Author: Elana K. Arnold
Page Length: 320
Publication Date: Oct. 2, 2018
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Synopsis: The rite has existed for as long as anyone can remember: when the prince-who-will-be-king comes of age, he must venture out into the gray lands, slay a fierce dragon, and rescue a damsel to be his bride. This is the way things have always been.
When Ama wakes in the arms of Prince Emory, however, she knows none of this. She has no memory of what came before she was captured by the dragon, or what horrors she has faced in its lair. She knows only this handsome prince, the story he tells of her rescue, and her destiny to sit on the throne beside him. Ama comes with Emory back to the kingdom of Harding, hailed as the new princess, welcomed to the court.
However, as soon as her first night falls, she begins to realize that not all is as it seems, that there is more to the legends of the dragons and the damsels than anyone knows–and that the greatest threats to her life may not be behind her, but here, in front of her.
I have such mixed feelings about this book. It begins like many fairy tales – A young prince defeats a monstrous dragon and rescues a beautiful damsel in distress. Ama, the damsel, has no memories of her past and accompanies Prince Emory back to his kingdom where they will rule together.
However, you can tell very early on that things are not that simple. Ama realizes quickly that this is not a love match, and the ways of the kingdom are patriarchal and oppressive. Things get darker from there as Ama struggles to remember her past and hesitates to embrace her future.
Stylistically, I love the story. The writing is poetic and smooth. It reads effortlessly and contains beautiful sensory language. The skillful use of symbolism is also brilliant. It is simplistic yet beautiful, told in a way that evokes strong emotions. I was entranced and found it captivating, as one would expect from a dark fairy tale.
But it was also really dark, disturbing, and… fairly predictable.
Elements of sexual assault, emotional abuse, animal abuse, and self-harm were disturbing. Everything included is purposeful and powerful, but it is also a bit hard to read. However, the social statements being made in many of these scenes serve to highlight misogyny and degrading behaviors that women are expected to blindly accept. It also highlighted the feminist spirit of Ama who rejected the societal norms from the start of the story.
I like the themes of feminism and independence interspersed throughout the novel. Having these themes contrast with the misogyny of their world highlight the feminist perspective. Ama, for example, rebels against feelings of captivity and entrapment, and resists Prince Emory’s more domineering and degrading actions. She wants to have a voice and feel a sense of fulfillment, and she doesn’t like dismissive way in which she is handled once in Prince Emory’s care. Her desire to remain independent and self-reliant were the highlight of the novel.
Unfortunately, I only read about 20% of the book when I turned to my husband and correctly predicted the rest of the story. I found this disappointing, as usually there is one twist or turn that I don’t expect.
Here, there wasn’t.
In a way, I admire the simplicity of the story, but even the simplest stories can surprise a reader.
This one didn’t.
That’s not to say the story is bad. I quite enjoyed parts of it. However, if you are looking for an original and complex story, this is not the book for you.
- The writing. Arnold’s style is captivating and flows beautifully.
- The messages of female empowerment and independence.
- The symbolism is powerful and poignant.
“”He was a man who held life in his jaws as a dog held a smoked lamb’s leg-with devourous greed and absolute pleasure.”
“Wild beasts aren’t meant to be tamed.”
This is a great book for readers who like dark fairy tales. There are instances of violence, sexual assault, animal abuse, and self harm, so if these are triggers, this might not be the book for you.