Book Beginnings on Friday is hosted by Rose City Reader. Share the opening quote from the book.
The Friday 56 is hosted at Freda's Voice. Find a quote from page 56.
And a review, of sorts to follow---
Title: Damsel by Elana K. Arnold
Friday 56 (Actually page 30):
Summary: In order for Emery to become King he has to slay a dragon and to save the damsel trapped in the dragon's lair. He does that. The woman he saves has no memory of her life before being rescued so Emery names her Ama and prepares her for her destiny---to become the queen and to bear his son, who will one day slay a dragon and save a damsel before he becomes the next king. The only problem is Ama is not interested in being Emery's wife and Emery is a bully and a cad. Ama is sure if she marries him her life will be miserable and lonely. And what about those memories that seem to hover at the corners of her mind? Didn't she have a life before Emery saved her? She wants to know the answers before they wed.
Review: This fantasy novel is like a mash-up of fairy tale and #MeTooMovement. Emery is an abusive, awful person in the beautiful robes of a king. He attempts to rape Ama. He manipulates her mentally, and threatens her get his own way. Ama is isolated and lonely. She doesn't understand what is happening to her and she fights back as best she can. When she discovers the ovens in the deep basement of the castle where glass is blown into bowls and the all-knowing eyes, she finally finds an outlet for her creativity and warmth for her ever-cold bones. She also starts to sense a bit more of her life before being "rescued". Finally, Ama has enough insight to challenge Emery's claim on her.
When my children were little I used to read a cute and funny picture book to them, The Paper Bag Princess. In this story the princess is supposed to be wowed by Prince Ronald, who is a real dud. Eventually, the princess decides she can do much better on her own and tells him off. I kept thinking about this funny book while I read this very unfunny novel by Alana K. Arnold. Ama clearly needs to get to the point where she tells off Emery and goes her own way but can she do it?
I liked this book a lot. It had a lot to say about how story-telling can shape a culture and expectations for genders. But it was quite full of trigger topics: rape, cruelty to animals, female subjugation, and a bit of violence but it ends on a satisfactory note. It is also a bit of a slow-starter. Both my quotes are from the part of the story before Emery rescues Ama. In this part of the story the reader is getting oriented to the world just like Ama is getting oriented to her new reality.
I listened to the audiobook which was narrated rather slowly, but I came to like it a lot and sat for three hours today listening to it just to find out how things work out for Ama. It was a Printz Honor book last year. It really is spectacular writing and such a creative story.