A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Elana K. Arnold's Damsel was named a 2019 Printz Honor Book. It's is an imaginative but sexually oppressive and often brutal spin on the classic tale of the hero who rescues a girl from a dragon before they live happily ever after. That story is the ruling culture in the Kingdom of Harding, where princes rise to the throne by slaying dragons and marrying damsels, but no sunshine and rainbows are involved in this tale of a young girl who awakens naked and flung across a stranger's saddle with no knowledge of who she is or where she came from. Womanizing, rape, dismemberment, and assorted forms of killing are essential to the story, and crude references to body parts are common. So is a level of protectiveness that amounts to imprisonment. A man's still-beating heart is ripped out and eaten, and people's eyes are gouged out as punishment for a crime. The shocking ending has especially disturbing, violent images.
What's the story?
Just like the tale foretold, Prince Emory is off to slay a dragon, rescue and marry a DAMSEL, and take the throne of the Kingdom of Harding. But from the very beginning, hints abound that there's cruel dysfunction in the kingdom and that handsome, charming, unimaginative Emory is a crude, brutal womanizer and otherwise maybe not the nicest person. All of which is gradually discovered by the young red-headed girl he calls Ama, who wakes up slung across his saddle, wrapped in a cloak but otherwise naked, and recalling nothing of who she is and where she came from. But he's got it all figured out.
Is it any good?
Elana K. Arnold's twisty, violent take on the maiden-saved-from-a-dragon fairy tale explores its darker, oppressive side from the viewpoint of a memory-impaired young girl playing the starring role. As the Damsel struggles to understand the role that her "rescuer" has all mapped out for her -- and she finds herself increasingly confined -- it becomes clear that she and anyone she comes to love are in constant danger. Dismemberment, sexual assault, crude language, and gore are plentiful, especially in the shocker of an ending.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about dragon-slaying tales, why they're so popular, and why they might lend themselves to stories like Damsel, which explore the events from a different point of view.
Do you know people who always do what they're told/what other people expect of them? Do you think this is a good way to be?
How important is it to you to be able to express yourself, like in art or music? Is something missing from your life if you can't do those things, or are you fine?
- Author: Elana K. Arnold
- Genre: Fantasy
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Misfits and Underdogs, Monsters, Ghosts, and Vampires
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Balzer + Bray
- Publication date: October 2, 2018
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 14 - 18
- Number of pages: 320
- Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Award: ALA Best and Notable Books
- Last updated: January 28, 2019
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