Review: Damsel – Evelyn Skye
Elodie never dreamed of a lavish palace or a handsome prince. Growing up in the famine-stricken kingdom of Inophe, her deepest desire was to help her people survive each winter. So when a representative of a wealthy, reclusive kingdom offers her family enough wealth to save Inophe in exchange for Elodie’s hand in marriage, she accepts without hesitation. Elodie is whisked away to the glittering kingdom of Aurea and is soon captivated by the beauty of the kingdom and her fiancé, Prince Henry.
But as Elodie undergoes the rituals to become a princess of Aurea, doubts prick her mind as cracks begin to appear in the kingdom’s perfect veneer: A young woman appears and disappears from the castle tower. A parade of torches that weaves through the mountains in a mysterious “V.” Too late, she discovers that Aurea’s prosperity has been purchased at a high price – during the harvest season, the kingdom sacrifices its princesses to a hungry dragon. And Elodie is the next sacrifice.
This age-old arrangement has lasted for centuries and left thousands of women dead. But the women who preceded Elodie did not pass away peacefully. Their blood pulses with strength and memories, and their experiences hold the key to Elodie’s survival. Forced to fight for her life, Elodie must use her wits to slay the dragon, discover Aurea’s past and save not only herself, but the future of her new kingdom.
I don’t know why this book doesn’t get more recognition and lots of low ratings on Goodreads, for example. I see people saying that it is too young adult and that it is not an innovative story. But it is a ya book and the story is also based on an old story about which several books and films have already been made, but I loved reading this version. Yes, it may be a bit cliché and the ending is a bit sudden. But it was just a fun book! It doesn’t always have to be groundbreaking. It can also just be fun without the book reinventing the wheel.
I am therefore very curious about the Netflix film adaptation with Millie Bobby Brown. The book also reads like a movie so I can’t wait to see how they will shape everything.
As for the book itself, I found Elodie to be a refreshing departure from the “damsel in distress” trophy, saving not only herself and her sister Floria, but also those who won’t lift a finger to defend her. This book knows the tropes it’s playing in and it subverts other popular fairy tale characters like the “evil stepmother,” “prince charming,” and “slaying the dragon.” But the real love story in Damsel is that between Elodie and Floria, their bond as sisters that guides them through even the most impossible circumstances. The antidote to the coldness of their world is the recurring power of family love, which is reflected in several other relationships in the story. Even in countries like Aurea and Inophe, where there is some degree of equality between men and women, society still treats young women and girls as disposable and interchangeable, and a character like Elodie is a direct challenge to that belief system.
The interesting thing about this book is that most of it consists of one big scene rather than multiple scenes. Most of the book consists of escaping the dragon’s lair and trying to escape the kingdom, so if you prefer a wide world of exploration this book is not for you. I really enjoyed this book. It’s not the most original plot line, but it works. It’s gripping, the stakes are high, and you’ll be reading late into the night to get to the end.