cover image Damsel


Elana K. Arnold. Balzer + Bray, $17.99 (320p) ISBN 978-0-06-274232-2

This subversion of fairy tale tropes begins with familiar elements: a prince rescues a damsel from a dragon to make her his bride and prove his worth to become king, as happens with every generation in the kingdom of Harding (“I saved you,” he repeats). But the damsel, whom he names Ama, has no memory of her past, her family, or her time with the dragon. And the more time she spends around her husband-to-be, learning the ways of his culture and her intended role, the more uncomfortable she becomes. King Emory is cold, strict, sometimes violent, swift to exert his authority, and eager to have sex with Ama—whether she is interested or not. As Ama struggles to unlock her memories and find her own destiny, she discovers the dark side of the kingdom’s traditions. With haunting prose and lush descriptions, Arnold (What Girls Are Made Of) weaves a terrifying tale that explores contemporary conversations about rape culture, misogyny, male entitlement, female agency, and the need for consent. The message is as timely as it is vital, but frank discussions of self-harm, physical and emotional abuse, and descriptions of sexual violence may not be appropriate for readers at the younger end of the stated range. Ages 14–up. Agency: Rubin Pfeffer, Rubin Pfeffer Content. (Oct.)