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Book Review

Publisher's Note:

*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 …


by Elana K. Arnold

Overall Book Review:

Elana Arnold has crafted a fantasy masterpiece that is so enthralling it almost has to be read in one sitting. One should expect to be thinking about the ethical and moral issues the story raises for days and weeks after the final page is turned.

The writing is flawless, the narrative compelling, and the issues timely. Ama is not a heroine for the traditional reader. She cannot be purchased with finery and sweet talk. She is not the plucky protagonist who also happens to carry on a love/hate relationship with the handsome prince. We admire her for her ability to question and demand answers. We admire her for her courage in standing up for herself when everyone around her is working to shut her up and make her look pretty. 

Damsel is the story of one young woman who will not be denied her true character, but it is also the story of a generation of young women rising up to claim their power. It is a romance of the best kind–one that encourages all people to discover what there is to love inside.

Content Analysis:

Profanity/Language: 1 mild obscenity; 3 religious exclamations; 4 scatological words; 2 anatomical terms; 3 derogatory names.

Violence/Gore:  A character is hurt by reverberations of a sword; a character refers to several hunting and sparring conquests without injury; a character hunts and kills a rabbit, skinning and gutting it in detail over 2 pages; a fantasy creature is fatally wounded; a character kills an animal with some gore; a character plans to kill a baby animal with bare hands; characters are scratched and bleeding from a wild animal 2 times; a character is hit on the head by another character, no injury; a character sews a falcon’s eyes shut as part of the training process; a character is badly burned and cut by glass; glass is removed from being embedded in skin, some gore; detailed second hand account of self-harm and suicide; an animal is whipped; a character hits another character twice; a character fatally stabs another character, pulls out the heart, and eats it.

Sex/Nudity:  Memory of sexual encounters, no detail; male genitalia referred to euphemistically (12 times) in a non-sexual way; reference to breastfeeding 2 times; a character is thought to have died of a sexually transmitted disease; a character is naked (non-sexual) 4 times; breasts are exposed 2 times (non-sexual); a character’s appearance is described, including breasts; female genitalia are referred to in a discussion about childbirth; a character is known to be sexually aroused 1 time; a character forces himself on another character, kissing and lying on top of her; a character explains that she was sexually assaulted with no detail; innuendo regarding wedding night; a character imagines two people in a sexual act; a character is forcefully kissed; a character kisses, touches, and presses against another character, unwanted and fully clothed; sexual innuendo (2 times); in an extended scene (2 pgs), a character is forced to masturbate another character; a character commits a sexual act with a fantasy creature (some detail).

Mature Subject Matter:

Kidnapping, socioeconomic, death of family member, self-harm and suicide, rape and assault.

Alcohol / Drug Use:


Overall Book Rating

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About the Reviewer

I’ve been an avid reader for as long as I can remember. My mother would often find me curled up in a corner, avoiding chores with a book–or two. When I was growing up, there wasn’t a large selection of YA books. I had children’s books and adult literature to choose from. I’ve come to love YA fiction as an adult and read almost nothing else when I read for pleasure–any genre will do.