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 went into this simply knowing it was a twist on the Damsel in Distress motif, and boy was it. The way that Arnold wove this story blew me away, but, I do have problems with how she did it.
TRIGGER WARNINGS FOR GRAPHIC SEXUAL ASSAULT, RAPE, SELF-HARM, ANIMAL ABUSE, MENTAL/EMOTIONAL ABUSE, AND PROBABLY EVEN MORE STUFF.
Those trigger warnings above are the reason this book lost the mark for me, namely the “graphic” part. This book was insanely powerful in its story, but it definitely lost its punch for me with the graphic detail given toward sex, sexual acts, sexual organs, and the abuse. Arnold could have easily conveyed the issues at hand without making this quite so graphic. Also this is a YA book being placed in public high schools and libraries?? A lot of kids/teens I know who would read this would be so confused by this level of gorey detail.
I almost put this book down multiple times, but I stayed for Ama, for whatever reason. I loved her, I mourned her, and I wanted to reach through the page and choke the life out of the prince who dared hurt her. He disgusted me so thoroughly that I wanted him dead from the first chapter. Ama’s story is heartbreaking, and it’s one that many women have lived/are living, which makes this even more poignant. Her one claim to ownership–her pet–and how she fights to keep Sorrow almost had me tearing up, but I felt so uncomfortable with how Sorrow was treated by the men (I know that was the point, but oof, it was bad).
The overt feminism got to me a bit too since none of the men in this book were good at all. It was so slanted, and, yes, I know some people’s lives are like that where they are surrounded by nothing but disgusting pigs of men, but not every guy is like that, as is evident by the fact that there are men who are placed in the same place as Ama too.
I guess, in all, this book did what it was intended to do and made me sit back and think. I haven’t stopped thinking about it yet, and it’s nearly been 24 hours since I finished it, but I do think the graphic content makes this book inaccessible to some who might benefit from it.