Jennifer's Reviews > Damsel

Damsel by Elana K. Arnold
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it was ok
bookshelves: disappointing, ya-fantasy, fairytale-retelling

This is the second 2019 Printz honor book I have been really disappointed in; though I did manage to finish this one; I really did not care for it at all. My advice is to skip it altogether.

I get that it's supposed to be a feminist fairytale re-telling, and it's supposed to be about empowering women and rejecting the patriarchy and toxic masculinity (let's see, can I come up with any more current buzzwords to throw in?) but rather than giving a nice "girl power" feeling, it had a really creepy, sinister vibe that just made me feel very....discomfitted. The summary sounded really intriguing, and the idea for the story is great, but I found the execution very lacking.

Aside from the creepy, eerie mood, the writing was laughable at times, referring to a man's penis as his "yard", or even worse "...the thick meat of him, a fleshy tusk, white like ivory in the bed of curled black hair." Are you kidding me? This is nearly-award-winning prose? I thought the historical romances I used to read were bad, but geeze louise...at least they never pretended to be anything more than the cheezy, mind-candy that they were. And referring to a baby in the womb as "...swimming in the hot stew of his mother's juice." Yes, that's a lovely way to refer to pregnancy.

The prince starts out seemingly like a brave, decent, guy, but as the story progresses he becames very unlikeable. He is possessive and controlling, humiliating the damsel when she does something he doesn't like, and sexually assaulting her. It becomes very clear that he does not see her as a person, but simply as a possession to serve his needs and bear his child. In fact, the message is quite clear and not in the least subtle: In this place and time, women exist soley to be a vessel, filled by men. The damsel is told this by everyone she comes into contact with.

While I sympathized with the damsel, at the same time she was not the most likeable character either, coming across very cold and having no emotion or personality, which made it more difficult to be truly invested in the character, and I just wanted to hurry up and get to the end to see whether she chose to give in or found a way to escape to be done with the book. She just didn't feel like a real person to me, and at times it really feels like the book was written by a man because the damsel is so two-dimensional and the writing so labored. And totally predictable.

(view spoiler)

Unless you like predictable, obvious, cheezy-yet-dark-and-creepy, I would recommend skipping this. There are better feminist fairytales out there, like Melissa Bashardoust's Girls Made of Snow and Glass, which has not one but two strong female characters who save themselves.
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Reading Progress

March 17, 2019 – Started Reading
March 17, 2019 – Shelved
March 17, 2019 – Shelved as: disappointing
March 17, 2019 – Shelved as: ya-fantasy
March 17, 2019 – Shelved as: fairytale-retelling
March 17, 2019 – Finished Reading

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