Book Review

Damsel

Damsel 

  • Author: Evelyn Skye
  • Genre: YA Fantasy
  • Publication Date: March 14, 2023
  • Publisher: Random House Worlds

Thank you to NetGalley and Random House Worlds for providing me with an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest opinion.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

CONTENT WARNING: blood, gore, death, death of a parent, grief

A damsel in distress takes on the dragon herself in this epic twist on classic fantasy—a groundbreaking collaboration between New York Times bestselling author Evelyn Skye and the team behind the upcoming Netflix film Damsel, starring Millie Bobby Brown.

A price must be paid.

Elodie never dreamed of a lavish palace or a handsome prince. Growing up in the famine-stricken realm of Inophe, her deepest wish was to help her people survive each winter. So when a representative from a rich, reclusive kingdom offers her family enough wealth to save Inophe in exchange for Elodie’s hand in marriage, she accepts without hesitation. Swept away to the glistening kingdom of Aurea, Elodie is quickly taken in by the beauty of the realm—and of her betrothed, Prince Henry.

But as Elodie undertakes the rituals to become an Aurean princess, doubts prick at her mind as cracks in the kingdom’s perfect veneer begin to show: A young woman who appears and vanishes from the castle tower. A parade of torches weaving through the mountains. Markings left behind in a mysterious “V.” Too late, she discovers that Aurea’s prosperity has been purchased at a heavy cost—each harvest season, the kingdom sacrifices its princesses to a hungry dragon. And Elodie is the next sacrifice.

This ancient arrangement has persisted for centuries, leading hundreds of women to their deaths. But the women who came before Elodie did not go quietly. Their blood pulses with power and memory, and their experiences hold the key to Elodie’s survival. Forced to fight for her life, this damsel must use her wits to defeat a dragon, uncover Aurea’s past, and save not only herself, but the future of her new kingdom as well.

I read this as a buddy read with Julie @ One Book More, and I’m so glad that I did. To be honest, I would have struggled more with this one if I didn’t have someone to discuss it with as I read through it, and Julie was the perfect person to talk about this book with, since she noticed a lot of the same things that I did, and she kept me laughing with a flood of hilarious gifs in our discussion thread.

I really enjoyed some parts of this book. My favorite thing about it was the relationship between Elodie and her sister Floria. They are two smart young women who are very close and devoted to each other, and I love the way that they interacted together. These two sisters rely on each other for support and comfort and guidance, especially without a mother, a father who is present but doesn’t quite show up for their emotional needs, and a stepmother that they haven’t really bonded with. Elodie is also really devoted to the people of her lands, and consistently goes above and beyond to do anything that she can to help them in any way that she possibly can. 

The book is going to be a movie, and the way it’s written comes across as being better for the screen than as a book. The writing is really on the young end of YA with a fairytale feel, although there is some emphasis on Elodie’s prior sexual experience and her desire to get some action with the prince, so it felt a bit strange. I would have liked to see more depth in the story and the characters, and I guess because it’s written more for the screen, there’s a lot of telling rather than showing, for much of the story. We’re told that Elodie is smart for so much of the book, but it isn’t until really close to the end that we actually get to see Elodie being smart in action. 

While the world-building was intriguing, the book felt overly full of tropes to me. And it didn’t quite disguise the fact that there were some major plot holes in the story. I was hoping that they’d be fixed by the time the book ended, but alas, they were not. However, the story was fast-paced and I wanted to find out how it ended. Ultimately the ending felt like everything wrapped up a bit too neatly, and although I was fairly happy with how things worked out, there was one thing that left me out of sorts and upset. In the end, this book wasn’t quite a good fit for me, but I do think that the movie has some good potential, and I’ll be looking forward to it! 

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