narrative with scale and claw and tooth.” — E. K. Johnston, New York Times bestselling author of Spindle
“Arnold is a master of writing the struggles of young women and the violence they endure. In Damsel, she gives us a suitably masterful, darkly gorgeous modern fairy tale of a young woman passing through fire to protect what is hers. You will not be able to look away.” — Jeff Zentner, William C. Morris Award–winning author of The Serpent King
“Not unlike the original fairy tales, Damsel isn’t meant for the faint of heart. This unflinchingly feminist story is beautiful in its gruesomeness.” — Amanda Lovelace, bestselling author of The Princess Saves Herself In This One
“In this timely, riveting fantasy novel, Elana K. Arnold forges meaningful parallels between Ama’s plight and that of all women belittled, objectified and controlled by patriarchal culture.” — Chicago Tribune
“With haunting prose and lush descriptions, Arnold (What Girls Are Made Of) weaves a terrifying tale that explores contemporary conversations about rape culture, misogyny, male entitlement, female agency, and the need for consent. The message is as timely as it is vital.” — Publishers Weekly