Author: Elana K. Arnold
Pub. Date: October 2, 2018
Rating: ♥♥♥ – 3.5
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.
This will be a spoiler free review.
Before I start, this book contains some pretty graphic content that may, or may not be triggers for some – take that in mind if you’re interested in picking up this book.
I was able to acquire this ARC through #booksfortrade on Twitter.
With that being said, I actually really enjoyed the story. I wasn’t a huge fan of the writing style in the beginning, but ultimately ended up loving it. The way Elana writes made it very easy for me to picture everything – which ended up being a blessing and a curse. I also figured out the twist of this book really early on, and had a sneaking suspicion of how it would end. I haven’t read anything else by Elana, but I’m going to look up some of her other works, but I make no promises.
This is a very dark, twisted version of the damsel in distress story, and Elana had me roiling with rage at the bad person and rooting for the good person. I find that there are actually very few books I’ve read that make me genuinely loathe the antagonist, and this book makes that list.
There’s the Prince Charming character – Emory, who isn’t the guy you’d want to bring home to meet the parents. Then there is Ama, the damsel, and a girl with no recollection of her past. She’s whatever Emory says she is, because how would she know?
The book starts from Emory’s POV and I actually liked him. He comes across as intelligent and honest, but some of his internal narration was a little crass. He reminded me of the Prince Charming from Into the Woods. Though, I think I prefer the Prince from Into the Woods more.
I really liked Ama as a character – she was so much more than what Emory views her to be, which is basically his creation. A lot of her inner narration was beautiful and I truly felt for her. She was fierce and confrontational, and not the damsel in distress that the world wanted her to be. Even in her darkest moments, I felt like she still kept a semblance of who she was, and by the end of the book, it all comes together.
Going into this book, I knew it wasn’t going to be the typical Young Adult fantasy where everything ends with sunshine, rainbows and butterflies. I knew that this was going to be a dark, twisted take on a story everyone knows. Though, with that being said, there were aspects of this book that left me very uncomfortable. Not so much with the story, but there were some descriptions that I could have definitely done without. Props to Elana though, because as uncomfortable as those scenes were, they were [unfortunately] easy to picture, and her writing had me feeling everything – which I mentioned earlier. I can appreciate the detail and skill that went into crafting this book and still one) loathe Emory and two) hate some the descriptions.
Is this a book I think should be marketed as Young Adult – no, not really. I wouldn’t want my younger (pre)teen cousins (who are avid readers) picking this up and reading it. When I was looking up this book on Amazon and Goodreads, the only place I saw any kind of content warning was in GR reviews, though Amazon did have it listed in a Sexual Abuse list – but that’s after scrolling down the site page.
I do think that this book send a strong message, about fighting for yourself when no one else will, not conforming if your instincts tell you otherwise – basically not taking shit from anyone. The graphic content she uses (triggers for some) have a purpose, and aren’t just in the book to be there. I think the goal of this book is to make you (the reader) acutely aware how something so seemingly innocent can twist and turn into something much darker and much deadlier.
I’d love to give this book a higher rating, but some of the descriptions (mainly the food comparison ones/tusks/horns – if you’ve read it, you’ll know what I’m referring to) made me so uncomfortable. I don’t want to say they made me more uncomfortable than the other graphic content, but I make a disgusted face anytime I have to think about it. I honestly believe that’s my biggest draw back of this book.
Overall, I enjoyed this book for the story, and while I do recommend checking it out, definitely do some review searching if you’re concerned about whether or not this book is for you. The writing is lovely, and the story is compelling, but it’s dark and twisted. It is not your standard Young Adult Fantasy.
**As a final note, to end happier – sort of – how utterly gorgeous is the cover of this book though? I absolutely love how it practically glows.